I assume you’ve all heard: Michael Bisping will fill in for an injured Chris Weidman at UFC 199 on June 4 in Los Angeles. I know 18 months can seem like and eternity, but the absolute mauling now-champion Luke Rockhold hung on “The Count” is still as fresh as a daisy in my mind. I can’t help thinking this is a bit of a bye for the champ, but what did anyone think was going to happen when half of the main event fell out with less than three weeks to go?
It’s not like there were a ton of options, with Ronald Souza just fighting in Brazil on May 14, not to mention a possible knee injury he has to get checked out. Another potential title contender, Yoel Romero, is on the shelf until June 12, having negotiated a six-month suspension after testing positive for a banned substance in his December fight with “Jacare.” Yet another feasible contender, Lyoto Machida, is also locked up in the United States Anti-Doping Agency dungeon after admitting to taking DHEA last month. As you can see, the cupboard was pretty bare.
Enter Bisping. The affable Brit is coming off a very nice win over the legendary Anderson Silva, or perhaps I should say the once-legendary Anderson Silva. Either way, it was a huge win for the middleweight and buoyed his chances at the seemingly elusive title shot he has been seeking for years.
Much to our surprise and chagrin, the Weidman news hit like a sack full of Mark Coleman head butts, but not for ol’ Bisping. While I’m sure he wasn’t happy Weidman was injured, you can bet your Union Jack he was stoked to get the call to replace him. While I would have much preferred to see “Jacare” get his rematch against Rockhold, I’m not even a little bit mad Bisping is getting his crack at Ultimate Fighting Championship gold. Personally, I think he has gotten one of the rawest deals of any high-end fighter over the course of his career. He was the crash test dummy sent out against every therapeutic-use-exemption fighter the testosterone-replacement-therapy era had to offer.
From Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort to Wanderlei Silva and Dan Henderson, Bisping fought and lost to every one of them when they were on “legal” PEDs. Even a win or two against that competition would have probably earned him his shot at some point over the last five or six years, so I have a hard time getting in a fuss over a perennial contender finally getting his chance to strut to the Octagon for a title fight. Even if that walk is more like walking the plank than a fight entrance.
Please don’t mistake my good feelings about Bisping getting a crack at the belt for anything more than what it they are. I still think he’s going to get rolled by Rockhold, probably in highlight-reel fashion and most likely by submission after he butters up the Brit a bit. I mean, I guess he has a chance but … no, not really.
Rockhold is just on another level at this point in his career. The man has been rolling over the competition like a road grader since his very own loss to TRT Belfort in his UFC debut three years ago. He has racked up five straight wins over Costas Philippou, Tim Boetsch, Bisping, Machida and Weidman, and none of those gentlemen has seen the final bell. Weidman gave him his toughest fight by taking a round off him over the course of a four-round beating on his way to dropping the title to the American Kickboxing Academy product. As you can see, it really didn’t matter much who the UFC threw in there with Rockhold on short notice, things were likely to go his way.
As for Bisping, he’ll do what all fighters facing long odds do. He’ll play up the got-nothing-to-lose angle, internalize all the naysayers -- like me -- and get after it as hard as he can for the next 10 days or so before he tapers down for fight week. He’ll tell himself this is his chance to accomplish the one thing missing from his impressive resume. Then he’ll go out there and give it his all, like he always does; and it will be November 2014 all over again.
Honestly, there aren’t too many people I’d like to see score this kind of upset more than Bisping. I would be enthralled to watch him on the desk at Fox after nabbing a belt. Bisping and Dominick Cruz together? Forget about it. That would be must-see TV. There might be a shortage of salt in the ocean with those two dropping hammers on people from the set.
With that said, it’s just not going to happen. Props to Bisping for stepping up on short notice to take a crack at fulfilling a dream, but unfortunately, it’s about 99.9 percent certain to remain just that; and no, I’m not saying there’s a chance.
Sherdog.com Executive Editor Greg Savage can be reached by email or via Twitter @TheSavageTruth.