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Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy: Breaking Down the TUF Nations Finale’s Main Event



(Skilled martial artists *and* masters of disguise.)

By Santino DeFranco

Fortunately for us MMA fans, watching The Ultimate Fighter Nations finale — which goes down this coming Wednesday, April 16th, in Quebec City — is a much better way to spend your time than watching the actual TUF Nations TV series. And fortunately for the UFC, it has exactly a 100% chance of receiving better TV ratings too. Continuing with the “Nations” theme, the card is headlined by a Redcoat Brit named Michael Bisping and an American Green Beret, Tim Kennedy. Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be Australia vs. Canada? Close enough, eh.

Although Joe Silva’s geography may not be the greatest, he sure as hell knows how to make an interesting match up with this main event. Not only could this fight have title implications down the road, each of these fine fellows has a few different ways to win the match, making it much more interesting to break down from a technical standpoint. Not to mention, I always enjoy a scrap built upon a foundation of shit-talking, even if it did start as little more than Twitter quips and bizarre short videos of a bad impersonation of The Count by a clothing company.

Either way, there’s animosity — fabricated or real, I don’t really care. I want to see these two men punch each other repeatedly. Maybe we’ll even be lucky enough to see Bisping spit on random people outside of the cage and land multiple illegal blows. That stuff may be against the rules, but it always makes the post-fight-interwebers implode with hyperbolic rage, and that can be just as entertaining as the fights themselves.

What Kennedy needs to do to ensure victory is first, drop his feeble attempts at trash-talk. Not only is he going up against a formidable opponent in the game of verbal jousting, but also he has most likely killed people. I mean, literally. The man is a U.S. Green Beret. The odds of him having actually killed another living human is as great as Chael Sonnen talking his way into an undeserved title match after a loss. Kennedy, shhh. You needn’t sell your fights with trash-talking, though we all appreciate the effort. What you need to do is follow a carefully scripted game plan by the master planner himself, Greg Jackson.

Kennedy is going to want to keep those karate-style front snapping kicks to a minimum, along with the little foot jabs to the thigh and knee. The reason? He’s going to want to have his footing to catch kicks from Bisping and get inside. If Kennedy stays on the outside and plays the “technique” game with his British foe, he’s going to have a long night. He needs to walk forward in a “V” to force The Count to fight with his back against the cage. Once Bisping has no more space to retreat, Kennedy can really apply the pressure, which is one of his strong points: chain wrestling. He’s not an NCAA all-American, but when he pressures people his cardio usually outlasts theirs and he comes out the victor. (See his twenty-eight takedown attempts that finally resulted in top position over a more experienced MMA wrestler in Robbie Lawler.)

He’s also going to want to brawl the Brit, get in his face, and hope The Count gets sleepy — like Bisping’s done in the past during his snooze-fest against Jason Miller. Another key: throw a lot of overhands and looping hooks. Bisping tends to reach forward with his hands both defensively, anytime a punch is thrown, and offensively — he tends to reach with his right hand as if parrying when he jabs, like an amateur-style boxer — which opens him up for looping punches. Opening combinations with a jab, level change, or feint is one way to get The Count to reach, then follow it with an overhand.

Now, if your goal is to gain vengeance on America for ousting the redcoats 200+ years ago, and your name happens to be Michael Bisping, you are going to want a battle like those the Brits hoped for when engaging in the Revolutionary War: a respectable, gentleman’s war. Stay on the outside, see your enemy, and fire an arsenal at his head while gazing into his eyes. Good night sweet prince. Oh, and keep the trash-talk coming. But relax, Michael; when you get too wired, bad things happen. Remember the H-Bomb? Remember getting dropped by Dennis Kang early in the first round of that fight? No? Those have been erased from your memory? Well, I do. And they happened because you were too amped up.

One of The Count’s greatest strengths is his ability to regulate distance and to only “fight” when he wants to. As his opponents move forward, like a cheetah in the Serengeti, he’s backing off or moving laterally to keep the range he’s comfortable with. That type of fighting doesn’t always equal an exciting affair, but it’s one way to victory for the Brit, especially if he hasn’t been keeping up with his cardio. He needs to keep his jab in front of him to hold Kennedy on the outside. Bisping’s one of the few fighters that successfully utilizes the jab for distance in MMA, as opposed to just using it to set up an overhand. The only issue with that game plan is that it offers Kennedy the opportunity to capitalize on the areas mentioned above.

Now, I may sound a bit crazy here, but if the Geico-lizard-voice-over-stunt-double has the cardio to maintain a grappling affair, he could pressure Kennedy to the cage and put the Green Beret on his back. Bisping’s wrestling is truly underrated — especially his defensive wrestling — and he could quite possibly out-wrestle Kennedy. I’m not sure he will turn this war of pillow-fists and weird Ranger Up promo videos into a grappling extravaganza, but if he does, and can maintain the blood coursing through his veins, as opposed to the usual spotted dick, he could make his fellow Brits proud with a victory over a highly trained killing machine.

Again, I think we’ll see more of the touch-and-go Bisping we’re used to, and I’m not sure that Kennedy will be smothering the Brit like he should, but either way, all of the fans in Montreal for the TUF Nations Finale will be asking themselves, “Why the hell are these two headlining here?”

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