Fortunes changed for five at TUF Nations Finale

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Michael Bisping had long talked about not wanting to end his career as the guy with the most wins in UFC history to never get a title shot. After his loss to Tim Kennedy on Wednesday night, that is very likely how he'll end up.

The last few days have once again shown that you never know what you're going to get with a UFC show.

On Friday in Abu Dhabi, there were four first-round finishes in eight fights in a show that seemed to breeze by.  On Wednesday in Quebec City, Canada, there were nine fights that went to a decision, the third most in UFC history. Unlike Friday, a night filled with explosiveness, Wednesday felt like another night at the office.

It was the climax of an Ultimate Fighter season that nobody except the hardest of the hardcores was watching. There were only a few strong title contenders on the show, and all came through, except one.

Michael Bisping, in hyping his fight with Tim Kennedy, talked of Kennedy as a stepping stone for him to get that elusive title match that he's come one fight from getting on three different occasions. Coming off a year layoff due to a detached retina in his right eye, and at 35, he didn't look quite as quick or as sharp.

In the end, the difference in the fight was Tim Kennedy's ability to not just get takedowns, but keep Bisping flat on his back in a way none of his previous opponents were ever able to do and take a unanimous decision on scores of 49-46, 49-46 and 50-45.

Given his age, and the depth in the middleweight division, the odds are now strong that Bisping will be exactly what he's feared for a few years - the guy who ends his career with the most wins in UFC history of anyone who has never gotten a championship match. With the company running so many shows, and him being an established name who is good at promoting fights, he may still have a long tenure left, if that's what he chooses. But it's likely as the utility player, like the role Rich Franklin has had for many years. But Franklin had his day in the sun that Bisping is less likely than ever to get.

Here's a look at how the Fortunes Changed for Five on the show:

TIM KENNEDY - As much as he was verbally beating himself up, Kennedy scored a strong win over the No. 5 ranked contender in his division. Most likely, the win will move Kennedy to the No. 6 spot on the contenders ladder, behind the injured Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Luke Rockhold.

Kennedy (18-4), has only lost twice, to Souza and Rockhold, both by five-round decisions in Strikeforce title fights, in the last six-plus years. When asked after the show what was next, he hinted he would start calling people out on Twitter in a few days. Kennedy said that the winner of the May 31 fight in Berlin, Germany, between Mark Munoz (13-4) and Gegard Mousasi (34-4-2) would be who he would want.

Munoz would be a new opponent, but Kennedy has more to gain looking at Belfort, Souza or Rockhold, because a win over any of the three could get him a title shot. A win over Munoz keeps him one step below contention.

MICHAEL BISPING - The loss changed Bisping's fortunes in a serious way. His best case scenario would be to attempt to talk his way into a fight with Rockhold, provided Rockhold beats Tim Boetsch on April 26 in Baltimore. Last year, Bisping made a remark on television about getting the better of Rockhold when they had trained together. Rockhold didn't take kindly to what he said, and indicated wanting to fight Bisping. Such a fight would probably be a television main event, keeping Bisping in the spotlight.

If not, he's more likely to be facing another fighter coming off a loss, whether it be in the Rockhold vs. Boetsch or Munoz vs. Mousasi matches. But those fights for him would be all risk with no reward. Wins wouldn't put him in the thick of things, and a second loss would put a real damper on his career going forward.

DUSTIN POIRIER - After Poirier (16-3) finished Akira Corassani in the second round by overwhelming him with punches, he made it clear that he wanted Cub Swanson next. Swanson faces Jeremy Stephens on June 28 in San Antonio, but if Swanson wins, he's likely to get a featherweight title fight next.

Poirier, at 25, is already the winningest fighter in the short history of UFC's featherweight division. He's won eight of ten fights since early 2011, when the division was introduced. If Swanson isn't available, a good opponent for him would be Clay Guida. Guida is a name fighter, coming off a win last Friday over Tatsuya Kawajiri. Poirier needs a major win for people to take him as a serious top-tier fighter.

K.J. NOONS - There was an interesting test case on Wednesday. One of the weird realities of the sport is its version of the nuclear arms race. Almost everybody drops ten to 20 pounds the last week of the fight, and then tries to put it back on after weigh-ins. The idea is that you don't want to be physically smaller than your opponent in the cage, so the goal is to weigh far more than the weight class limitation at fight time. And since almost everyone does it, unless someone is incredibly talented, if they don't, it risks them getting outmuscled.

That means almost everyone is miserable in the days leading up to the fight. It means they are putting their bodies through the grinder when they'd be better off resting. It also means, at least in theory, by taxing ones system just before fight time, that fighters will have just a little less stamina when it comes down to crunch time in their fights.

Noons and Sam Stout, both lightweights, bumped into each other a few days before fight time. Stout's side suggested that they go to the UFC and ask if the fight could be made a welterweight fight. As it turned out, neither guy looked any different in the cage, but they were able to rest their bodies. In theory, they'd have more energy and be able to put on a better show. But it didn't make a difference.

Noons knocked Stout out with a right to the jaw standing and a left on the ground in just 30 seconds.

"It's an odd thing," said Dana White about the request. "It doesn't happen a lot. I'm not opposed to it happening here, but it's not a trend we want to start."

SARAH KAUFMAN - Kaufman (17-2, 1 no contest), in a sense, avenged a win in outstriking Leslie Smith for three rounds. At an Invicta show one year ago, Kaufman got her hand raised via split decision over Smith in a fight many thought should have gone the other way. There was no questioning who won here.

Kaufman's striking was both quicker and crisper throughout the fight. But she did have an edge, going through a full training camp while Smith took the fight just over a week ago, and the conditioning difference was noticeable late.

Kaufman, who has wins over both Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche, is in a weird position. Because Ronda Rousey beat her in 54 seconds with an armbar in a Strikeforce title match, it's going to be tough for her to get a title shot as long as Rousey is champion. With the decisive win, it would look like she could either face the winner of the Tate vs. Carmouche fight on Saturday, or face Sara McMann, coming off McMann's loss to Rousey.

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