Thursday February 25th, 2016

Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight between Anderson Silva and Michael Bisping.


“I back. Trust me. I back.”

That was the concise message a smiling Anderson Silva delivered to fans of mixed martial arts one day in the summer of 2013, a week after he’d clowned his way to an unthinkable knockout loss to Chris Weidman, marking the end of a 17-fight win streak. The broken English was endearing back then because everything about “The Spider” sparkled like the star that he was. He might have been no longer the UFC’s middleweight champion at that moment, but his announcement served notice that the defeat was nothing more than a speed bump on the golden road, and he’d soon be rectifying the situation.

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Well, it didn’t happen quite like he’d planned. December came, and so did Weidman, hauling the shiny brass-and-leather belt along with him. There were many who examined the rematch and were convinced that Silva would walk out of the octagon that night with the strap the Brazilian had owned for the previous seven years. But the new champ was too much to handle once again, and this time the old champ not only didn’t walk out of the cage with the belt, he didn’t even walk out of the cage.

Silva didn’t fight again for over a year, in fact, healing the sickening leg break he suffered in the second round. And when he did return to the cage, in January 2015 in Las Vegas, he didn’t exactly harken back to his days of heart-thumping striking. He was in full control of Nick Diaz for five rounds, but what was most memorable about the bout was Diaz’s taunting and antics. For Silva, it was not a notable night … until days later, when the Nevada Athletic Commission announced that the longtime champ had tested positive for two anabolic steroids. He was fined and suspended, and his victory was changed to a no decision.

Now Silva is back, again, after another year’s absence, taking on Michael Bisping in the main event of a UFC Fight Night on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London.

Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Silva (33-6, 1 NC) is 40 years old now, and he has gone nearly 3 1/2 years without a victory (at least one that stood). When he was in his prime, he was a sublime spectacle, widely considered the greatest MMA fighter in the world, perhaps the best of all time. Now, because of age and inactivity, and with the dark cloud of PED failure casting a shadow of indignity, “The Spider” is a question mark hoping to rediscover the exclamation point he once was.

Bisping (27-7) is a spry 36-year-old by comparison. He’s won two in a row, and seems to be past the injuries that slowed him in recent years. Though he lives and trains in southern California now, “The Count” is a native of Manchester, England, and once was the face of the UFC in Europe. It’s been over five years since he fought in England, but he’s 16-0 on his native soil.

The entire 13-fight card will be shown on the UFC Fight Pass, the promotion’s digital streaming service. The first fight begins at 12:45 a.m. ET, and the main card begins at 4 p.m.

The Story

​Bisping has been talking about fighting Silva ever since the two were in diapers. Or maybe it just seems that way.

The Brit was a product of the third season of the UFC’s reality show, The Ultimate Fighter. He won the finale in June 2006, and four days later, Silva made his UFC debut. Less than four months after that, “The Spider” was middleweight champion.

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Bisping actually started his UFC run as a light heavyweight, but in the spring of 2008, he moved down to 185 pounds and the chase was on. He won three times and was booked against Dan Henderson, with the winner promised a shot at Silva. That night in July 2009 produced one of the most thrilling knockouts in UFC history … and Bisping was on the wrong end of it. Back to the drawing board.

By the beginning of 2012, Bisping was back in a title shot eliminator, after having won four of five. This time he remained conscious till the end, and some have argued that he won the fight, but the judges saw it a different way, and Chael Sonnen had his arm raised.

Since then, Bisping has kept his eye on the prize, even as his career has gone up and down. He’s on an upswing now, having not lost since a 2014 bout with Luke Rockhold, who now holds the belt. And finally, before his countrymen, he has a date with the man he’s been chasing all these years.

