What a difference one fight can make...
Heading into his fight with Dan Henderson at UFC 100, it was widely believed that a victory would have put Michael Bisping at the top of the marquee for this event opposite Anderson Silva, the UFC Middleweight title on the line.
Five months later, Bisping's mouth guard still hasn't been tracked down and his return home is a bounce-back opportunity against talented veteran Denis Kang.
Michael Bisping (17-2-0) vs. Denis Kang (32-11-1, 2 NC)
Normally, Kang's membership with American Top Team and Zahabi MMA would be more than enough to cement an easy decision over his opponent in the "where they train" portion of this analysis.
While it certainly factors into his win, the fact that Bisping's last outing seemed so poorly planned also weighs into things. No one has ever mistaken Wolfslair for one of the most acclaimed outfits in the game, they are home to a few notable names including Cheick Kongo and Quinton Jackson, as well as Bisping.
That being said, circling to Dan Henderson's left and therefore into his right hand was a tactical mistake of the worst kind. Maybe Bisping made the move himself, but if it came from his camp, he needs to reassess the situation.
In terms of experience, Kang has a clear edge, having fought a far tougher schedule than his more hyped British counterpart.
Neither actually possess a major victory to hang their hats on; Bisping's greatest triumph to date is either his win over Chris Leben or the shaky decision he earned over Matt Hamill, while Kang got the better of Murilo "Ninja" Rua at Pride Bushido 11, but that was three years ago.
But when you look at the entire list of opponents, Bisping has made his name getting the better of mid-level fighters and losing to former champions Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson, while Kang was gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Gegard Mousasi, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Akihiro Gono, and Jason "Mayhem" Miller.
Stylistically, Bisping has said he's going into this fight looking for the big knockout and that is no different than his approach heading into most fights.
"The Count" is a stand-up fighter, relying on his boxing and kickboxing and not showing much interest at all in going to the ground. Conversely, Kang sports a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but also has more of an interest in standing and trading with his opponents.
The combination the two styles could result in two very different fights. If Kang decides to stay on his feet and trade with Bisping, fans could be treated to a very entertaining slugfest that will offer up a few opportunities to collect a Knockout of the Night bonus.
Even going to the ground could yield an interesting fight, as Kang's superiority on the ground tactically will be challenged by the bigger, stronger Bisping. Remember, before becoming a middleweight contender, Bisping had a successful run at 205.
The biggest key could come from between the ears of both fighters.
Bisping certainly has a great deal to prove after being on the wrong end of a Knockout of the Year contender and often mentioned in conversations about the most overrated fighters in the game, not to mention being the hometown favorite.
For Kang, the knock has never been about talent, but the mental side of the game. In his UFC debut, the Canadian was showing all the tools that made him a crowd favorite in Pride before having a mental lapse and offering up his neck to an Alan Belcher guillotine.
While he rebounded nicely against Xavier Foupa-Pokam, Mike Bisping is not Professor X, and Kang will need the best of both his talents and mind to score the upset.