At UFC 217 we saw the return of an icon. George St-Pierre returned to the octagon and showed us why he was the welterweight kingpin for so long, submitting Micheal Bisping in the 3rd round of their main event title fight. St-Pierre’s return not only gave us a nostalgic feel, it also gave us an end the the side show that was the Michael Bisping title run.
June of 2016 Bisping shocked the Middleweight world by surprising Luke Rockhold with a first round knockout. After the upset of Rockhold, Bisping stood a top of one of the most stacked divisions in the UFC. Up and coming talents like Yoel Romero, Robert Whitaker, Gegard Mousasi and Jacare Souza were all making statements throughout the division for a chance at the title. With Bisping now in control of the division, contenders saw it as their best chance to become champion. The UFC saw it as a chance to have their middleweight version of Conner McGregor. Problem with Bisping is that he can talk the talk but showed he can’t walk the walk. Instead of the UFC giving up and coming contenders a shot or giving former champs like Rockhold and Chris Weidman a shot, they choose to put 46 year old Dan Henderson in Bisping’s first title defense. This was a way to try and legitimize the new champ by putting a name like Dan Henderson in his way. While the Henderson fight made no sense in the true title picture we can understand this effort by the UFC to sell tickets and promote the grudge match. Bisping had his chance to show the world that he was a real champion that could dispatch of what should have been a challenge but ultimately just a stepping stone to real contenders. Bisping did what he does, he talked and talked and when it came to fight night he showed up and gave a good show, but it wasn’t a champions showing. While Bisping won by Unanimous Decision anyone that watched the fight can openly dispute the final decision.
Bispings win over the aging Henderson was all Dana White and UFC needed to promote him as a “real” champion. Week after week we saw Bisping parade himself on TV as the face of the middle weight division. As contenders rose from the middleweight rankings we would always see a brash Bisping yelling down to them from his fortress of solitude that was his desk in the FS1 studios. While he talked real contenders took care of business in the octagon. Injuries and bad timing caused Bisping to not have a title fight for a full year. Dana White desperate for a headliner for the first UFC show in Madison Square Garden decided that despite the lack of true prestige to Bisping’s championship run he could market a fight between Bisping and the returning George St-Pierre. Bisping did what Bisping does, he sold the world that he had a chance to defeat St-Pierre in New York. He sold the world on the fact that he was the best middleweight in the world. In three round Saturday night in New York Bisping’s true ability was brought to light. He was disposed by St-Pierre in convincing fashion, thus ending what became a joke in the division.
It’s not Bisping’s fault he was pushed. In a UFC world without “The Notorious One” the UFC ha to have their villain. Problem is that in the real world the villain has to be convincing. With St-Pierre at the top of the division all middleweights will now get a real chance to show their ability. We can have dream matchups between contenders and legends. When we look back at this period of the middleweight division I hope we can forget the run of Michael Bisping and remember the rise of legitimacy to what can be considered the most stacked 185LB weight class of all time. Bring on Whitaker, Romero, Wiedman and St. Pierre. Forget the jokes and forget the talking. Let’s see some real fights.