It’s impossible to look at Michael Bisping and not picture Dan Henderson’s right fist turning his smug mug into a cubist painting — the eyes rolling back, the nose flattening, the jaw shifting violently sideways as the lights go out.
It was one of the most brutal knockouts in UFC history, compounded by Henderson’s flying forearm across his unconscious opponent’s chin “to shut him up,” and it would have left an ordinary person eating through a straw for weeks.
So the biggest question that Saturday’s UFC 105 will answer isn’t whether hall of famer Randy Couture can still fight at age 46, or whether Mike Swick will earn his title shot against Georges St. Pierre, but how will this once-cocky British fighter respond when he steps back into the octagon for the first time since being literally turned into a punchline four months ago?
Bisping will face Denis Kang, a 32-year-old Vancouver native who now calls Montreal home, in a crucial middleweight bout for both fighters.
Bisping, who has a huge fan base thanks to his two appearances on The Ultimate Fighter reality series, first as a fighter and then a coach, was on track for a title shot until he stepped in front of the Henderson express. So he needs a win both to dispel any lingering doubts about his abilities and to stay in the hunt for champion Anderson Silva.
Likewise, Kang, a former PRIDE FC star with 44 fights under his belt, was unremarkable in his first two UFC bouts and needs to prove he’s a legitimate threat in the weight division.
He’s got incredible striking skills and a black belt in jiu-jitsu but he’s yet to perform the way he did against Akihiro Gono or Murilo (Ninja) Rua (brother of Mauricio (Shogun) Rua). But unlike Bisping, he doesn’t have a highlight reel knockout loss on permanent replay in his head and that could be the deciding factor.