Last Five Fights

Silva Bisping
1/31/15 Nick Diaz NC (UD W overturned) 7/18/15 Thales Leites W SD 5
12/28/13 Chris Weidman L TKO 2 4/25/15 C.B. Dollaway W UD 3
7/6/13 Chris Weidman L KO 2 11/7/14 Luke Rockhold L Sub. 2
10/13/12 Stephan Bonnar W TKO 1 8/23/14 Cung Le W TKO 4
7/7/12 Chael Sonnen W TKO 2 4/16/14 Tim Kennedy L UD 5

Tale of the Tape

Silva vs. Bisping
April 14, 1975 BIRTH DATE Feb. 28, 1979
São Paulo, Brazil BIRTHPLACE Nicosia, Cyprus
Curitiba, Brazil RESIDENCE Orange County, Calif.
33-6 (1 NC) RECORD 27-7
185* WEIGHT 185*
6’2” HEIGHT 6’2”
77.5” REACH 75”

* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 11 a.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass)

Other Numbers to Count On

14: Finishes in the UFC by Anderson Silva, tied (with Vitor Belfort) for most in the promotion’s history.
1,285: Significant strikes landed by Michael Bisping, most in UFC history. (He has one more than Georges St-Pierre.)
68.6: Percentage of strikes avoided by Bisping, the best in UFC middleweight history. That’ll come in handy against the pinpoint striking of Silva (63.2 accuracy, third-best ever in the UFC).

Greatest Hits

The night Anderson Silva became UFC champion:

Michael Bisping earns one of his three Fight of the Night bonuses:

The Matchup

Michael Bisping is a stalker. Anderson Silva is a counterpuncher. That would seem to make for an action fight.

Then again, Bisping is far from the most accurate striker. Fighters far less nimble than Silva have dodged his advances.

And Silva has always had a way of turning aggressors tentative. In his last fight, the usually busy Nick Diaz lingered on the outside for extended spells.

Still, with the full force of a London crowd behind him, expect an emboldened Bisping to test the staying power of a man who once was untouchable.

The Odds

Silva is the favorite, with a money line ranging from -290 (bet $290 to win $100) to -325 (bet $325 to win $100) at various sportsbooks. The line on Bisping ranges from +235 (bet $100 to win $235) to +263 (bet $100 to win $263).

The Prediction

Anyone have a coin to toss? When both men were in the prime of their careers, Silva would have been a clear pick to take out Bisping. But now that the Brazilian is 40 and has fought only once in over two years, the choice is not so obvious. The Brit has an aggressive style that plays right into Silva’s counterpunching prowess, and I’m going to venture a guess that the old man still has what it takes.

Prediction: Silva by decision.

Fighting Words

“We’re all chasing a dream. All fighters have a dream, a dream of being the champion. You gotta do it through hard work and determination. The fact of the matter is Anderson Silva tested positive for not one, not two, but three banned substances inside his body. While I respect him as a fighter, I’ve gotta say I lost a lot of respect for him for that. This fight represents me beating all of these people that want to cheat the system.” —Michael Bisping during a conference call with reporters, referring to Silva’s positive PED tests

“Unskilled.” —Anderson Silva in a video he posted on Instagram depicting Bisping accidentally kicking his coach in the head during training

Scott Heavey/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The Rest of the Card

All on UFC Fight Pass (9:45 a.m. ET): Gegard Mousasi vs. Thales Leites, middleweight;’ Tom Breese vs. Keita Nakamura, welterweight; Francisco Rivera vs. Brad Pickett, bantamweight; Mike Wilkinson vs. Makwan Amirkhani, featherweight; Davey Grant vs. Marlon Vera, bantamweight; Scott Askham vs. Chris Dempsey, middleweight; Arnold Allen vs. Yaotzin Meza, featherweight; Brad Scott vs. Krzysztof Jotko, middleweight; Norman Parke vs. Rustam Khabilov, lightweight; Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Jarjis Danho, heavyweight; Teemu Packalen vs. Thibault Gouti, lightweight; David Teymur vs. Martin Svensson, lightweight.

Programming Notes

John Gooden will handle blow-by-blow and Dan Hardy analysis for the telecast on UFC Fight Pass.

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