Wednesday, January 25, 2012

UFC on FOX 2: Biggest Upset Ever?

Chael took the spotlight. As if he would want it any other way.
When the UFC's second card on Fox was announced, the buzz was around two title contention fights. The main event of Rashad Evans v. Phil Davis, with Rashad getting his long-awaited title fight against frenemy Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen v. Mark Munoz with the winner getting the most anticipated rematch/easy victory (respectively) for Anderson Silva. In Brazil. In a soccer stadium.
No offense to my Asian persuasion brethren Mark Munoz, but could there be a bigger drop in anticipation for that fight that from Chael to Munoz?
Due to an injury any plummet in anticipation won't be Munoz but rather late replacement fan-favorite (oh, sarcasm font how I need you...although his Sherdog message board gifs are the gifts that keep on giving) Michael Bisping. Bisping, the long-groomed face (and chest hair) of British MMA, has been hyped, pampered and coddled by the UFC to gain popularity overseas. Aside from a last second loss to a near end of the line Wanderlei Silva and getting his clock cleaned by Dan Henderson, Bisping has defeated such hot properties as Jason MillerJorge RiveraYoshihiro AkiyamaDan MillerDenis Kang, and infamously beating (sarcasm font!!) Mark Hamill. 

Most people are aware of this about Bisping, although the UFC will certainly deny it. Perhaps it is undermining Bisping a bit, but it does say a lot that the two biggest name and challenges he faced in his career have ended with his opponent's hand getting raised.

With his match-up against Sonnen on Saturday night, it's undoubtedly a fight no one wants Bisping to win. Even more, it's a fight no one expects him to win as a 4-to-1 underdog. Basically, people are saying that the closest Bisping can come to Sonnen is the verbal sparring they are doing leading up to the fight. With these big talkers going at it, and lots of people that love/hate both fighters to the tenth degree, its no wonder that this fight has taken much of the pub away from the actual main event...even though this fight has been on the card for about 2 weeks.

Sonnen has perfected MMA-style wrestling.
Mounting skepticism, his opponent, the audience, and what's on the line all seem to fall heavily against Bisping, so it's interesting to think that if Bisping can beat Chael, this would be the biggest upset in UFC history.

There is a bit of irony in saying that since Chael Sonnen was a minute away from beating Anderson Silva and attempting to pull off an epic upset of his own. However, what makes this potential upset so unconventional is that both fighters are well respected and have won fights. There's no dream scenario like Serra v. GSP or Frankie Edgar taking down BJ Penn. This isn't for a title, only a shot at the title. Neither fighter has an air of invincibility, in fact, both have lost fights recently. Bisping can't finish fights and has a questionable chin, while Chael's greatest weakness is his submission defense. The problem is that is tied to his greatest strength, his wrestling.

But when you see the fighting styles and the surrounding factors, it's hard to imagine Bisping beating Chael.Like most fights in MMA, anyone has a chance, but with Sonnen's elite wrestling against Bisping's horrid take down defense seems like too much to overcome. Sonnen has truly perfected wrestling for the Octagon. He is a big 185 lbs and uses his strength, speed, and leverage to get inside an opponent and take him down to the mat. Once he gets people to the mat, he's even more of a burden with great cardio and a relentless pace.

Bisping, taking the fight on short notice, probably hasn't learned enough over the past couple of weeks to stop Chael from taking him to the mat. He can try to sub him, but that's not Bisping's game either. He has one opportunity, and that's when the round starts and they touch gloves to catch Sonnen. Again, even if he does that, Sonnen has a great chin and isn't easy to hit. All the while, he'll be aggressively coming at Bisping with strikes to set up his take down. Strikes that Bisping tends to back up and move away from rather than stay in the pocket and counter. When Bisping starts getting happy feet, that'll leave Chael a big opening to shoot in for the take down. It's not out of the questions Chael could do so with only a single leg.

The opportunity was too great for Bisping to pass up, but he has a long night ahead of him if he survives Chael's onslaught and doesn't get finished. Munoz would have provided some interesting obstacles for Chael, but Bisping doesn't pose much of a threat. The outcome seems predetermined, but if Bisping wants to have his first major win be a historic one and validate his career, here's his shot.

Seriously, they're really funny.

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