UFC returns to the UK on Saturday night (8 October), with the Manchester Arena playing host to UFC 204. The event, tickets for which sold out in just six minutes, is headlined by Clitheroe MMA fighter Michael Bisping as he puts his middleweight championship on the line against old foe 'Dangerous' Dan Henderson.
How to watch
Fight fanatics on this side of the Atlantic can watch UFC 204 on BT Sport 2, with live coverage of the preliminary fights scheduled to get underway at 1am BST on Sunday morning. Despite the show taking place in the UK, the main event is still not expected to begin until approximately 03.00. This is to cater for a prime time American audience.
Still basking in the glow of becoming the first British fighter in history to claim a UFC world title following a shock knockout of Luke Rockhold in June, outspoken and long-serving veteran Bisping, who only fought for that belt after being named as a late replacement for Chris Weidman, will surely have vengeance in mind this weekend as he defends his middleweight gold for the first time in front of a partisan home crowd.
It is over seven years since 'The Count' suffered one of the most brutal, shuddering knockouts in UFC history at the company's star-studded 100th show in Las Vegas, left motionless on a bloodied canvas at Mandalay Bay Events Center after a big overhand right from formidable striker Henderson was followed by a truly savage flying elbow to the face.
While Bisping insists that he is not consumed by revenge, it would nevertheless be particularly sweet to mark his legendary 46-year-old opponent's final contest before retirement with an emphatic defeat that demonstrates just how far he has come since the sort of loss that can define and even end a career at the top level.
With his best days now unquestionably behind him, the selection of the UFC's oldest fighter and now 13th-ranked middleweight for Bisping's first defence certainly upset more established candidates such as Weidman and Jacare Souza. However, this is a fight steeped in narrative that certainly should not disappoint.
What the fighters have said (via UFC.com)
Michael Bisping: "I don't lie in bed thinking about getting revenge on Dan Henderson. My career has surpassed Dan Henderson and now I'm the champion of the world. I have to win this fight – of course I'm the champion and I want to keep the belt, but if I lose to Dan Henderson that'll be worse than losing it to anybody else – I don't want to lose to Dan Henderson twice.
"I always dreamed of being here. If I'm honest, I kind of thought it wouldn't happen, but here we are, I am the champion and my first defence is in Manchester. It really is what childhood dreams are made of. I'm a happy man, I get to represent my country on the world's stage, I get to rematch a legend of the sport, I get payback on a guy that viciously knocked me out, I get to get paid. There's a lot on the line here. That's why I've trained accordingly and I get to represent myself, my family and Great Britain. Hopefully I put on a hell of a show."
Dan Henderson: "To have an opportunity at a title in my last fight would definitely be the crowning moment of my career, which would be nice. It's all about the UFC belt at this point. I could care less who it's against. It's a title fight and it doesn't matter if I beat him before or lost to him before. What matters is what happens on Oct. 8. I'm going to make sure I take full advantage of the opportunity to get a belt. I'll still be doing my best to put my fist through his face."
Bisping: 36 fights, 29 wins (16 knockouts)
- (W) Luke Rockhold - knockout (punches) - June 2016
- (W) Anderson Silva - unanimous decision - February 2016
- (W) Thales Leites - split decision - July 2015
Henderson: 46 fights, 32 wins (16 knockouts)
- (W) Hector Lombard - knockout (head kick and elbows) - June 2016
- (L) Victor Belfort - knockout (head kick and punches) - November 2015
- (W) Tim Boetsch - knockout (punches) - June 2015
Bisping deserves enormous credit for bouncing back from that devastating knockout in 2009 and he understandably starts as favourite to send Henderson into retirement on the back of a 15th and final defeat. Providing he avoids being tagged with any similarly powerful shots, he should be able to force a late TKO or else triumph via a comfortable decision.
A 20th UFC victory would see Bisping overtake Georges St-Pierre for the most wins in company history.
Odds (via Betfair)
Michael Bisping 4/9
Dan Henderson 7/4
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