Michael Bisping will never win many popularity contests, but no one can argue with the run of sustained success he has enjoyed since arriving in the Ultimate Fighting Championship nearly a decade ago.
Bisping exited his UFC Fight Night “Bisping vs. Leites” main event against Thales Leites with a five-round split decision on Saturday at the SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow, Scotland. In doing so, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner tied Anderson Silva for the third-most wins (17) in UFC history, trailing only Georges St. Pierre (19) and Matt Hughes (18). With St. Pierre still on sabbatical and Hughes retired, Bisping will have a chance to climb further in those rankings before his time in the Octagon is done.
Leites, who fought Silva for the middleweight crown in 2009, missed a golden opportunity to gain relevance in the 185-pound weight class again. Bisping fought with more of a sense of urgency, throwing 83 more significant strikes and 84 more total strikes than the Brazilian, according to preliminary FightMetric data. He out-landed Leites in every round but the third. Bisping will turn 37 in February, and while most agree his best days are in the rearview mirror, “The Count” remains a draw at the box office and figures to catch high-profile bouts for some time to come.
In wake of UFC Fight Night 72 “Bisping vs. Leites,” here are six matchups that ought to be considered:
Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson: Their first encounter -- which concluded with Bisping on the receiving end of a violent knockout -- has become a permanent fixture on MMA highlight reels. Six years have passed since Henderson leveled Bisping at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, and much has changed. While Henderson still packs plenty of wallop in his right hand, the former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder has slowed in recent years and is quickly approaching his 44th birthday. With both men coming off victories, Bisping would undoubtedly jump at the chance to avenge his UFC 100 defeat against one of the sport’s all-time greats.
Joseph Duffy vs. Joe Lauzon-Takanori Gomi winner: Conor McGregor is not the only Irish import on the UFC roster that is worth the price of admission. Duffy delivered his second finish in as many Octagon appearances, as he tapped Ivan Jorge with a first-round triangle choke. The Brazilian had never before been submitted in his 31-fight career. Duffy has stopped each of his last four opponents, three of them inside one round, and poses an immediate threat for the rest of the lightweight division. Lauzon will meet Gomi at UFC on Fox 16 on July 25 in Chicago.
Evan Dunham vs. Jim Miller-Danny Castillo winner: Once regarded as one of MMA’s top 10 lightweights, Dunham still has something left in the gas tank. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt executed his game plan to near-perfection and upset Ross Pearson by unanimous decision in the co-main event. Repeated takedowns and an active ground game carried Dunham through two rounds, and an oppressive clinch brought him home in the third. The 33-year-old has won back-to-back fights for the first time in more than three years. Miller and Castillo will lock horns at UFC on Fox 16 on July 25.
Joanne Calderwood vs. Bec Rawlings: Calderwood withstood an early punching burst from short-notice replacement Cortney Casey and banked a three-round unanimous decision. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 20 graduate battered Casey with clean punching combinations and shined in the clinch, where she grinded on the newcomer with knees, short punches and standing elbows. Calderwood’s ground-and-pound was also in top form, as the 28-year-old showed no ill effects from her surprise submission loss to Maryna Moroz in April. Rawlings was originally scheduled to face Calderwood before an injury forced her to withdraw and opened the door for Casey.
Steven Ray vs. Johnny Case: Flying under the radar at 155 pounds, Ray has rattled off four straight wins. The former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder had his fellow Scots smiling, as he dismantled Leonardo Mafra Texeira with first-round punches. A counter right hook undermined the Brazilian’s equilibrium and a left later in the round sealed his fate, the technical knockout bringing the arena to a boil. Alliance MMA’s Case has pieced together an 11-fight winning streak and last appeared at UFC 188 on June 13, when he captured a unanimous verdict over Francisco Trevino.
Thales Leites vs. C.B. Dollaway: Leites will likely look back on his encounter with Bisping as a missed chance. The Nova Uniao veteran’s run of eight consecutive victories grinded to a halt in the split decision loss, as he tasted defeat for the first time since August 2010. Leites had Bisping reeling with power punches along the cage in the third round but failed to capitalize, allowing the Brit to escape, regain his wits and fight at his desired range. Dollaway has not competed since UFC 186 in April, when he, too, fell prey to Bisping on points.