In the main event of the UFC’s first foray into Scotland, Michael Bisping took on Thales Leites. While the Chris Lebens, Chael Sonnens and Mark Munozes have moved on to greener pastures, Bisping and Leites continue to post wins in today’s middleweight division. Both men entered the cage knowing that only one of them would leave with their top-10 relevance intact, which made this a deceptively high-stakes affair for an overseas Fight Night.

The first two rounds were an utter toss-up. Bisping sidled the cage, looking to counterpunch as Leites plodded forward and threw fastballs. Both rounds could have gone either way, but Leites asserted himself in Round 3, landing several brutal combinations and leaving Bisping visibly wobbled at one point.

By the fourth round, however, The Count had finally found his timing. While Leites would land his share of punches, Bisping finally began making proper use of his jab and found cozy homes for his right hand. That proved to be the difference, as Bisping came out on the better end of a hotly contested split decision to the tune of 49-46, 47-48 and 48-47.

So what did we learn from this fight?

First and foremost, we learned that Leites and Bisping are evenly matched, and that’s a good thing for the Brazilian.

Leites‘ career resurgence has been quite impressive. He was unceremoniously cut by the UFC in 2009 but worked his way up the regional scene before returning to the promotion in 2013. Following his second “debut,” he tapped into an undiscovered well of power striking, and that, alongside his established, high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu, turned him into one of the division’s better finishers.

Still, his strength of competition was awfully low, with his toughest foe being either Francis Carmont or Tim Boetsch.

That created a lot of room for doubt and had some wondering if he was truly better than he was back when he faced Anderson Silva. Those doubts have now been silenced. In this fight against Bisping, he proved his return to relevance hasn’t been a fluke and that he has the skills to compete with anybody at 185 pounds.

And what of Bisping? The British striker demonstrated that he is, quite simply, the same fighter he always has been.

Will he post a spectacular knockout in Round 1? Will he lock up a crafty submission? Will he ever utterly dominate a game opponent? Probably not. What he will do, however, is find his range and make the most out of the openings that opponents give him. 

Will he win every time? Obviously not, looking at his seven career UFC losses. Will it be especially exciting? Again, probably not since he is known more for his work outside the cage.

That said, he is a smart fighter who can find a way to beat most opponents.

It will be interesting to see where Bisping goes from here. The Count has quietly posted back-to-back wins over top-10 fighters and, depending on how things shake out in the middleweight top five, could be poised for a Cinderella run toward title contention. Fights against Gegard Mousasi or a rematch against Vitor Belfort would be compelling.

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