UFC 204 took place last weekend from a sold out Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. In the night’s main event, hometown hero and middleweight champion Michael Bisping defended his belt in a classic brawl against archrival Dan Henderson. With the win, Bisping avenged one of the most brutal and iconic knockouts in the sport’s history.
Heading into the fight, much of the chatter surrounding the event centered on challenger Dan Henderson openly stating that, win or lose, this would be his last fight. Henderson was calling it a career after almost 20 years in the game and with one of the most impressive resumes of any mixed martial artist.
Henderson’s decision to call it an end at UFC 204 was a smart one, but he should not have been the only one to seriously consider announcing his retirement that night. This might not be a popular stance to take, and I might get some angry fans yelling at me on social media about how stupid I am, but Bisping should also consider hanging up his gloves for good.
It’s a crazy thing to say, I know, but let me explain and maybe you will feel the same. It took Bisping 10-plus years to even earn a title shot in the UFC. That is a very long time for a fighter of Bisping’s caliber and accolades. In this stretch, he fought the who’s who of the division and did so very competitively. Even with the Brit’s resume, it still took an injury to Chris Weidman for Bisping to get the title shot — and on just eight days’ notice. We all know what happened: he shocked the world and knocked out champion Luke Rockhold to capture the belt.
After his stunning victory, Bisping was rather quickly booked to fight Henderson. This came to the dismay of many pundits and fans. They were angered and disturbed by the booking because Henderson was nowhere near the top of the middleweight rankings. It could be argued Bisping received a gift from the UFC with the booking against Henderson. It was a chance to avenge the worst night of his career. But now what? Doesn’t he have to fight one of the winners from the upcoming contender match-ups later this year? Logic would say yes.
How would any of those potential fights go for Bisping?
Rockhold, Weidman, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Yoel Romero are the four contenders on top of everyone’s list. Bisping would be a more than 2-to-1 underdog against all four of these gentlemen, and deservedly so. In a nutshell, the chances of him beating any of these guys are very slim.
Then what? Bisping loses his belt in his next fight and goes back to the same old routine of fighting guys who are trying to make a name off of him? He could go on for another few years without sniffing a title fight while losing every third outing. He could just go back to being what he was before he struck lightning in a bottle with the Rockhold knockout. He could be a middle-of-the-pack fighter who is easy to forget about as time passes.
Other than getting paid, what more can Bisping realistically do? Meanwhile, he has a job many fighters would die for outside the cage as an analyst for the UFC. Not many fighters in the history of the sport can say they have a reliable job waiting for them that doesn’t include fighting.
Bisping has never been in such an impressive streak in his entire career. He defeated the greatest of all time — the GOAT — when he topped Anderson Silva. He knocked out the young stud Rockhold for the middleweight strap. Then, Bisping faced Henderson at UFC 204 and successfully defended the title against a man who knocked him out at UFC 100 in memorable and devastating fashion.
Bisping did this in front of a hometown crowd in Manchester. The arena was sold out. His countrymen were cheering him on as he edged his longtime nemesis in a brutal back-and-forth battle. He was knocked down and got back up every time while doing just enough to earn the unanimous decision win and keep his belt. His face was battered and bloodied from the war he had just endured, but he trotted around the cage with his middleweight belt in hand. Is there a better scenario on which a fighter could close a career? I think not.