It has been well overdue in its making, but UFC fans will finally see Anderson Silva take on Michael Bisping in the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 84 on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London.
The two fighters have surprisingly never squared off, despite starting their UFC careers in 2006. Both men are now past their prime, but the fight remains a headline-maker for several different reasons.
Brazilian muay thai expert Silva is one of the sport's all-time great competitors but has fought just once in the previous two years after severely breaking his leg and then testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Despite some strong words being exchanged in the build-up to the fight, the two men were all smiles when they came face-to-face for the official media day presentation:
✔️ #UFCLondon Ultimate Media Day https://t.co/NueLn4csKK2016-2-25 13:34:35
Although he hasn't experienced quite the same fall from grace, Bisping, too, is not the fighter he once was, but he continues to be a fierce competitor at the age of 36, four years younger than his upcoming opponent.
Per MMAWeekly.com, he said:
Obviously, [Silva] is favored, but [Bisping] is tough. He’s very tough. He always comes to fight, so if Anderson wins, it’s not going to be handed to him. He’ll have to work for it.
I think Bisping’s best asset is his conditioning. He needs to bring the fight to Anderson.
But that’s the question: can he do that? In the stand-up, obviously, Anderson is better. [Bisping] needs to push the fight like Chael Sonnen did and use his conditioning to try to get Anderson tired.
Fellow UFC fighter Ross Pearson also believes Silva remains the favourite despite his limited in-ring exposure in recent times. However, he believes The Count has what it takes to achieve victory, as long as he keeps working Silva's stamina throughout the bout.
Per Paul Quigley of Fighters Only, Pearson commented:
Bisping has to push the pace with Anderson. Mike has to get in his face, rough him up and transition from his striking to his wrestling. He has to ground ‘n’ pound him if he can get the opportunity and put Silva on his back. He doesn’t have to play submission games with him, he has to stay active from the top position.
Overall he has to beat him up and he has to get nasty with him. He can’t stay flat. He never does stay flat, but he can’t give Silva any space to lock in a submission. He’s got to be on his toes and fight him in a phone box and be mean and nasty. If he does that I can see Mike fighting well and causing a lot of problems. I can see Mike winning the fight.
Full Fight Breakdown
Silva (33-6, 1 no-contest) is a legend of the UFC and has provided extraordinary moments time and time again in the Octagon, whether with his elaborate finishes, physics-defying dummies or tantalizing mind games and taunts.
He is comfortable on the ground or standing one-one-one with his opponent. His lethal kicking is second to none in the sport, let alone the division, and he makes the most of his athleticism and huge 77-inch reach in both offence and defence.
Silva is known for his counterattacking style, and he makes it tough for his opponent to engage. Bisping will be looking to provoke lots of movement with the intention of tiring his opponent and working on his stamina levels, but this could work in Silva's favour.
Bisping (27-7) is accurate and powerful enough to take advantage—with any body part—as shown by his TKO of Cung Le in August 2014, via UFC.
But he must ensure he does not fall into a false sense of security as have so many of Silva's defeated foes. The Spider is a master of mind games and will do anything to entice and provoke his rival to make a positive movement, only for him to counter and strike. If Bisping falls into the trap, he may never regain the momentum to push for the middleweight belt again.