Michael Bisping successfully defended his UFC middleweight title for the very first time at last weekend’s (October 8, 2016) UFC 204 from his home of Manchester, England, scoring a unanimous decision victory over Dan Henderson in a five-round war that left him battered and bloodied, albeit still the titleholder.
With his first title defense now in the rearview mirror, Bisping can look at what lies ahead, and it may only get tougher for him from here on out. The murderer’s row of the top four middleweight contenders (and we can’t forget Gegard Mousasi) will be competing next month to earn the next shot at divisional supremacy.
Let’s take a deeper look into five potential opponents for Bisping and why each top 185-pounder could spell the end of his feel-good reign as champion:
No. 2-ranked former champion Chris Weidman hasn’t competed since surrendering his title to Luke Rockhold at last December’s UFC 194, but he’s set to return to action at November 12’s UFC 205 from New York against No. 4-ranked Yoel Romero.
Weidman was actually scheduled to rematch Rockhold at June 4’s UFC 199, but he was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury. Bisping stepped up on short notice and took out Rockhold to become the undisputed champion. With that being said, if Weidman can indeed get by Romero, a man who’s won seven straight UFC bouts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him receive the next title shot.
In terms of how Bisping and Weidman stack up against each other, it would undoubtedly be an interesting clash from a stylistic standpoint.
Weidman has always been a tough and gritty wrestling-based fighter with powerful and ever-improving striking as well as strong submission skills. In my opinion, Bisping may hold the pure striking advantage in terms of combinations, movement, and footwork, although I’d give Weidman the advantage in the grappling department.
Bisping, however, has always had solid takedown defense, so keeping the fight on the feet against Weidman would be a crucial factor. To defend his title against the ex-champion, “The Count” would likely have to use his speed and angles to pick Weidman apart on the feet, while avoiding the New York native’s power. I simply don’t see him having much success if Weidman gets a hold of him.