Rivalries: Michael Bisping

By: Brian Knapp
Sep 28, 2021

Michael Bisping squeezed every ounce of potential success out of his ability.

The former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder retired in 2018, closing the book on an exemplary career that saw him compile a 30-9 record and experience the highest of highs. Bisping delivered 20 of his 30 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission and populated his resume with wins over a host of contemporaries, from Chris Leben, Brian Stann and Cung Le to Thales Leites and Anderson Silva. He made his final appearance inside the Octagon in a knockout loss to Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 122 on Nov. 25, 2017.

As Bisping’s exploits and accomplishments drift further and further into memory, a look at some of the rivalries that helped shape his journey through the sport.

Dan Henderson

The weapon that made Henderson famous was his ridiculously powerful right hand, and no one knows the sting of that punch any better than Bisping. There was no love lost between the two men ahead of their UFC 100 showdown on July 11, 2009 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. They had served as opposing coaches on the recently completed ninth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, and Henderson vowed then to knock out the bombastic Brit. It took longer than he anticipated perhaps, but the former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder’s fist made its way to Bisping’s face in the second round. “The Count” backed away from the advancing Henderson and made the inexcusable mistake of circling towards the Californian’s power hand. Henderson stepped in an unloaded with a rolling overhand right and sent an unconscious Bisping crashing to the canvas in a rigid heap. The H-Bomb had indeed detonated, but Henderson was not done. He left his feet and dropped a diving right hand on the defenseless Bisping—an unsettling and lasting reminder of the bad blood that had developed between the two. A mellowed and more poised Bisping exacted his revenge seven-plus years later when, as reigning middleweight champion, he laid claim to a unanimous decision in their UFC 204 rematch and sent the Team Quest founder into retirement empty-handed.

Jorge Rivera

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner buried Rivera with a barrage of punches and knees in the second round of their UFC 127 co-main event on Feb. 27, 2011 at Acer Arena in Sydney. The blows forced “El Conquistador” to a kneeling position and left referee Marc Goddard no choice but to intervene 1:54 into Round 2. It appeared as if the match might end prematurely in the first period, where Bisping connected with an illegal knee strike to the head. After several tense moments and a point deduction, the fight resumed. “The Count” controlled Rivera with jabs and takedowns, minimizing the impact of the penalty. A straight right hand from Bisping marked the beginning of the end for the Team Sityodtong rep in the second round. The former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder flurried on Rivera against the cage, turning up the heat with hands and knees. The Boston native covered up in an attempt to shield himself and recuperate, but Bisping left him no room to breathe much less recover. A final combination drove Rivera to the floor and brought a decisive conclusion to their emotionally charged middleweight encounter. Afterwards, Bisping infamously spit in the direction of his fallen counterpart’s corner, called him a “loser” and told him to “go home” while blaming his behavior on derogatory comments Rivera supposedly made toward his family.

Jason Miller

Bluster gave way to stone-cold reality for “Mayhem” Miller, and the results were not pretty. Bisping disposed of the colorful “Bully Beatdown” host with a sustained barrage in the third round of “The Ultimate Fighter 14” Finale headliner on Dec. 3, 2011 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Miller had been stopped by strikes only once previously, with Frank Trigg doing the honors via soccer kicks five years earlier. A dramatic shift in momentum unfolded in the second round, where Miller was reduced to little more than a sitting duck once his takedowns failed him. Bisping overwhelmed the former Icon Sport champion with volume and accuracy, leaving him fatigued, frustrated and desperate entering the final stanza. Once there, Bisping scrambled into a dominant position on the ground and polished off his opposing Season 14 coach with punches, elbows, hammerfists and knees to the body. It was over 3:34 into Round 3.

Vitor Belfort

Nothing ruins plans quite like shin meeting skull. “The Phenom” cut down Bisping with a left head kick and polished off “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner with a volley of hammerfists 1:27 into the second round of their UFC on FX 7 main event on Jan. 19, 2013 at the raucous Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Belfort drew the curtain 1:27 into Round 2. Bisping was the more active of the two middleweights and did some solid work with his jab and leg kicks. However, near the end of the first round, Belfort drilled him with a left high kick and swarmed with punches. Bisping survived, but it was a harbinger of what was to come. A little more than a minute into Round 2, Belfort struck again with a stealthy head kick. This time, Bisping was not as fortunate. The strike floored the Brit, and Belfort pounced with hammerfists to bring a decisive close to their encounter.

Luke Rockhold

After nearly 10 years and 26 appearances inside the Octagon, the former Cage Rage titleholder reached his desired destination, as he captured the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown with a stunning first-round knockout of Rockhold in the UFC 199 headliner on June 4, 2016 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Bisping—who had submitted to the Californian’s one-armed guillotine during their lopsided first encounter two years prior—wrecked the American Kickboxing Academy star with punches 3:36 into Round 1, completing his unlikely ascent to the top of the 185-pound division. Never known as a power puncher, “The Count” replaced an injured Ronaldo Souza on short notice and cut down Rockhold with two clubbing left hands. The first dazed and dropped the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. The second, which arrived moments later, knocked Rockhold unconscious and left him defenseless against the cage. Bisping did the rest and prompted referee John McCarthy to call for the stoppage in a stunning changing of the guard virtually no one anticipated.
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