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By: Chris Park, MMATorch UK Specialist
In just a few days time the UFC will make its much anticipated return to the Acer Arena in Sydney Australia for UFC 127.
While B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch will pose an intriguing headline matchup, the co-main event of the evening is also heating up with the war of words between Jorge Rivera and British MMA king-pin Michael "The Count" Bisping.
While Bisping has often enjoyed the verbal warfare with opponents in the past, this bout seems to have the Brit on a mission to demand the respect of the MMA world.
Since suffering a horrific KO at the hands of Dan Henderson back at UFC 100, the knives have been well and truly out for the Wolfslair middleweight, despite the fact he has put together an impressive 3-1 run since then.
Jorge Rivera is the latest person to jump on the bandwagon of knocking Michael Bisping and dismissing his abilities inside the Octagon, while seeming to make personal comments about "The Count" at the same time.
While Bisping may be yet to have his chance to fight for a UFC title, that ship would appear to have well and truly sailed for the aging Rivera, who has managed to talk his way into the highest profile bout he has featured in for some time.
A respected veteran amongst his peers and fans alike, Rivera is one of those fighters who has always kept the bench warm on the outskirts of the division's elite while constantly being leapfrogged in the rankings by younger contenders.
While Rivera has faced top level competition such as Rich Franklin, Martin Kampmann, Chris Leben and current UFC champ Anderson Silva, it must be said that all of these bouts ended in heavy defeat leaving Rivera constantly attempting to rebuild momentum.
After compiling three straight victories, Rivera clearly sees Michael Bisping as a high profile opponent that he believes he can take out dramatically in what is likely to be the final run of his career. Bisping, however, has seen and heard all of this many times before.
Putting the defeat to Dan Henderson to one side, Bisping has been nothing short of outstanding since making the drop to 185 lbs. back in 2008. Solid victories over Chris Leben, Denis Kang and Yoshihiro Akiyama as well as the close decision loss to Wanderlei Silva mean Bisping is widely considered a top tier fighter in the middleweight division.
Come Saturday night Michael Bisping will be looking to take the respect he feels he is owed and will aim to make a statement with victory over Rivera.
While a potential super-fight between Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre is holding up the top of the division, an impressive win in Sydney could even go as far as setting up a title eliminator with No. 1 contender in waiting, Yushin Okami.
Okami defeated Nate Marquart back in November to position himself as the next middleweight to chance his hand against The Spider. Since that victory in Germany, however, it would appear the UFC has given in to the huge temptation of hosting what would be considered the official pound-for-pound showdown between the two most dominating champions in MMA today.
This alteration in the course of the middleweight division means Okami is forced to either sit out on the sidelines and wait for the winner, or stay active against a top tier opponent.
Michael Bisping vs. Yushin Okami would be the ideal solution with the victor cementing his position and setting up a title clash for the end of 2011.
Chris Park is the MMATorch UK Specialist and guest columnist at ESPN.co.uk. Please email any comments or questions to Chris at; email@example.com or look us up at http://www.facebook.com/mmatorchuk2 our new MMATorch Facebook home for UK Fans!
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