Preview And Predictions – UFC London: Silva vs. Bisping

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With the Cowboys rustled up and back at the ranch and Conor McGregor now fighting Nathan Diaz, it’s off to jolly old England for the Ultimate Fighting Championship festivities this weekend as the 02 arena in London hosts a pretty good Fight Night card.

Atop that bill, former pound-for-pound King Anderson “The Spider” Silva takes on Englishman Michael Bisping in a fight which has taken years to come together even though both men were constantly highly ranked.

The main reason for that was Anderson Silva’s reign as champion. After spells in Japan and England, Silva brought his talents to the UFC in 2006 and beat Chris Leben in his debut to earn himself a title shot.

Then, against Rich Franklin, Silva viciously thumped the former schoolteacher in under three minutes in the first of what would end at eleven successive title fight victories. In that period, names like Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson were defeated by Silva while light-heavyweight  fights against James Irvin, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar also went his way.

That streak, though, came to a shuddering halt in July of 2013 when Silva was brutally knocked out by Chris Weidman before tragically breaking his leg in the rematch. Upon his return from that injury Silva defeated Nick Diaz but the fight was since deemed a no-contest due to both men failing drug tests. The punishment for which ends just in time for the London bout.

Like Silva, Bisping has had a long, eight-year career in the UFC with plenty of success although none, as of yet, at the very top level. Having made his debut four days before Anderson Silva, Bisping entered the UFC as a Light-heavyweight winner of the Ultimate Fighter and took his professional record to 14-0 with subsequent wins over Elvis Sinosic and Matt Hamill. In his fifteenth outing, Bisping lost a close decision to Rashad Evans before moving down to middleweight.

There, he quickly became a ranked contender and sustained it over the years with wins over the likes of Denis Kang, Chris Leben, Jason Miller and Brian Stann. It was the losses, though, that have somewhat defined Bisping’s career thus far. Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort and Luke Rockhold have all defeated Bisping and went on to fight for the UFC title while he still awaits his shot thirty-four fights deep in his career.

This fight with Silva could well be his ticket there.

With two fighters well into their careers there really isn’t much we don’t know about their respective games apart from the level of depreciation since their last outings.

Silva is a fighter who has always based his game on movement, elusiveness, accuracy and power. His attacks are almost all striking based and usually come after an initial period of low-output data grabbing to begin the fight.

Feints, quick jabs, powerful hooks, stinging straight kicks and bruising orthodox kicks are Silva’s main weapons and, to be utilised on the counter, they are usually accompanied by low hands and brilliant head movement. Elsewhere, Silva has good, but not great, takedown defence while he is extremely dangerous with submissions once it hits the floor.

Bisping, similarly, is a striking-first orientated fighter but in a much different way.

Unlike Silva, Bisping keeps his hands up and likes to come forward striking in a more orthodox fashion. He has a nice jab, strong hooks, useful kicks and throws them all very well in combination. With a very strong cardio base, the high output striking is usual how Bisping gets his wins with power not his greatest asset.

Over the years, his wrestling has greatly improved and is at a point now where, apart from a few obvious exceptions, he is more likely to take someone down and hold them there than vice versa.

As I alluded to above, the current levels of both men is the only unknown in this fight.

If we were to go on past exploits at a level close to both men at their best, Anderson Silva would win this fight seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Unfortunately, both men are a bit away from that point right now.

Silva, through losses, knockouts, injuries, drug test failures and inactivity is now a shadow of his former self while Bisping seems to have slightly slowed and has taken a bit of damage but, on the other side, is craftier than ever.

From that point of view, you’d have to say Bisping is closer to his best than Anderson is.

For me, though, Anderson is still ahead. For Bisping to win it would take a serious deterioration in the defensively abilities of Silva even from his post-injury fight with Nick Diaz (A fight which is a tough gauge of his current game because of how close it was to his injury). Because of his lack of a knockout blow, Bisping would have to walk Silva down, catch him clean round after round and not walk onto shots himself.

For me,  I don’t think that’s a possibility.

I see Silva being slow to start but putting on a good show once he realises that Bisping is slower than him to the punch and is game to trade. Expect a lot of leg and head kicks from Silva while, in the end, the combinations on the counter should do the trick.

Don’t expect the old Anderson Silva on Saturday night but do expect a fun fight and a big finish.

Outside of that main event this card isn’t jam-packed with excellence but there are some interesting people involved. Featured on the main card is Tristar-trained Englishman Tom Breese who is turning into a big prospect at welterweight while the fights between Gegard Mousasi and Thales Leites, Cisco Rivera and Brad Pickett, and Arnold Allen and Yaotzin Meza should all be rather entertaining.

For Irish fans, though, it’s Norman Parke’s bout with Rustam Khabilov that sticks out.

Hailing for Bushmills in Antrim, Parke is the longest serving Irish fighter currently in the UFC having made his Octagon debut in 2012 following a stint on a season of the Ultimate Fighter which he ended up winning. In his eight UFC fights, Parke has a record of 5-2-1 and will be hoping to move towards the lightweight top-15 with a win over the highly touted Khabilov.

From Dagestan, Russian but training out of the world class Jackson-Winkeljohn gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Khabilov actually made his UFC debut on the same day as Parke. In the three years since then he has made five appearances inside the Octagon, winning his first three fights but losing the last two to Benson Henderson and Adriano Martins respectively.

As fighters, despite their differing backgrounds, they have a very similar approach to the game. On the feet both men are technically solid boxing styled strikers while fencework, throws and dominating on the ground is also huge for both men.

From that respect this one should be very even and will probably be a hard slog over three rounds with whoever can win the strength and technique battle in the clinch coming out on top. Expect plenty of grappling against the cage, some neat trips and maybe even a journey to suplex city.

FIGHT PICKS

Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping – Silva starts slow but gets his combos going and wins
Gegard Mousasi vs. Thales Leites – Mousasi keeps is on the feet and wins a decision
Tom Breese vs. Keita Nakamura – Breese should take this one easily
Francisco Rivera vs. Brad Pickett – Great fight, Rivera via attrition

Mike Wilkinson vs. Makwan Amirkhani – Amirkhani
Davey Grant vs. Marlon Vera – Grant
Scott Askham vs. Chris Dempsey – Askham
Arnold Allen vs. Yaotzin Meza – Allen
Brad Scott vs. Krzysztof Jotko – Scott
Norman Parke vs. Rustam Khabilov – Khabilov
Daniel Omielańczuk vs. Jarjis Danho – Danho
Teemu Packalén vs. Thibault Gouti – Gouti
David Teymur vs. Martin Svensson – Svensson

BET OF THE WEEK

Anderson Silva in either rounds 1, 2 or 3 at 11/10

START TIMES

Prelims – 5.45pm on Fight Pass

Main Card – 9pm on Fight Pass

Lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Co-host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Tuesday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma