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By: Chris Park, MMATorch UK Specialist
A mere eighteen months ago Michael "The Count" Bisping was on top of the world. In 2005 The Ultimate Fighter was where it all began for the Brit, and Bisping returned to the show to coach Team UK to success, winning both the lightweight and welterweight tournaments.
With a split-decision loss to Rashad Evans as the only blemish on his record, Bisping knew that a victory over rival coach Dan Henderson would solidify his slot as the next man to challenge the Brazilian phenom Anderson "The Spider" Silva for the Middleweight Championship.
Bisping came up short against Henderson, to say the least, suffering one of the most violent knockouts in UFC history. Bisping has bounced back with a vengeance, and the Wolfslair kingpin has since gone 3-1 with four highly impressive performances.
Anderson Silva is due to defend his crown for the eighth time when he takes on Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 on February 5, with Yushin Okami already confirmed to face the winner, but that has not stopped Silva expressing an interest in facing The Count. With recent admissions that he would like to fight Bisping for the title in the UK, a Silva vs. Bisping showdown could hit these shores before the year is out.
Both Bisping and Silva's next Octagon appearances are set on opposite sides of the world, however, their paths appear to be destined to eventually cross. While Silva's next bout is in Las Vegas, just a few weeks later Bisping will be jetting out to Australia to finalise his fight preparations for Jorge Rivera.
With Silva more than capable of using Vitor Belfort's aggression to his own advantage, and Bisping facing the aging Rivera, both men are expected to come through February's fights victorious.
With Okami awaiting the winner of Silva vs. Belfort, a second win in 2011 for Bisping would almost guarantee him a crack at the 185 lb. strap. Several fighters such as Chael Sonnen, Damien Maia and most recently Brian Stann have expressed an interest in facing Bisping, and a win over any of the aforementioned would prove Bisping as deserving of the next title shot.
Michael Bisping put on one of the finest performances of his career when he defeated Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 120 in London. It was a performance that saw Bisping take some big shots early before going on to dominate arguably the best middleweight he has defeated so far.
Wins over Denis Kang, Dan Miller and Akiyama, along with the exciting battle in Australia with Wanderlei Silva in 2010, have given The Count huge momentum going into his UFC 127 bout, once again down under. Bisping will enter the Octagon as the favourite against Rivera, but there are dangers when you face a man with the experience that Rivera possesses. One thing is for sure, a victory over "El Conquistador" will propel Bisping right into the title picture and put him one huge step closer to fighting for the UFC title.
Chris Park is the MMATorch UK Specialist and guest columnist at ESPN.co.uk. Please email any comments or questions to Chris at; firstname.lastname@example.org or look us up at http://www.facebook.com/mmatorchuk2 our new MMATorch Facebook home for UK Fans!
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