Michael Bisping stepped in on short notice to win the middleweight championship, and now he is making his first defense in front of his home crowd and against a familiar foe in Dan Henderson.
The middleweight championship has had quite the journey over the past calendar year. Luke Rockhold dominated Chris Weidman to win the belt at UFC 194, ending the title reign that knocked off the legendary Anderson Silva. But before Rockhold could garner any traction in a title reign of his own, he was knocked off by the brash Michael Bisping at UFC 199.
Bisping was a long time veteran, entering the promotion during season three of The Ultimate Fighter, winning the light heavyweight bracket. Since then he has been a staple of the promotion and an integral figure in the UFC expanding into Europe.
But he never came close to the title.
He reached title eliminator bouts, only to lose right before earning a shot at the belt. When Weidman announced his injury a couple of weeks before his UFC 199 title rematch with Rockhold and the UFC came calling, it was a chance Bisping couldn't turn down. A shot at cementing his legacy under ideal conditions, little to no expectations as he rolled into the gym from a movie set, none of the stress and anxiety building over weeks, infiltrating his mind and thought process. Mountains of media obligations that have already been fulfilled by someone else. And the fight was right in his backyard, at The Forum in Southern California. He just had to make the drive.
And he knocked out the champion in the first round, "getting back a loss" in the process and strapping gold around his waist.
Standing across the cage from Bisping is a familiar foe in Dan Henderson. The former PRIDE welterweight and middleweight champion, and Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, defeated Bisping at UFC 100 in spectacular fashion. Then, with Bisping laying on the mat, Henderson finished him off with a flying elbow to "shut him up a little bit."
Bisping hasn't forgotten it. He sat and watched Henderson glorify it on shirts and profit from it. That loss burns in Bisping's mind, and it is a huge factor in Henderson getting this title shot despite being ranked outside the top-10.
That sets the table for an epic showdown between the trash talker looking for revenge in his hometown and the legend looking for one more huge win before riding off into the sunset.
Things You Need To Know
1. Home Turf
Bisping is the first British fighter to win a UFC championship, and he is making his first title defense in his hometown of Manchester. You can expect a raucous crowd turning out for its champion, creating a unique experience.
2. Odd Hours
Since it is a pay-per-view event, the UFC is keen to keep the event on it's typical schedule for American crowds. That means when the main portion of the card starts, it will be well past midnight in England. By the time Bisping and Henderson step into the cage, it will be the early hours of the morning.
3. Dan Henderson is retiring
Win or lose, Henderson is riding off into the sunset after this fight. He has a storied career with titles in three weight classes in two major promotions, like PRIDE and Strikeforce. The one trophy missing from the case is a UFC belt, and Henderson is looking to cement his legacy and place in mixed martial arts history.
Fighters To Watch
1. Marc Diakiese - A British fighter making his UFC debut in the first fight of the event. He is undefeated with two knockouts in his last two title fights and enters the UFC as the reigning BAMMA lightweight champion.
2. Mike Perry - Another undefeated fighter who made his UFC debut at UFC 202. He is looking for his second win inside the octagon.
3. Brad Pickett - Another British fighter, competing in front of the home crowd. He also goes by the moniker of "One Punch" and could provide a spectacular finish. He is coming off a rough stretch but has a win under his belt and is looking to build upon it after returning to bantamweight.
UFC 204 Full Fightcard
Main Card (on Pay-Per-View):
Michael Bisping (c) (30-7) vs. Dan Henderson (32-14)
Vitor Belfort (25-12) vs. Gegard Mousasi (39-6)
Ovince Saint Preux (19-8) vs. Jimi Manuwa (15-2)
Stefan Struve (31-8) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (19-5-1)
Mirsad Bektic (10-0) vs. Russell Doane (14-6)
Prelims (on FOX Sports 1):
Brad Pickett (26-11) vs. Iuri Alcantara (37-7, 1NC)
Ian Entwistle (9-3) vs. Rob Font (12-2)
Davey Grant (10-2) vs. Damian Stasiak (10-2)
Leon Edwards (11-3) vs. Albert Tumenov (17-3)
Prelims (on UFC Fight Pass):
Danny Roberts (13-1) vs. Mike Perry (8-0)
Leonardo Santos (15-4) vs. Adriano Martins (28-7)
Lukasz Sajewski (13-2) vs. Marc Diakiese (9-0)