TUF Nations Finale: Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy Full Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Currently in the Top 10 rankings for the middleweights, Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy will be looking to inch closer to a shot at UFC gold when they meet on Wednesday.
Battling an eye injury, Bisping has not competed in nearly 12 months. While he hasn't won consecutive fights since December 2011, Bisping has become one of the bigger names in the 185-pound class, meaning he's always a big win or two away from a shot at the championship.
Kennedy has made an immediate impact since joining the UFC roster. After spending more than three years with Strikeforce, Kennedy debuted inside the Octagon with a decision win over Roger Gracie and more recently knocked out Rafael Natal.
As this important middleweight bout approaches, here is a closer look at how Bisping and Kennedy match up against one another in all areas.
Bisping has rarely lost stand-up bouts. Only Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort, with their unsurpassed knockout power, have decisively beaten the Englishman with strikes.
Prior to his most recent outing against Natal, Kennedy was not viewed as a fighter capable of putting many opponents away with one punch. However, he stopped the Brazilian with a looping left hook, which gives him some hope heading into Wednesday.
That said, Kennedy is probably going to have some trouble with Bisping's jab. The Strikeforce veteran had some difficulty getting inside on Gracie, whose striking is miles behind Bisping's. Even though he clearly won that matchup, Kennedy didn't show much ability to adapt his striking and create an opening for a knockout blow, which he'll need to do if forced to stand on Wednesday.
While Gracie's striking almost exclusively relies on the jab, Bisping follows his jab with crisp combinations.
Below, Bisping got Jason Miller to react by extending his lead arm, which created an opening for a right hand to the body. That shot forced Mayhem to drop his hands, when Bisping smartly went back upstairs with a hard straight right to the chin.
Bisping is going to have a tough time finishing Kennedy, who has only been stopped once in 21 career fights. However, The Count should be able to use his small reach advantage to keep Kennedy on the end of his straight punches.
Most would agree the outcome of this matchup hinges on Kennedy's ability or inability to take Bisping down with regularity.
Stuffing 64 percent of takedown attempts he's faced inside the Octagon, Bisping's wrestling has come a long way over recent years. Since Bisping was outwrestled by Rashad Evans in November 2007, only Chael Sonnen has been able to score multiple takedowns on the Englishman.
Bisping has even turned up his offensive wrestling. Four takedowns helped him to a decision victory over Brian Stann. After establishing his jab, Bisping forced Stann to react every time he threw his left hand, which gave him time to shoot in on the former WEC champion's legs.
Don't be shocked to see Bisping mix things up and attempt a few takedowns against Kennedy. It won't be his primary game plan, but Bisping has become a complete fighter and will try to take advantage of any openings he sees.
Kennedy scores most of his takedowns from the clinch, where Bisping was able to give Sonnen some headaches. If he wants to force Bisping to the ground, Kennedy will need to be just as sharp in the clinch as he was in his bout with grappling ace Roger Gracie.
On multiple occasions, Kennedy was able to lace Gracie's leg and pivot away from the fence, which forced the Brazilian to the ground as he was unable to maintain his balance on one leg.
Kennedy is the better wrestler in this matchup, but so was Sonnen in his fight with Bisping, and he narrowly edged the British middleweight on the scorecards. Kennedy will need more than one takedown to beat Bisping, but even one isn't going to be easy to come by.
Kennedy willingly went to the ground with Roger Gracie, and he won. Kennedy is the only fighter to do that in MMA, which shows just how strong his grappling is.
While Bisping will want to attempt some takedowns to keep Kennedy on his toes, he may want to avoid rolling with the American for long. Against Stann, who is not nearly the grappler Kennedy is, Bisping got sloppy and was essentially bench-pressed and reversed.
Bisping has never been submitted and would probably be able to survive on the canvas with Kennedy. That said, he'll lose the position battle if forced to roll with Kennedy.
If he's able to get Bisping to the ground, Kennedy will need to make smart decisions. He can't afford to leave any space for The Count to stand, as his success in this matchup will depend on maintaining the top position longer than he has to stand.
Normally, Bisping enjoys a huge advantage in conditioning over his opponents.
Not against Kennedy, who is among the most well-conditioned fighters in the middleweight division. The Strikeforce veteran has also seen the fifth round multiple times, while Bisping has yet to enter a fourth round in his MMA career.
Having been out of action for 12 months, Bisping might carry some rust into the Octagon. Five months removed from his knockout win over Natal, Kennedy should be refreshed without being unpracticed heading into Wednesday.
Bisping doesn't have the best wrestling in the middleweight division. However, considering he forced Sonnen to stand for a good chunk of time, his wrestling should be good enough against Kennedy on Wednesday.
Kennedy is going to get a takedown or two, but Bisping has a way of bouncing right back up and is good enough defensively on the ground to avoid being submitted.
As long as Bisping doesn't get caught in a submission, he should be able to come away with a win. If the Englishman can stay upright more often than he spends on the bottom, his volume punching will score enough to give him and edge in the judges' eyes.
Bisping defeats Kennedy by unanimous decision.