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Not too many people, myself included, gave Michael Bisping much of a chance against former champion Anderson Silva in their UFC Fight Night 84 main event on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. However, the prickly Brit showed his game still has a little snarl left in it after a hard-fought 25-minute decision win over the man who ruled the division for what seemed like an eternity. It may well be the signature victory of Bisping’s long career.
The fight was not without a little controversy, though. In the closing seconds of the third round, Bisping motioned to referee Herb Dean that he had lost his mouthpiece. Dean retrieved it, and when Bisping motioned towards him again hoping he would call a break to replace it, the referee took a step towards the fighter. In subsequent replays, you could see that Dean was telling Bisping to continue to fight. Perhaps thinking Dean was moving towards him to halt the action, Bisping let his guard down and was blasted with a flying knee that left Silva sitting atop the cage celebrating.
It was such an odd series of events that culminated with Dean telling Silva -- still straddling the Octagon -- and his people that the fight wasn’t over. In disbelief, Silva descended from the cage and got ready for the fourth round. That seems to be the pivotal round in the fight’s scoring. Rounds one and two were clearly in the Bisping column, and three and five assuredly went to Silva. Four was the one that decided this fight.
Both fighters were probably wondering what was going on as that round got started, Bisping because he was still clearing the cobwebs out of his melon and Silva because he thought the fight was over. For the record, I had Bisping taking the fourth round and the fight 48-47, but I wouldn’t argue the other way. No robbery here, folks.
As for Silva and his return after a little more than a year on the shelf -- his penance for his positive tests, pre- and post-fight, during his January 2015 encounter with Nick Diaz -- he did not look even close to his former self. Age and inactivity can be a nasty tag-team opponent as a fighter ages, and they looked like they did a bit of a job on the Brazilian great. I know he has said he’d like to bring the belt back to Brazil, but I can’t imagine him seeing a second round against Luke Rockhold at this point in his career, much less surviving 25 minutes with the champ.
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m ready to run Silva out to pasture just yet; there are plenty of fun fights, like this one, to be made if he wants to stick around for a while. I just think it would be a rough row for him to hoe if he really wants to get back into title contention, much less fight the likes of Rockhold or Chris Weidman again.
That brings us to Bisping. I know he’s going to be fired up coming off this big win, but if he’s honest with himself, he’ll admit that it wasn’t peak Silva he took on for five rounds. That was a 40-year-old fighter who had been out of the game for over a year. He’s the same fighter who looked like he was beginning to slip a bit before he got busted for PED use.
I get it: Bisping wants another shot at Rockhold and the Ultimate Fighting Championship gold he has long coveted, but I don’t think anything goes differently this time around, other than it being even easier for the champ to squash his dreams. There are much more deserving challengers in Ronaldo Souza and Yoel Romero in the queue after the Rockhold-Weidman rematch.
I’ll be honest. I’d be happy if Bisping got his shot, but I just don’t think he’s as deserving as the others I mentioned above. With that said, this is the UFC, and if the organization thinks the fight will do good business, there’s a shot it could get made; and if there’s a late injury in a middleweight championship fight sometime in 2016, you know Bisping and his big brass stones will be there to step in. So I guess it could happen. Crazier matches have been made. We’re all just going to have to wait and see how it unfolds.
Sherdog.com Executive Editor Greg Savage can be reached by email or via Twitter @TheSavageTruth.