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With Chael Sonnen and Mark Munoz meeting at UFC on Fox 2, which opponent gives Michael Bisping the best chance to get into title contention in his next fight?
Note: This question was posed prior to Michael Bisping's booking against Demian Maia for the UFC on Fox 2 card.
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
The best available middleweights for Michael Bisping to fight next are Demian Maia, Brian Stann, or Alan Belcher. I don't think victories over any of the three of them will make him a worthy #1 contender to face Anderson Silva (or Chael Sonnen or Mark Munoz if the title changes hands this summer. Not ot mention, that if Silva does drop the belt, he's more worth than anyone in history to be granted an immediate rematch.).
So since none of the Maia, Stann, Belcher triumvirate are big enough scalps to hang from the mantle, I'm booking Belcher in an effort to put Bisping in the most spectacular fight possible. I think a fight with Maia would be dull, I think Bisping is levels above Belcher, but I am sure that a stand-up war with Alan Belcher would be entertaining as all hell. Bisping has a reputation for not being a power puncher, but if he's able to finish a guy like Alan Belcher, which would be his third finish in a row after TKO victories on Jorge Rivera and Jason Miller, a Belcher win might be more credible and memorable than a win over any of those other fighters. And, whilst I love Alan Belcher, if you can't beat Alan Belcher you sure as hell aren't going to beat Anderson Silva.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I think Yushin Okami would be a good opponent for Bisping to put himself in line for a title shot. Okami is a dangerous fighter and Bisping can beat him, it would go a long way towards earning him a shot at the title.
ANWAR PEREZ, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Hands down for Michael Bisping, Mark Munoz would be the easier fight. Both Munoz and Sonnen posses great wrestling, but Sonnen is on another level when it comes to his ground game, and would most likely keep Bisping on the ground throughout their proposed fight. Munoz has good wrestling, but Bisping's wrestling and take down defense would be able to nullify whatever Munoz brings, and keep it on the feet where Bisping would have the ultimate advantage.
ERIC HOBAUGH, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Mark Munoz must beat Chael Sonnen in order for Michael Bisping to have a realistic shot at winning a number one contender fight. I think Bisping has a good chance of beating Mark Munoz if they fight. If Bisbing fights Chael Sonnen, his chances are slim of winning that fight. Chael Sonnen gave Anderson Silva all he could handle in their fight back in August 2010 at UFC 117. I think Chael beats Munoz and Bisping on his way to a rematch with Anderson Silva this summer.
CHRIS PARK, MMATORCH UK SPECIALIST
My choice was and still is, the fight that has just been made, against Damian Maia.
The problem Bisping has had recently is that wins over names such as Mayhem Miller and Jorge Rivera are not enough to earn a title shot. A victory over a top calibre middleweight like Damian Maia will prove once and for all that Bisping is worthy of being awarded a shot at the middleweight belt.
The turnaround is quick for this bout, but it will mean Bisping will carry his momentum through the festive period and into a January training camp. He showed some rust in round one last Saturday, there will be no rust on an eight week turnaround. @MMATorchUK
JASON AMADI, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Michael Bisping needs a big name to really get him over, but unfortunately for him middleweight doesn't have a ton of them. Chael Sonnen and Mark Munoz are the only other middleweights currently on a hot streak and they're fighting each other.
In terms of name value, Wanderlei Silva is the best the UFC can do right now and other than Dan Henderson he's the only fighter to defeat Bisping at 185 pounds. The problem is, a win over Wanderlei Silva doesn't mean all that much in 2011 and will probably mean even less in 2012.
Demian Maia probably has the best balance of name value and relevance in the division.
MATT PELKEY, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
I don't think there's one perfect next opponent for Bisping. I've heard the winner of Vitor Belfort-Anthony Johnson. I've suggested Alan Belcher. Demian Maia is a top-10 middleweight who won his last fight, hasn't fought Bisping before, and doesn't have anything scheduled. Any of those choices would be appropriate. Bisping is on the "keep beating quality opponents until you're the only logical choice" track towards a title shot. One or quality win gets him there, regardless of opponent.
SHAWN ENNIS, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
I think the only one that's not tied up (at least that I can think of) is Demian Maia. I'd like to see a fight against the winner of Munoz-Sonnen or Belfort-Johnson, but I'm not sure whether the timeline would work out. If timeline wasn't an issue, obviously Sonnen-Munoz would be the most validating win, but that hurts the credibility of one middleweight title contender, and middleweight contenders aren't exactly the most abundant of commodities. Alan Belcher would actually be another option, but Belcher wouldn't necessarily be elevated to contender status with a win over Bisping, and I think that's probably something the UFC is looking for. Then again, Maia probably wouldn't either. If Bisping is going to get a title shot, he may not fight between now and when Anderson Silva is ready to go. If it's going to be the winner of Sonnen-Munoz (which it should be), Belcher should be matched up with Maia or Belcher.
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