Michael Bisping proved there’s no substitute for speed, good footwork and a solid jab in his fourth-round TKO win over Cung Le at UFC Fight Night 48 on Saturday.
The Count promised fans they would see the best Bisping yet at the official weigh-ins on Friday, and he answered the call by tactfully picking the Sanshou master apart on the feet for the better part of four rounds.
As shown in the above ESPN SportsCenter highlights, the 42-year-old Le entered the cage looking as ripped as a comic book superhero. Chants of “Cung Le” reverberated throughout the Cotai Arena in Macau on Saturday as the martial arts legend stood toe-to-toe with one of the top middleweight contenders in the world.
While he was at an obvious speed disadvantage, Le proved effective at times, especially in the first round, in mixing up his offense with unorthodox kicks and well-timed right hooks.
Bisping is typically the aggressor in most of his fights, but it took him an entire round to settle in and adjust to Le’s striking. Instead of moving around in the pocket and stringing combinations together, the Brit opted to hang back and pump out a jab without any follow-up in the early portion of the bout.
A conservative approach was a bit of a head-scratcher considering Le has shown problems with his conditioning in the past. Many expected Bisping to push the pace right out of the gates and try to overwhelm Le early in the scheduled five-round fight.
But coming off an upset loss to Tim Kennedy, Bisping didn’t risk being overzealous and getting caught up in wild exchanges in an attempt to get the quick finish. He waited patiently on the outside and utilized his jab to create openings in Le’s defense.
By the end of the second round, Le had slowed down tremendously, and Bisping began pushing the pace and turning up the volume on his strikes.
The boxing idiom that “speed kills” was merely an understatement throughout this fight as Le looked every bit of 42 years old. Bisping was in and out of range with a combination before Le even had an opportunity to react. Aside from landing an occasional counter, Le’s offensive options were reduced to plodding in the center and throwing up fancy kicking techniques in hopes of landing a one-shot finish.
Bloodied and battered, the aged legend hung in there about as long as could be expected before finally wilting to a barrage of knees and punches at 0:57 of the fourth round.
“I want to be world champion. I know I have the tools, but you have to back it up. This is backing it up,” Bisping told UFC commentator Kenny Florian in his post-fight interview. “Luke Rockhold, you called me out. If you want it, let’s dance. I’m gonna beat Luke Rockhold and then I’m coming for the title.”
MMA journalist Ariel Helwani reported on Wednesday’s episode of UFC Tonight that Rockhold is rumored to be fighting Lyoto Machida next. However, the bout isn’t set in stone.
Bisping’s parting words might have finally netted him a future showdown with the former Strikeforce middleweight champ.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.