Michael Bisping, Britain’s flagship fighter in the UFC, returned to the octagon Wednesday night from a 355-day hiatus, only to drop a dispiriting unanimous decision in a five-round middleweight fight to longtime American rival Tim Kennedy at the TUF Nations Finale event at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, Canada.
“The Count” Bisping and Tim Kennedy had been headed for a grudge match since Kennedy called out Bisping even before the American fighter had signed to fight in the UFC. But their inevitable — and ultimately anticlimactic — showdown hit a roadblock when an injury to the right eye of Michael Bisping put The Count down for the count, for nearly a full year.
“I hit Mike with my best shots,” said Kennedy after the bout, surprisingly critical of his own winning performance. “Things weren’t clicking, so my hats off to him as an opponent. I just have great respect for him. I got a long way to go. I’m still getting better with every fight.”
The judges saw the fight going clearly Kennedy’s way, with two judges giving Michael Bisping just one round, and the third judge seeing a shutout for Kennedy, with scores of 49-46, 49-46 and 50-45.
While Kennedy appears to be on the upswing at age 34, Bisping at just one year older, could be on his way out.
Kennedy, a wrestling specialist, took Bisping to the canvas repeatedly — something that has rarely happened to the British puncher who throughout his career has averaged about five significant strikes per minute, the third-highest rate in UFC history.
“He had very heavy downward pressure and that was difficult to deal with,” Bisping told England’s Telegraph newspaper. “Hindsight is a great thing, and maybe it was ego, but I worked a lot on my kickboxing in sparring and not on my takedown defense. I’m disappointed, of course I am.”
“We’ve never seen another middleweight do that to Bisping,” added UFC President and public mouthpiece Dana White. “And he has been in with some of the top wrestlers in the division.”
Despite his own disappointment at his inability to stop Michael Bisping, Kennedy was elated with the victory.
“It’s a huge win,” the American said. “It was the biggest opportunity that Dana’s ever given me. I was really humbled to be in a main event against a perennial contender. I dominated Michael Bisping, a guy who’s been in the top five forever.”
Tim Kennedy’s record is now 18-4 after the fight, while Michael Bisping drops to 24-6 and is left to contemplate his future in the UFC.