According to an April 15 report from Yahoo! Sports, hard-hitting veteran Michael Bisping (24-5) is set to collide with fast-rising striker Tim Kennedy (17-4) at The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale in Quebec City, Quebec. Whoever wins the battle between Bisping and Kennedy will be considered a legit top five contender in the UFC's middleweight division.
Bisping, 35, has been climbing the UFC's middleweight ladder since 2006, a year that saw him earn back-to-back finishes via technical knockout. "The Count" has had plenty of success in the UFC since then, including impressive victories over the likes of Chris Leben, Jason Day, Jason Miller and Jorge Rivera.
The one knock on Bisping is that he doesn't win when it counts the most. Bisping tends to freeze up when there's a title shot on the line, as UFC fans witnessed in his losses to Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson. Additionally, Bisping doesn't hold a single win over any active UFC fighters, unless the quasi-retired Alan Belcher is to be counted.
Despite his shortcomings, Bisping is still a legitimate threat to any of the top fighters in the middleweight class. The Brit has won two of his past three, and he's still ranked in the top five in the world in his division. A win over a world-class jiu-jitsu ace such as Kennedy would be one of the biggest in his UFC career, and would also instantly propel him into title contention.
Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida win be squaring off for the UFC's middleweight strap this July, and the winner of that clash will likely fight Vitor Belfort, Luke Rockhold, Jacare Souza or the winner of Bisping vs Kennedy. Anderson Silva will also be in the mix when he returns from injury, and Mark Munoz is a dark horse in the title picture at middleweight.
For Kennedy, a win over Bisping might not earn him a title shot, but it would certainly propel him into the title five in the world at middleweight. With title implications possibly on the line, it's clear Bisping's brawl with Kennedy at TUF Nations is a must-watch for casual and hardcore MMA fans alike.
It also helps that Bisping and Kennedy have a real-life feud. There's no love lost between the two, as they were jawing at each other during the TUF Nations Finale pre-fight weigh-in. Bisping and Kennedy also went back-and-forth with verbal jabs in the media, so this fight has plenty of hype behind it.
Besides Kennedy vs Bisping, the TUF Nations Finale features an exciting main card that includes Kyle Noke vs Patrick Cote at middleweight and Sheldon Westcott vs Elias Theodorou in another key 185-pound clash. The TUF Nations Finale preliminary card has a great women's bantamweight tilt pitting Sarah Kaufman against Leslie Smith, plus KJ Noons vs Sam Stout.