UFC204 preview: Bisping wants vengeance while Henderson seeks final glory

Not many of us get the chance to rewrite history and do away with old humiliations but Michael “The Count” Bisping (29-7 MMA, 19-7 UFC) will get that chance at this Sunday morning at UFC204.

The bout will see the Clitheroe man defend his UFC middleweight title against long-time rival Dan Henderson (32-14 MMA, 9-8 UFC) and settle an old score in front of a home crowd.

Likewise, not many professional fighters get to give their careers a fairy tale ending but Sunday morning will give Californian Henderson the opportunity to retire from the ring bathed in glory with a UFC to top a lengthy career.

Both fighters have their legacies on the line in UFC204. The bout sees more than a decade of rivalry distilled into a final showdown proving so popular that the Manchester Arena sold out in six minutes despite the card not starting until 11:30pm to allow North American fight fans to tune in.

The Bisping-Henderson rivalry smouldered during their roles as opposing coaches on reality TV show Ultimate Fighter until it blazed when the two fighters went toe to toe at UFC100 for a shot at the then champion Anderson Silva.

The fight reached its climax when Henderson lashed a light left kick at Bisping that he shuffled into a devastating overhand right, now christened “H-Bomb” by fans, that knocked “The Count” out cold before he hit the canvas.

The knockout became the stuff of UFC legend when Henderson immediately launched himself into a roaring elbow drop that landed on the unconscious Bispings face.

The defeat became so famous that it has left a humiliating stain on Bisping’s career, one which he will be looking to wipe clean at UFC204.

After UFC100 the two fighter’s careers took different roads. Neither got the title shot against Silva, with Henderson leaving the UFC for rival MMA promoter Strikeforce. Henderson returned to UFC but, until now, a title shot has eluded him.

Post UFC100, Bisping’s career became a testament to willpower and grim determination.

The tenacious northerner refused to give up on his dream of becoming a champion and, after suffering numerous defeats, he got his chance.

At the last minute Bisping stepped in to replace an injured Chris Weidman and fight Luke Rockhold for a middle weight title shot last June.

Similar to Henderson, Rockhold had also inflicted a humiliating past defeat on Bisping when he forced Bisping into a Round 2 submission.

But in the title rematch Bisping charged into Rockhold pummelling him with punches until he landed a first round knockout that sent shockwaves around the UFC community and made Bisping the first British-born UFC champion.

After slogging his way his way through the ups and downs of more than 26 fights and 10 years of UFC to win his first title, Bisping will be in no hurry to lose it after only four months.

Henderson, 46, was ready to retire from fighting after his last victory against Hector Lombard.

However, just as UFC204 gives Bisping an opportunity to rewrite history it also allows Henderson to grab a something that has eluded him his whole career: a UFC title and, as he has stated this will be his last fight win or lose, a glorious end to his career.

If he succeeds Henderson will be the oldest title holder in UFC history. Should he win and subsequently retire, the title will forever have the stigma that whoever took it next will not have taken it from Henderson in the octagon.

Both men are MMA legends in their own right but on Sunday both men will battle each other for the chance define their legacies.

UFC204 takes place October 8 2016 at the Manchester Arena. Preliminary fights start at 11:30pm (GMT) with the main card anticipated to begin at 3:00am (GMT) on Sunday.

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