UFC middleweight contenders may have wait on tap

Michael Bisping gets his hands taped up during an open workout Wednesday in Toronto. (MICHAEL...

Michael Bisping gets his hands taped up during an open workout Wednesday in Toronto. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

NEIL SPRINGER, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:35 AM ET

Though MMA fans may be clamouring for a super-fight between Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre, middleweights Brian (All-American) Stann and Michael (The Count) Bisping have their fingers crossed the bout doesn’t materialize just yet.

Bisping and Stann are set to meet at UFC 152 in Toronto Saturday. The winner will no doubt take another step towards a shot at the 185-pound championship. But with Silva meeting light-heavyweight Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 13 and a potential clash with St. Pierre on the horizon, it could be a while before the Brazilian defends his title.

Stann said the fan in him wants to see the two icons clash, but the competitor in him hopes Silva shifts focus back to the middleweight division.

“I can’t complain about anything Anderson Silva wants to do,” Stann said at the UFC 152 media workouts Wednesday. “He’s the greatest of all time ... There are so many contenders in the middleweight division that’s it going to take one of us to clean everybody out for us to honestly say, ‘Hey, now I deserve to fight him.’ He hasn’t just beaten everybody, he’s been putting them away. You give him one opening, he doesn’t just capitalize and score points, he finishes.

“I hope, obviously, the fight with St. Pierre doesn’t materialize yet. I hope it’s maybe two years down the line. But as a fan, I wouldn’t mind seeing it, either.”

Bisping admitted the middleweight division could be stuck in neutral for a while.

“To be honest, if Anderson faces GSP then I don’t think anyone from the middleweight division is facing Anderson any time soon,” Bisping said. “But if he doesn’t, then yeah, I think this win over Brian Stann should (earn me a title shot).

“The title is everything. Don’t get me wrong, if I had fought for the title and lost I’d keep plugging away. It’s not like that’s my only goal — to fight for the title and that’s it. But I want to fight for the title. I’ve been around long enough and it’d be a shame not to. To be this close, this competitive, be around this long and never get the shot — that’d be heartbreaking.”

Though Bisping feels a victory Saturday will earn him the coveted No. 1 contender spot, Stann said a win over the British striker won’t necessarily yield the same reward.

“You know, I don’t think so,” Stann said. “My name will be in the mix, but I just don’t think Chris Weidman and Tim Boetsch can be ignored right now. I also don’t think Alan Belcher can be ignored. He’s got a big fight with Yushin Okami. All of these guys are in the mix.

“It’s going to take dominant performances. It’s going to take performances that generate a lot of hype. Ultimately the guy who beats everybody else and puts the most butts in the seats is the guy who’s going to get the shot.”

With or without a title shot hanging in the balance, both guys are going to look to take the other’s head off. Though each competitor likes to stand and trade strikes, many are labelling this a battle of speed vs. power.

A volume striker with excellent footwork, Bisping has made a career of breaking opponents down with his pace. Stann’s no stranger to pushing the action, but can also put opponents to sleep with one shot.

As far as Bisping is concerned, critics have been underestimating his power for years.

“I’ve only been stopped once in my career and that was against Dan Henderson,” Bisping said. “He got stopped against a guy called Steve Cantwell — yeah, I don’t know who that is, either. He got stopped against him and I got stopped against Dan Henderson. So make of that what you will. I know what I make of it.

“Listen, if you get caught on the chin, anyone can go down. Brian Stann, that rule also applies to him. He can also go down. I’ve been working with a new boxing coach, Jason Parillo. My boxing’s better than it’s ever been. I’m too fast, too technical and he’s going to feel that on the night.

“Once you get tagged, you start making mistakes. Once you start making mistakes, the fight starts going against you.”

Though the brash Brit has taken more than a few playful shots at Stann in the media, he has nothing but respect for the former Marine. Stann even admitted to enjoying Bisping’s antics.

“He’s funny, he’s hilarious,” Stann began. “We were here in Toronto (in July) and he had me laughing pretty much the whole time. He’s going to say what he thinks — no matter what. I value that. There are no issues with that.

“I have a great deal of respect for him as a fighter. I’ve watched every one of his fights and watched his career come up. He’s a great fighter. I wouldn’t have wanted to fight him if he was a bad fighter. I want to fight him because he has all the things I want. He’s one of the highest-paid athletes in the UFC, he’s on the cusp of a title shot — he’s always on the cusp of a title shot — and he made a comment that he’s been kicking butt in the UFC since I’ve been shining boots in the military. I wasn’t shining boots, but he’s right. I remember watching him in the UFC while I was still on active duty.

