In Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson II, we have a title fight no one saw coming, a rematch no one thought could ever take place and a mocked fighter who can once again shock the MMA masses.
On Saturday night at UFC 204, the two rivals will renew their hostilities, resurrect a story most of us had swept under the proverbial rug and perhaps put an end to a rivalry that started on The Ultimate Fighter.
It was back in April of 2009, when The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom first aired on Spike TV. Coach Henderson and Coach Bisping lead a band of fighters representing their nations in a patriotic affair that really saw the two coaches placed in a fish bowl, with cameras and microphones recording and showcasing their every move.
Bisping took full advantage of the opportunity, doing whatever he could to verbally get into Hendo’s head. But Dan would rarely have any of it, saving his responses for their eventual tussle at UFC 100. And it’s safe to say the American had the final say.
I will never forget speaking with some fellow media cohorts during the bout that Bisping was circling the wrong way … he kept moving to his left every time Hendo would throw the inside left leg kick.
During a film shoot at his gym in Temecula California, we recorded a segment for my show entitled “Fight School”. Dan explained the inside left leg kick was never designed to hurt an opponent but to mask the right hand. To stop opponents from moving away from his power punch, he would throw the kick to halt them, or better yet, have them move to their left instead. And when they did either, he would launch the H-bomb.
In that bout vs. Bisping, his opponent did just that, and Hendo caught him, knocking him out, eventually jumping in the air and landing that extra punch we have all seen hundreds of times. It is one of MMA’s most infamous moments and an image burned in Bisping’s mind, despite not even being conscience to experience it.
It was a meme and graphic used on various websites and clothing / gear for Henderson. It made him more money than he could ever imagine while Bisping has been stewing in a broth of hatred and revenge hoping and praying he could one day get the opportunity to exact some revenge.
And now, in his homeland this Saturday night, he has the opportunity to right that wrong, to bring a semblance of order to the mental chaos that has been jarring the inside of his mind for over seven years.
Bisping is now the UFC Middleweight Champion. It is a title, literally and conceptually, that Dan Henderson has never been able to earn and achieve. A living legend and pioneer in MMA, the American will now get his third chance to win that elusive strap that will cement him as one of the greatest of all time.
It sounds awfully strange, but at at age 37, Michael Bisping as the youth advantage over Dan Henderson, who, unbelievably, is still competing at age 46. He is 3-6 in his last nine bouts, 2-2 in his last four. His last two victories were over Tim Boetsch and Hector Lombard.
On the flip side, Bisping is on a four fight winning streak, the last two vs. Anderson Silva and Luke Rockhold. To say he’s on fire may be an understatement. To say he is a lock to win vs. Henderson would be silly, but it’s as if the MMA stars are aligning for “The Count”.
He will have the crowd behind him, urging him forward. Provided he doesn’t get too emotional, he will likely come out strategic and cerebral, courtesy of a Jason Parillo training camp. As for Hendo, he will likely be methodical, waiting to pounce the minute the opportunity presents itself.
Bisping has already stated if he knocks Hendo out, he will likely throw another one, just like Dan did to him. Drama and controversy are on tap and MMA fans cannot wait to see how all of this unfolds.
Will Michael get his revenge? Will Dan finally get that UFC title? Will there actually be drama if someone gets knocked out?
Saturday night cannot come soon enough.