MMA Fight: UFC 204
Key Matches: Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort vs. Gegard Mousasi
When: Saturday, October 8, 2016
Time: 9PM EST
Where: Manchester Arena, Manchester, England
by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Michael Bisping, (-255), 29-7 (16 KOs, 4 Submissions) vs. Dan Henderson, (+215), 32-14 (16 KOs, 2 Submissions)
UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping makes the first defense of his belt against former conqueror Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 204. Bisping won the title with an upset first-round KO over Luke Rockhold in June. That fight saw the resilient Bisping reverse a prior loss, something he wants to do again in this fight. Few fans will ever forget the UFC 100 smashing Henderson laid on Bisping in their first bout in 2009. Bisping now looks to avenge what was one of the most brutal KOs in the UFC's history.
Bisping really took the bull by the horns in June, knocking out a young champion in Rockhold who he had previously lost to. But that's the resilience and tenacity of Bisping, who has overcome a lot to be in this spot. Along the way were a lot of ups and downs. Whatever the case, there were no people predicting that "The Count" would be UFC champion in 2016. This was supposed to be his encore period, where he picked up a couple checks before fading into the sunset. Instead, he started piling up the wins and when Chris Weidman pulled out of the Rockhold fight, Bisping was able to come in on 17 days notice and spring the upset of the year.
Strict adherents could find fault in Henderson getting the shot here, but that's missing the point. He holds not only a win over Bisping, but one of the most emphatic wins of all-time. He's a legend in the sport and sometimes you have to defer to sentimentality a bit. And it's not like he's no longer viable, as he showed with a brutal 2nd-round KO over feared contender Hector Lombard in his last fight. He's not the dependable package he used to be. After all, he's 46 years old. He's been knocked out a handful of times in recent outings. He's still as dangerous as they come, a prideful fighter who has said this will be his last fight—against an opponent he knows he can beat. With other fighters more deserving and "Hendo" having lost 6 of his last 9 fights, it might rub some people the wrong way. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a heck of a chance. That doesn't mean that the Henderson right-hand blockbuster won't still scramble the brains of anyone unfortunate enough to get in its way.
That's what it basically comes down to, whether Bisping can avoid that right-hand swat of Henderson. And let's not make it all about Henderson and what he can do to Bisping. Henderson has beaten some of the best to do it in MMA, but he's still lost 14 fights and in his last 4 defeats, three ended in the first round. His KO losses to Gegard Mousasi and Vitor Belfort were practically over before they got started. It just doesn't take as much to get Henderson "going" as it used to in his prime. Age and wear has robbed him of some of his speed and ability to sponge a shot, but that power is still alive and well.
At 37, Bisping is no spring chicken. He's got that wonky eye and has been through the ringer to some extent himself. But he's held up remarkably well, is superbly conditioned, and still has a lot more life in those legs than you'd expect. He showed it against Rockhold. And I think he'll show it here. This is personal to him, with the footage of him getting starched by Henderson being played back innumerable times, as the final image of Henderson plowing into him even became Henderson's trademark logo. That might override that the fact that Bisping is fighting very soon after the biggest triumph of his career and could be caught basking a bit too much in the afterglow. However, I see a version of Bisping that will be highly-urgent and victorious despite some anxious moments.
Loot's Pick to Win the Match: I'm betting on Michael Bisping at -255.
Vitor Belfort, (+150), 25-12 (18 KOs, 3 Submissions) vs. Gegard Mousasi, (-190), 39-6-2 (20 KOs, 12 Submissions)
There is more middleweight action in the co-feature, with Vitor Belfort taking on Gegard Mousasi. These are two veteran 185-pounders looking to get into the thick of the title scene. Mousasi, 31, has been on the fringe since joining the UFC in 2013. He is the winner of 4 of 5 and this would be a big win. Belfort, 39, has dropped 2 of 3 fights, with a KO of Dan Henderson his only win since 2013. His career could certainly use a positive development.
Belfort is closing in on the 20th anniversary of his joining the UFC. He has suffered a lot of wear and tear, in addition to certain body-chemistry issues with the banning of testosterone-replacement therapy. It's taken some time for his body to regulate and it's still a battle, with Belfort not really the same monster that was running roughshod over guys like Anthony Johnson, Luke Rockhold, and Michael Bisping. At the end of the day, he's still a ferocious striker and a viable threat against anyone he fights. He knows what he's doing, has been doing this forever, and has shown some character in still being able to do this after two decades at the top of the sport.
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Mousasi is probably a bit more-reliable of a package at this point. He has seen his ups and downs since joining the organization, with a 6-3 record in 9 UFC bouts. He turned pro over 13 years ago and has tangled with the best at 185 and 205 pounds. He's a rangy middleweight and capable of knocking out an opponent, as well as applying a submission. His list of wins include triumphs over Melvin Manhoef, Jacare Souza, Mark Hunt, Babalu Sobral, Ovince St. Preux, Dan Henderson, and Thales Leites. That's a pretty underrated list of wins for an overlooked fighter still looking to get over the hump after 47 MMA fights.
Belfort naturally remains a threat with his striking. It's worth noting that Mousasi's 2015 loss to Uriah Hall was the only time he had been stopped on strikes in his long career, one that includes many fights against noted strikers. Is Belfort still capable of lashing out with those kind of sudden fight-ending strikes? It's possible, but Mousasi is the fresher fighter and has more avenues to victory against a Belfort who isn't the force of old. If Belfort can remain relevant in the title picture after twenty years of untold physical toll, God bless him. It's just hard to bet on it.
Loot's Prediction to Win the Fight: I'm betting on Gegard Mousasi at -190. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet on UFC 204 by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!