Two UFC icons meet in London, England Saturday when Anderson Silva faces Michael Bisping in a middleweight bout with the winner possibly staking a claim to the next crack at the belt.
They have been two of the most popular fighters in the UFC since 2006, competing in the same division for most of that time, but they’ve yet to cross paths. Here is a head-to-toe breakdown of how the UFC Fight Night 84 headliners stack up heading into what should be a crowd pleaser.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Nickname: The Spider
Fighting out of: Curitiba, Brazil
Weight: 185 pounds
Arm reach: 77 inches
Leg reach: 42 inches
Style: Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu
MMA record: 33-6, one no contest
UFC record: 16-2, one no contest
Notable accomplishments: Former record-setting UFC middleweight champion, former No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter, 12 post-fight bonuses
Nickname: The Count
Fighting out of: Manchester, England
Weight: 185 pounds
Arm reach: 75 inches
Leg reach: 44 inches
Style: Boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu
MMA record: 27-7
UFC record: 17-7
Notable accomplishments: First non-American to win The Ultimate Fighter, first British fighter to headline a UFC event, third in all-time UFC wins with 17
Simply put: Anderson Silva at his best is unmatched in striking. Even if he is past his prime and a step slower, he should still have all the advantages in this area. Bisping is a workhorse of a striker. He is primarily a boxer but also utilizes leg kicks. Coupled with his endurance and footwork, he likes to move around the Octagon and pressure his opponents with an in-and-out style.
Bisping doesn’t always throw combinations and will at times potshot his opponents, sometimes leaving his chin high especially as he starts to tire out. His footwork is praised by many and while it keeps him from being a stationary target, he doesn’t use it to set up attacks and can at times move aimlessly as evidenced by him circling right into Dan Henderson’s infamous “H Bomb” back at UFC 100.
Silva is a master at disguising his techniques hence how he always manages to hit his opponents before they even expect it. He kicked Vitor Belfort in the face by tricking him into thinking he was throwing low. Silva seems to also be a step ahead of his opponents and identifies their patterns quickly. He is adept at counter-striking, which is aided by his speed advantage.
The biggest difference here is power. Silva hits with more authority, accuracy and can end fights with one punch or kick while Bisping relies on an accumulation of strikes. Silva’s chin may be fading but Bisping won’t have the power to keep the Brazilian honest and being at a speed/power/technique disadvantage, all signs point to Silva schooling him on the feet.
This shouldn’t be much of a factor in this fight. Bisping mentioned in an interview he will try to take Silva to the ground but that is easier said than done as Silva has fantastic defensive wrestling. Both fighters rarely shoot for takedowns but Bisping is more likely to try especially if he finds himself being outgunned on the feet.
GRAPPLING & SUBMISSIONS
This shouldn't play a big role in the fight either unless it’s grappling in the clinch or up against the cage. Silva is deceptively strong and has the Muay Thai background to bully most opponents in the clinch. Bisping will handle himself up close however. If there is a submission it will most likely come from Silva although Bisping has proven very difficult to submit unless Silva stuns him with a strike and finishes him off -- that's how Luke Rockhold did it when Bisping suffered the only submission loss of his career.
CARDIO & CONDITIONING
Cardio has not been a major issue for either fighter but their styles may have something to do about that. Silva hasn’t shown exhaustion in most of his fights because he’s very meticulous in using energy, only throwing strikes when necessary and his elite takedown defence usually prevents him from getting into draining battles in the clinch or on the ground unless he’s up against a strong wrestler like Sonnen or Weidman.
Bisping on the other hand is a cardio freak as evidenced by his heavy volume fighting style and relentless pace. Bisping is constantly moving, throws combinations and looks to attack his opponent even in the championship rounds. He has shown a tendency to slow down in a few of his recent fights, though, which could be due to age and a fading chin but he should still be able to push a good pace for the majority of this fight.
SIZE & ATHLETICISM
When standing face-to-face, Silva and Bisping look similar in size, but Silva will have a reach advantage. Silva also has the athletic edge but Bisping is the younger fighter. Silva, despite being 40, is quicker, stronger and more flexible.
This has to be the x-factor heading into this fight. If this fight had taken place two years ago, Silva would no doubt be a massive favourite but a lot has changed for Silva since 2012. The once-dominant UFC champion has fallen on difficult times. Back-to-back losses to former champion Chris Weidman and now coming off an embarrassing PED scandal following his fight with Nick Diaz where he looked slow and tentative. There are also many questions surrounding how long Silva had been using steroids and if his earlier successes can be attributed to this (he had never failed a drug test in his UFC career prior to the Diaz fight). In any case, it's difficult to gauge how Silva will look in London from both a mental and physical standpoint. Bisping should be his typical self: brash, cocky and focused.
Silva is as high as a -320 favourite while the comeback on Bisping is as high as +269 as of Thursday. The odds Silva finishes the fight inside the the distance is around -140. It's worth noting is that only once in all of Bisping’s 24 UFC fights has the underdog won (it was when Tim Kennedy beat him in 2014).