The UFC puts its middleweight title up for grabs with a card that's less than stacked, but packs a ton of hometown appeal.
What: UFC 204: Bisping vs. Henderson 2
Where: Manchester Arena, Manchester, England
When: Saturday, the two-fight Fight Pass preliminary card starts at 7 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 preliminary card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight pay-per-view card kicks off at 10 p.m. ET.
More Coverage: UFC 204 Results | UFC news
Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson
I don't have the faintest idea what Bisping's going to do. Part of me wonders if he intends to strike it out with Henderson, something I find both inadvisable and risky. That isn't to say Bisping can't win that way, but rather, he shoudn't. Bisping is, at this juncture in their careers, the more well-rounded mixed martial artist than Henderson. The fact is Bisping can wrestle and can wrestle well. I'm not suggesting darting across the Octagon into a level change. Instead, fitting it in behind the jab and Bisping's larger kickboxing game seems prudent. Henderson, for all his wrestling credentials, has had porous takedown defense for years. Bisping's more than capable of landing on top and working his relentless ground and pound. If he plays it smart, there's no reason the Brit can successfully defend his title.
Vitor Belfort vs. Gegard Mousasi
Just like Bisping-Henderson, Mousasi should be able to use his more well-rounded abilities to get past the flagging Brazilian. Belfort still has speed in the first three minutes of the fight, but after that, his pushback falls off of a cliff. Mousasi could defeat him on the feet, but if he took it to the ground, he should be able to buzzsaw through Belfort's jiu-jitsu defenses at this point in their careers. Anything's possible, but Mousasi shouldn't lose this contest.
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Jimi Manuwa
This one is harder to call. OSP is a bit of a wild card. He hits hard and, Jon Jones fight notwithstanding, has a willingness to strike. He packs big power and is bizarrely accurate. On the ground, he's powerful on top and has massively improved takedown defense/scrambling. That said, Manuwa is a marvel on the feet with fairly resistant takedown defense. Only once has OSP been finished with strikes and even that was somewhat flukish. The fact is Manuwa has a greater singular development of a skill set than OSP, but OSP has more ways to win. Very much a coin flip.
Stefan Struve vs. Daniel Omielanczuk
If Struve doesn't get pressed against the fence for extended periods of time, this is his bout to lose. Omielanczuk doesn't have a prayer on the outside and probably not in the clinch either. However, he has something to offer if threatening from on top half guard. Getting there, however, is something Struve must and can stop. Omielanczuk uses his size well and should be able to stall out the significantly larger Struve, but the Dutchman has too many weapons, including in his takedown defense. I'm not sure when the stoppage will come. Perhaps in the second or third round, but Omielanczuk is likely to be chewed up in the in-between spaces as Struve finds moderate openings and turns them into major ones.
Mirsad Bektic vs. Russell Doane
This one makes me nervous for Bektic. Doane has a lot to lose, yes, but fights with the same spirit he accepts them: reckless abandon. He lost to Pedro Munhoz in his last bout, but he was giving the jiu-jitsu black belt fits everywhere before being one-upped by a clever submission. Doane is the physical powerhouse Bektic is, but he has offense everywhere and a willingness to try it. Bektic can and should win, especially if he's the aggressor, which is likely. The ATT product has strong takedowns, top control and vicious ground and pound. Still, Doane, while risking four losses in a row for a fight he's accepting on five-days notice, is a bezerker. This one could be interesting.
From the preliminary card:
Iuri Alcantara def. Brad Pickett
Damian Stasiak def. Davey Grant
Albert Tumenov def. Leon Edwards
Marc Diakiese def. Lukasz Sajewski
Danny Roberts def. Mike Perry
Leonardo Santos vs. Adriano Martins