Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
TORONTO -- At some point, Michael Bisping will cease hearing about the night when Dan Henderson knocked him unconscious. Many great fighters have suffered a similarly embarrassing fate and lived it down, yet the moment never seems to recede far into the past for the brash Brit. The clip is played endlessly on video montages and brought up whenever great knockouts are discussed. Perhaps worse, it resurfaces whenever he is matched up with a heavy-handed striker.
That's just the kind of matchup he faces at UFC 152. Despite the fact that he's stood up to the firepower of other bombers like Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva and Chris Leben, Bisping still hears the questions about whether he can stand up to the big punchers, and if he has the firepower to answer back.
After adding boxing coach Jason Parillo to his training team, Bisping believes that not only does he have the striking advantage, but cautioned that it could be Stann who is in danger of the knockout.
"Well, I've only been stopped once in my career, and that was by Dan Henderson," he said. "He got stopped by a guy called Steve Cantwell. Yeah, I don't know who that is, either. But he got stopped against him. I got stopped by Dan Henderson. So, make of that what you will. I know what I make of it. Listen, if you get caught on the chin, anyone can go down. And Brian Stann? That rule also applies to him. He can also go down."
Of course, things have changed plenty for Stann since that time. It was only two months before the Cantwell fight that he finished his active duty service in the U.S. Marine Corps and became a full-time fighter. He was hardly the well-rounded product he is now, with improved grappling to go with his heavy fists. Bisping admits that he has respect for the fighter that Stann has come, even if he thinks he's well-equipped to shut down most of his attack strategies.
"I've said a few things, but they're tongue-in-cheek," he admitted on Wednesday. "I have to say I have nothing but respect. I think it's going to be a tough fight. He hits hard but I think I'm better all-around. I've certainly got better wrestling and jiu-jitsu."
While working with Parillo, Bisping believes that through improved technique, he's even closed the gap in punching power.
The fight is an important one for both fighters, but perhaps more so for Bisping, who is in danger of losing two in a row for the first time in his career. In his last fight at January's UFC on FOX 2, he lost to Chael Sonnen by decision.
A second straight loss would be a major setback for his title hopes. Bisping has been quite vocal about his career resume, as well as in his belief that he has done enough to warrant inclusion on the list as a middleweight top contender. That argument will be much less compelling with a loss on Saturday night.
The title picture is complicated by the fact that the middleweight belt could potentially be on ice for the foreseeable future. Champion Anderson Silva will take his next fight out of the division at 205 pounds when he faces Stephan Bonnar in October, and after that, a potential superfight with welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre looms.
That would likely mean that even if he wins, Bisping will have to stay active and fight again before securing a date to fight for the belt. And make no mistake, for Bisping, it's about the belt. Now 33 years old, he's not quite so young anymore, and the sense of urgency grows.
"The title's everything," he said. "Don't get me wrong. If I was to fight for the title and lose, I'd keep plugging along. It's not like that's my only goal, to fight for the title and then that's it. I enjoy doing what I do but I want to fight for the title. I've been around long enough and it'd be a shame not to. To be around this long and be this competitive and be this close for so long and never get the shot, that'd be heartbreaking."
Advancing his case can be accomplished with a simple win. A surprise knockout, however, would supercharge his pursuit and begin to offset the memory that still follows him around.
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