MANCHESTER, England -- Michael Bisping entered UFC 105 with the intention of restoring a damaged reputation.
His knockout loss to Dan Henderson in July prompted accusations of arrogance and pacifism, and as he prepared to face Pride veteran Denis Kang on Saturday in Manchester, England, real questions loomed as to where another loss would leave him in an increasingly competitive middleweight division.
In front of his hometown crowd, Bisping rose to the occasion. He did so by returning to the aggressive brawling style that bore success in his early fights with the UFC, en route to stopping a noticeably fatigued Kang in the second round.
In the opening round, though, Bisping walked into a thudding right hook from Kang that was not too dissimilar to the one that left him limp at UFC 100.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Bisping said of the knockdown, “but I felt pretty comfortable. I was going to scramble to my feet, but [I] had a look up at the clock and thought I would save it for the second round. I was confident I had taken his best shot.”
Bisping showed an increased maturity and composure while clearly dazed to restore guard and allow himself adequate time to recover. While his overall performance marked a return to the instincts noticeably suppressed in his previous fights against Chris Leben and Henderson, Bisping also displayed the development he had made from those fights. When he had Kang hurt, he didn’t stop until he finished him.
“I noticed from my footage that he breaks mentally if the fight doesn’t go his way, and I could see it in his eyes when I hit him,” Bisping said. “One of those shots broke his will.”
It was an exercise in controlled aggression from Bisping, in which he demonstrated improvements in his grappling skills, highlighted by his containment of the experienced Kang from the bottom and the telling damage he managed to inflict from the top.
“I apologize to all my fans for the last fight,” said Bisping of the Henderson loss. “It was just a setback. I’m going back to the old Michael Bisping. The one you saw tonight. I’m very happy with the performance. I can’t put into words the pressure that was lifted from me.”