“I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity. I didn’t come here to give a good fight. I came here to win.”

PICKING ON THE LITTLE GUY

Just because Michael (The Count) Bisping has his hands full with Brian Stann at UFC 152 in Toronto on Saturday, doesn’t mean he’s done having fun at Joseph Benavidez’s expense.

Prior to UFC 152 scooping up a light-heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort, the inaugural flyweight-championship bout between Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson was pegged for the main-event slot.

At the time, the British middleweight claimed he and Stann were the real headliners, stating that “no one wants to see little flyweights.” He and Benavidez have been exchanging playful barbs since.

At the UFC 152 media workouts Wednesday, Bisping took the opportunity to get in yet another shot.

“I saw him yesterday,” Bisping began. “He came and said hello and I said hello back. It was only later that my teammate told me it was Joseph Benavidez. I thought it was a 12-year-old boy. I thought it was a boy fan.

“I said, ‘Hey, what’s up, buddy? How are you doing?’ and gave him a little rub on the head and walked off. Someone then said that was Benavidez and I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’”

HOW TO WATCH UFC 152

PAY-PER-VIEW (10 p.m. ET)

Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort

Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson

Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann

Matt Hamill vs. Roger Hollett

Charles Oliveira vs. Cub Swanson

SPORTSNET (8 p.m.)

Vinny Magalhaes vs. Igor Pokrajac

Evan Dunham vs. T.J. Grant

Lance Benoist vs. Sean Pierson

Marcus Brimage vs. Jim Hettes

FACEBOOK (6:45 p.m.)

Seth Baczynski vs. Simeon Thoresen

Mitch Gagnon vs. Walel Watson

Charlie Brenneman vs. Kyle Noke

UFC ON FX 6 SET

George Sotiropoulos and Ross Pearson are set to headline UFC on FX 6 in Broadbeach, Australia, on Dec. 14.

Sotiropoulos and Pearson will act as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter: Australia vs. UK, which kicks off next week. The 13-week reality show will feature a cast of welterweight and lightweight fighters, with the finals being contested the same night the two coaches throw down.

The co-main event will see Hector Lombard attempt to put his disappointing UFC debut behind him when he takes on submission specialist Rousimar Palhares. Also, Polish-Canadian Krzysztof Soszynski returns to action against Ednaldo Oliveira.

Canadian fans can catch episodes of TUF: Australia vs. UK online.

DIABATE GETS GRIGGS

Cyrille Diabate is set to take on Strikeforce veteran Chad Griggs.

The two will square off on the undercard of UFC 154 in Montreal on Nov. 17.

Diabate was originally scheduled to face Brazilian striker Fabio Maldonado. However, after Quinton (Rampage) Jackson was forced out his bout against Glover Teixeira at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro on Oct. 13, Maldonado agreed to step in as a replacement.

Griggs caught the attention of MMA fans with a second-round TKO victory against former pro-wrestler Bobby Lashley more than two years ago. He followed up the win by stopping both Gian Villante and Valentijn Overeem before joining the UFC roster earlier this year.

His octagon debut saw him suffer a first-round submission loss to Travis Browne in April.

Diabate’s last outing saw him snag a majority-decision victory over Tom DeBlass at UFC on FUEL TV 2 on April 14.

MIR OUT WITH KNEE INJURY

The injury bug has struck again.

Sports Rage is reporting Frank Mir has been forced out of his coming bout against Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix-winner Daniel Cormier. According to MMA Junkie, the former UFC heavyweight champion suffered an undisclosed knee injury during training.

The two were scheduled to fight at Strikeforce: Cormier vs. Mir in Oklahoma City on Nov. 3. Not only was the bout was set to mark the first cross-promotional effort by the UFC and Strikeforce, but it was meant to serve as Cormier’s final Strikeforce outing before jumping ship to the UFC.

The former NCAA Division I wrestler entered the eight-man grand prix as a replacement for semifinalist Alistair Overeem, who was fired from his Strikeforce contract and quickly scooped up by the UFC. In one of the biggest upsets of 2011, the former NCAA Division I wrestler knocked out Antonio Silva in the first round. He then won an exciting unanimous decision over Josh Barnett on May 19, 2012 to capture the tourney crown.

A substitute for Mir has yet to be announced.


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