Michael Bisping is easily the single fighter other fighters love to call out the most. It makes sense. Bisping is a well-known name, good enough that beating him places a middleweight squarely into title contention. He isn’t a particularly scary opponent because he doesn’t have much knockout power and isn’t a suffocating wrestler. Bisping is beatable and the reward for beating him is high.
But Bisping has a way of winning against most opponents he’s matched up against. He’s one of the best volume strikers in the UFC, a fighter who will constantly stick straight punches in his opponent’s face and beat them with superior conditioning. Bisping has landed 4.62 significant strikes per minute, including 93 against Alan Belcher, 64 against Brian Stann, 102 against Jason “Mayhem” Miller, and 118 against Yoshihiro Akiyama.
Bisping’s opponent is Tim Kennedy, a military hero who has made no secret of just how little respect he has for Bisping’s punching power and overall ability, mocking Bisping in various videos. The problem for Kennedy is that when I look at how he matches up against Bisping, I see him losing the same way others have.
In contrast to Bisping, Kennedy isn’t much of a volume striker. He’s performed fine in periods of striking against opponents like Rafael Natal and Roger Gracie, but it’s clear that Kennedy doesn’t have the same natural talent for striking that Bisping has. Bisping just seems to flow better on the feet than Kennedy does.
Kennedy does his best work with takedowns and grappling. He has submission victories in four of his last nine fights and has won a decision against Robbie Lawler due to effective grappling as well. Kennedy often has to work hard to land takedowns (37% accuracy) but once he’s on the ground, he does a very good job of transitioning from effective striking to submission offense.
The problem is that Bisping has historically been very difficult to control on the ground. Bisping has been taken down 25 times in the UFC but only had six submissions attempted against him. None of them forced Bisping to tap out. More often, Bisping is able to quickly work back to his feet and continue his attack.
Bisping has lost to two kinds of fighters in his career: fighters with serious knockout power (Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson) and fighters with overpowering wrestling (Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans). Kennedy certainly doesn’t pack enough KO power to be a favorite to beat Bisping that way. Instead, his best path to victory is with takedowns and ground control. However, I don’t think Kennedy is effective enough with takedowns to win on points that way.
The biggest concern I have about Bisping is that I’m not sure he’s going to perform at his best in this fight. Bisping has quietly grown old in fight years; he’s been competing for ten years now and eight of those years have been in the UFC. He’s 35 years old with 29 professional fights on his record and hasn’t competed since his decision victory against Alan Belcher a year ago. There’s definite potential for Bisping to under-perform in this fight.
As for Kennedy, he made his debut in 2001 but didn’t start fighting MMA full-time until 2006. He’s no spring chicken but he doesn’t have the same fight mileage as Bisping.
I think Kennedy will be a very tough opponent for Bisping but in the end I see Bisping’s advantage in strikes out-weighing Kennedy’s advantage in takedowns. The fact that it’s a five-round main event only helps Bisping’s cause.
Pick: Michael Bisping by decision