Michael Bisping jumps from the movie set to the Octagon at UFC 199, hoping to bookend his turbulent career with a Hollywood ending.
After a full decade fighting in the UFC, ‘The Count’ finally gets his long-awaited and hard-earned shot at gold when he takes on Luke Rockhold at the Forum in California on Saturday.
Unfortunately for him, it comes having just wrapped up filming for the new ‘Triple X’ installment and on two-weeks notice following Chris Weidman’s injury pull out.
Not only that, it’s also against a younger man who, not only produced a flawless and decisive performance to beat him 16 months ago, but has since improved and is now the middleweight champion.
Yet, the context in itself is quite poetic because the extenuating circumstances are emblematic of Bisping’s long and storied mixed martial arts career.
Nothing has come easy. He’s been up and then down, fixed and then broken, but despite years of failed title campaigns, Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort all brought efforts to an end, the gritty Brit has remained relevant in an era of revolving doors.
Since being choked out, with one arm, in the second round to Rockhold, Bisping has won three straight – his last against the all-time greatest middleweight Anderson Silva. And just like in February, nobody thinks he has a chance.
1 week out from @ufc 199. My weight cut has started and my wife and kids are making chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream. C'mon!!!WTH!— michael (@bisping) May 29, 2016
“I have no pressure. I know I’m expected to lose this fight,” Bisp- ing said during last week’s UFC 199 conference call. “The world is expecting me to lose this fight, and that’s so nice, that feels good.
“I haven’t had 10 weeks of evaluating footage and going through the emotional roller coaster. Feeling confident, feeling negative, feeling confident again, then negative again. I don’t have time for that s***. I’m very, very confident.
“I’m in great shape. My weight is perfect. I’m expected to lose? That’s awesome.”
While the 37-year-old is looking for his feature-film climax in what is almost certainly his last shot at a UFC title, the champ with the silver screen looks is planning on ending his rival’s career.
“Mike, he’s a tough dude, he took this fight, but this will not be his fairy tale,” the 31-year-old said.
“This will be his swansong. This will be the end of him. I am going to go out there and dominate this guy like he’s never been before.”
You can never count Bisping out but even with a full training camp it’d have been hard to look past the longer and stronger Rockhold. But the war of words between these feuding middleweights is well under way and will reach its crescendo on Saturday.
Get the popcorn to hand because unlike the return of Xander Cage, this sequel has all the elements of a Tinseltown classic.
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Unbeaten pair Thomas Almeida (21-0-o) and Cody Garbrandt (8-0-0) face off in the main event of UFC Fight Night 88 in Las Vegas and you can follow LIVE statistical updates from the fight with Sport360.
Below is everything you need to know about the fighters for the evening, plus the tale of the tape and a full statistical breakdown of the competitors and event.
But only one will strengthen their claim to one day get a shot at the 135lbs belt in Monday’s (start time: 05:00, UAE) headliner at UFC Fight Night 88 in Las Vegas.
The two fighters explosive styles almost guarantee fireworks and that’s only been intensified after Garbrandt briefly clashed with one of Almeida’s cornermen, fellow UFC bantamweight Felipe Arantes, earlier this week.
With both fighters finishing 90 per cent of their opponents, and earning a combined 21 finishes in the first round, another knockout win for either man would catapult them into the title conversation.
And 24-year-old Garbrandt is planning on doing just that.
“It puts me up in the top of the division where I belong,” the American said. “I want to fight the guys that are supposed to be tough, and knock them off and get a shot at that title. My eyes are on the gold.
“Once I hit him once it’s going to turn into a brawl I know it. And that’s what I’m waiting for because I’m a better brawler than him, I’m a better fighter than him and I’m a better martial artist than him.”
While Garbrandt is one for the pre-fight barbs, Brazilian Almeida believes it’s a complete waste of time.
“My thing is the fight in the octagon,” the 24-year-old told MMAjunkie.
“I’ll show the fight in there. I just have to be the Thomas that I am, that everybody loves seeing. My only thing is to go out there and fight the way I fight.”