This rematch itself is a follow-up to one of the most infamous follow-ups in UFC history; Dan Henderson’s vicious late blow to an already unconscious Michael Bisping at UFC 100 was enough to make even the most hardened MMA fan wince. On October 8th, in his hometown of Manchester, Michael Bisping will have the opportunity to avenge that 2009 loss in what will be the first defence of his UFC middleweight title.
7 years and a combined 31 fights have passed since that memorable knockout and both men find themselves in a position no one would have expected this time last year. Michael Bisping, the perennial nearly-man who could never quite earn a title shot, is the UFC middleweight champion of the world. He won that title by defeating former champion Luke Rockhold, a man Bisping had soundly lost to just 18 months prior, via knockout in the first round. This will be the fourth time Bisping has rematched an opponent in his career, so far he has won every rematch he’s had (Ross Pointon, Mark Epstein, and Luke Rockhold) via stoppage. He’ll be hoping to keep that streak alive at UFC 204 with a 20th UFC victory, a milestone that would see him overtake Georges St-Pierre to claim the record for most wins in UFC history.
Dan Henderson has never quite reached the top of the mountain in the UFC. He came up short in a light-heavyweight championship fight with Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and lost a middleweight title bout against Anderson Silva. His third shot at UFC gold came and went as he was forced to withdraw injured from a scheduled bout with light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, a withdrawal which would contribute to the cancellation of UFC 151. ‘Hendo’ has said he will retire after this upcoming fight, win or lose, so this will be his final chance to become the only man to have won a UFC, PRIDE, and Strikeforce title in his career.
It’s a fight that has drawn criticism from purists who say that Dan Henderson, who is 3-6 since 2012, does not deserve this bout ahead of Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman or even Yoel Romero. ‘Hendo’ is not featured in most outlet’s top-ten rankings and there are two fighters on the main card, Vitor Belfort and Gegard Mousasi, who are not only higher ranked than Henderson, but both also scored first-round TKO/KO victories over the American as recently as 2015. There’s no denying that Henderson’s history with Bisping, as well as his impending retirement, were huge factors in this fight being put together.
This is the first time the UK has hosted a Pay-Per-View card since UFC 138 in 2011, providing the UK fans with the rare opportunity to see a PPV event, which typically boasts a higher quality line-up than the regular Fight Night events. The decision to host a PPV card in the UK has, however, caused some complications. To cater for the timezone of the North American audience, where the majority of PPV purchases are made, this event will run from 11pm to 6am local time. It’s a decision that has upset some local fans, though not too much, as tickets for this event still sold out in just 6 minutes.
There’s more to this card than just the main event too. Former UFC middleweight champion Vitor Belfort (a man who has not won via decision in his 22 UFC bouts), Gegard Mousasi, Ovince Saint Preux, Jimi Manuwa and Stefan Struve have all headlined UFC events in the past, not to mention the likes of Mirsad Bektić, Brad Pickett, Iuri Alcântara, Mike Perry, Danny Roberts, Albert Tumenov and the debut of Marc Diakiese. The main event may be the cherry on top, but it’s a very solid cake underneath.
Before every UFC card, I write a column that looks at the ‘Dwyer Score’ of an event. If a fighter is on a 5 fight winning streak in the UFC he contributes +5 to the event. If a fighter is coming off a 2 fight losing streak in the UFC he contributes -2. I tally up all of the individual scores to get a numeric value that gives a general idea of the momentum of the fighters heading into any one event. Events like UFC 194: José Aldo vs. Conor McGregor boast huge scores, whilst the smaller Fight Night events tend to score significantly lower. UFC 204 checks in with a decent ‘Dwyer Score’ of +15. To give some context, that is around 21% higher than 2016’s average score of 12.33, though admittedly still some way off the average score for PPV events- 23.11.
The Dwyer Score- How it Works:
This fight truly carries an aura of historical significance. If we don’t see Michael Bisping set the record for all-time UFC wins, we’ll see Dan Henderson become the first man to win a title in all three of the biggest promotions in MMA history. We’ll see the sequel to one of the most famous knockouts (at one of the most famous events) in MMA history as well as what looks to be the final bout of a true MMA legend’s career.
It may not make sense in terms of the belt, rankings, or divisional meritocracy, but if I’m willing to give anyone a pass it’s Dan Henderson heading into the final bout of his career. This is one of the most compelling match-ups of the year, and I can’t wait for what’s in store on Saturday night.