With a big mouth, never-ending confidence and a charismatic bravado, Chael Sonnen went from being a forgettable wrestler to a worldwide sensation almost overnight. His rants that focused on middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Brazilian culture and other assorted topics commonly left readers wondering, "Did he really just say that?"
The braggadocio of Sonnen made the world believe that he was a true-blue contender, and although his losses to Demian Maia and Paulo Filho would seemingly dictate otherwise, the American Gangster had recently put together big wins over Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt (who were ranked No. 4 and No. 2 respectively) to his credit.
Due to the love-him-or-hate-him image of Sonnen, many claim that he is not a serious threat in the cage and that he is a product of hype. Contrarily, people commonly agree that Michael Bisping, someone with similar personality traits and cocky self-image, is worthy of a title shot. There are some big differences between the two men, but the biggest of them all comes in terms of quality wins.
On September 22, Michael "The Count" Bisping will meet Brian Stann on the main card of UFC 152. Bisping believes that a win over Stann is the only thing between him and a crack at the UFC middleweight championship.
I've been there in the UFC now for six years, fighting the best the UFC's had to offer and I'm still here. I've got a stellar record and I want to fight the champ. Obviously I got to earn that right, and that starts on September 22nd pay-per-view against Brian Stann.
I'm training as hard as I ever trained. I've got a fantastic camp going on. Other than that, I'm going to go out there to completely embarrass Brian Stann. I'm going to prove that I'm in a completely different league, beat the crap out of him and take my title shot.
If the things that Bisping said in this interview were true, then I would have no issues with him contending for the belt. However, the claim that he has been fighting the best that the UFC has to offer is a bit misleading.
While The Count has squared off with "the best", such as middleweight title contenders Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen, he came up short in both instances. In addition, Wanderlei Silva was an unranked fighter who had lost five of his last six bouts before meeting Bisping at UFC 110. Once again, Bisping was given an opportunity to beat a highly regarded opponent with name value, but came up short.
Then, there is the "stellar record" that the British star referenced. Since moving down to middleweight, Bisping has put together eight wins, while losing three bouts. That makes his win percentage 72.7 percent, which is a very strong number, but it needs further examination to avoid being misleading.
When looking strictly at Bisping's record against the division's former world champions or title contenders, The Count has found success in one of four fights—the three aforementioned losses with the lone victory coming against Jason "Mayhem" Miller last December.
Miller's presence in that list is a mere technicality, as he once fought for the Strikeforce Middleweight championship, but he was gifted that based on name value alone, as he had never even competed in the organization prior to the shot at gold.
Against elite competition, we can see that Bisping's "stellar record" is actually 1-3, with a major leap in calling Mayhem an elite fighter.
You may be asking yourself about the other opponents whom Bisping has bested. Let's take a brief look.
- Charles McCarthy was an unranked cast member of The Ultimate Fighter 4 whose biggest career win was over Gideon Ray. He entered the fight with a record of 10-4 and promptly retired after the loss to Bisping.
- Jason Day was also unranked, but coming off of a win over Alan Belcher. His record was 18-7 heading into the fight with Bisping, but he clearly wasn't ready for the UFC. After this loss, he would lose four of his next five fights, and he hasn't competed since June 2011.
- Chris Leben is arguably the biggest win of Bisping's career. A fan favorite known for his brawling style and unflinching chin, Leben does well against fighters who are willing to stand and bang, but Bisping kept Leben at bay by jabbing from a distance and circling away for much of the fight. Leben was ranked No. 22 at the time of this fight.
- Denis Kang is yet another fighter on this list who is no longer on the UFC roster. A former star for PRIDE, Kang had some star power, but it was quickly removed when he lost his promotional debut to Alan Belcher. Going 4-4 leading up to the Bisping fight, Kang was unranked and was released by the UFC after a disappointing 1-2 run.
- Dan Miller is a solid fighter, but he had lost two straight bouts leading up to the contest with Bisping. Miller has never defeated a ranked fighter in his career, with his biggest win coming over Joe Doerksen. He, too, was unranked.
- Yoshihiro Akiyama has not looked good in a single UFC appearance. His decision win over Alan Belcher is deemed to be controversial, and all four of his other Zuffa bouts ended in a loss. He was ranked No. 17 at the time of this fight.
- Jorge Rivera fought Michael Bisping on the eve of his 39th birthday. He was ranked No. 25 in his division, and the fight is horribly marred by an illegal knee that The Count planted on his opponent in a moment of rage. Rivera is a prideful guy and chose to continue, but there is little question that this fight should have been a DQ loss for Bisping.
To sum up, we are looking at five unranked fighters (Miller wasn't ranked, either), No. 25 Rivera, No. 22 Leben and No. 17 Akiyama.
With the recent divisional departures of Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia and Vitor Belfort, the big-mouthed basher from the U.K. is now ranked No. 3 in the world. Of the fighters who you just read about, who exactly did Michael Bisping beat to make him worthy of his ranking?
Sure, Brian Stann is ranked No. 7 in the world, but that's really by default. With Sonnen and Belfort leaving, everyone got boosted two spots in the rankings without doing anything to earn their new spot.
I am positive that the comments on this article are going to be fueled with readers who scream that Bisping performed well against Chael Sonnen on short notice. Sure, that's true. But did he win the fight? Can we please not forget that right now, Michael Bisping is coming off of a loss?
People seem satisfied ranking the Brit at No. 3 and praising him as if he is a title contender. Is it because he the best British fighter in the UFC? Is it because of his status as a winner of The Ultimate Fighter? Is it possible because he is the most popular middleweight to never challenge Anderson Silva? I'm not sure.
In the immortal words of Ric Flair, to be the man, you've got to beat the man, and as of today, the best man that Bisping beat was sitting at No. 17.