In terms of middleweight title contention, UFC 110 could be a do or die situation for Michael Bisping and Wanderlei Silva. The two strikers will co-headline the UFC’s first trip to Sydney, Australia on February 21.
A fight with a top ranked contender such as Yoshihiro Akiyama could be next in the winner’s path; a victory there could all but guarantee a shot at the prestigious middleweight championship.
The loser will not be so fortunate.
In fact, the loser of UFC 110’s co-main event may find themselves in danger of being stuck in permanent gatekeeper status.
Yes, Michael Bisping and Wanderlei Silva are popular figures within the sport. But both have struggled to defeat top-tier competition in the UFC and one more ample loss would be devastating for either of them.
Bisping has become the face of MMA in the United Kingdom since winning season three of The Ultimate Fighter in the light-heavyweight division. “The Count” showed promise early, maintaining a perfect Octagon record with four straight wins, including a controversial decision victory over TUF rival Matt Hamill.
After completely running through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist Charles McCarthy in his debut at middleweight, Bisping fans began praising “The Count” as the heir to Anderson Silva’s title. With three straight wins at middleweight, Bisping was extremely close to earning a title shot. Unfortunately, Dan Henderson’s overhand right shattered Bisping’s championship aspirations.
With his back against the wall, Bisping turned things around with a much-needed win over Denis Kang this past November. The Manchester native is on the right track and a win over an MMA legend such as “The Axe-Murderer” would hurl Bisping right back into title contention.
Silva was once known as the deadliest striker in the division and used to ignite fear into the heart of any man who dared to stand across the ring from him. From his brutal knockouts over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to his man-handling of Kazushi Sakuraba, Silva ruled PRIDE with an iron fist.
Considering Silva hasn’t looked especially dominant since 2006, it is easy to assume that his best days are behind him. Keith Jardine was coming off a huge upset over Chuck Liddell before Silva knocked him into unconsciousness at UFC 84.
Bisping could be stuck in a similar situation, especially if he loses in highlight-reel fashion. But Silva has lost three of four fights and could face the same fate.
The UFC would be foolish to release Silva from his contract if he fails to beat Bisping, but three losses in a row is a tough pill for any fighter to swallow.
Perhaps the cut to middleweight is just what Silva needed to rejuvenate his career? After all, the loss to Henderson aside, Bisping himself has looked much improved ever since dropping down from light-heavyweight.
One thing is certain: both fighters need to win and they need to win big in order to take that significant next step forward in the middleweight division.
Both fighters realize how significant a victory would be for their careers, and they’re aware of how far back a loss would set them. Losing is not an option for these two middleweight warriors, and that mentality mixed in with their aggressive striking style is going to guarantee a brutal war in the land down under.