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Paths aligning for Silva v Bisping title clash

Chris Park, mmatorch.com
January 27, 2011 « I've nothing to prove against Belfort - Anderson Silva | ESPN FA Cup Promo »
Michael Bisping's timetable is currently aligned to that of UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva © Getty Images
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Anderson Silva recently told ESPN that he would find it an exciting challenge to take on Michael Bisping on UK soil, and while it is unusual to hear the Brazilian discuss potential future opponents, a closer look suggests the pair could be on collision course.

A mere eighteen months ago Bisping appeared to be set to reach the middleweight summit. In 2005 he won The Ultimate Fighter, and four years on Bisping returned to the show to coach Team UK to success. A split-decision loss to Rashad Evans was the only blemish on his record, and Bisping knew victory over rival coach Dan Henderson would solidify his slot as the next man to challenge Silva for the middleweight championship.

However, Bisping came up short against Henderson, to say the least, suffering one of the most violent knockouts in UFC history. But he has since bounced back with a vengeance, and the Wolf's Lair kingpin has gone 3-1 with four highly impressive performances. The Briton's form is good, and a further victory over Jorge Rivera would only substantiate his claims for a title shot.

Silva is due to defend his crown for the eighth time when he takes on Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 on February 5, with Yushin Okami initially expected to face the winner, but that has not stopped Silva expressing an interest in facing Bisping.

Both Bisping and Silva's next Octagon appearances are set on opposite sides of the world, however, their paths appear to be destined to eventually cross. While Silva's next bout is in Las Vegas, just a few weeks later Bisping will be jetting out to Australia to finalise his fight preparations for Rivera.

Michael Bisping could potentially set up a title shot by defeating somebody of the calibre of Yushin Okami © Getty Images
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With Silva more than capable of using Belfort's aggression to his own advantage, and Bisping facing the ageing Rivera, both men are expected to come through February's fights in victorious manner. If both avoid serious medical suspensions, their diaries will have the months of June or July earmarked for their next bouts.

Okami was supposed to be the man awaiting the winner of Silva v Belfort but, despite being the last man to beat Silva - via disqualification - Okami suffers the same problems as the likes of Jon Fitch: He isn't pretty to watch. UFC president Dana White has promised fighters title shots in the past only to do what it best for the sport, and Georges St-Pierre currently looks a more likely challenge for Silva - after White confessed the fight had to happen.

Certainly a second win for Bisping - after the Rivera fight - would almost guarantee him a crack at the 185lb strap, whilst simultaneously handing the UFC time to put on the GSP v Silva superfight. Several fighters such as Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia and most recently Brian Stann have expressed an interest in facing the Briton, and certainly Bisping has displayed in the past against several BJJ specialists that a win over an opponent like Maia is a distinct possibility.

Bisping is coming off one of the finest performances of his career when he defeated Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 120 in London. It was a performance that saw Bisping take a series of big shots before going on to dominate arguably the best middleweight he has defeated so far. Wins over Denis Kang, Dan Miller and Akiyama, along with the exciting battle in Australia with Wanderlei Silva in 2010, have given The Count huge momentum going into his UFC 127 bout with Rivera.

He will enter the Octagon as favourite, as will Silva against Belfort, and the next month is likely to give Dana White plenty of food for thought over the possibility of staging a UK title fight in front of what would surely become the biggest gate in UFC history.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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