Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson 2: Exploring The Technical Craft (Breakdown)

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Photo by Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are about seven years later after the first fight and we have rematch between a the middleweight champion in Michael Bisping and the legend Dan Henderson.Their first meeting in the cage taught Bisping a valuable lesson about respecting his power after suffering a knockout loss. Despite his age, Henderson has the power to finish opponents, and his knockout victory of Hector Lombard is a testament of that. There were two main outcomes coming into this fight,  either Bisping would outwork him, or that Henderson would achieve yet another knockout once again. As the fight approached, it was quite clear that both knew their strengths coming into this fight and what to expect.

Henderson’s best chances would be to center his victory around finding his famous power-hand shot also known as the “H-bomb.”  As a well-rounded striker, Bisping’s best chance would be to use all the weapons at his disposal to shut down Henderson’s “H-bomb.” Both fighters showed some promising technical moments where they were both able to shut down one another’s offense as we’ll explore here soon. I’m not here to debate who won the decision, but I’m glad to present you with the technical details of how a champion and a legend tactically fought to impose their will.

Going into the rematch, the question posed for Bisping was how he would deal with the power-hand shot. For a fighter who’s known for throwing that heavy rear hand, how does one go about dealing with it? Bisping answered this puzzle with a wide variety of tools. He couldn’t afford to take too many of these and came very prepared to deal with that power hand.

Probing with the Jab

One of the most notable habits when this fight started out was that Bisping came out very heavily on using feints. Using feints allowed him to carefully measure Henderson’s reactions and draw out Henderson’s intentions of timing that H-bomb. For an opponent who looks to time a powerful rear hand counter, using feints is a good way of baiting the opponent to commit forward. This leaves them vulnerable to counters after missing. In the event feints don’t work, the next best thing Bisping used to bait Henderson forward was by probing him with jabs to persuade him forward. Bisping didn’t quite look to lead with the jab and follow up. In fact, it was rare to see him follow up with his jabs in the first place. He mainly used the jab in order to bait Henderson’s H-bomb out so that he could punish him after missing. Bisping was able to find success with this multiple times throughout the fight, often catching Henderson with various counters.

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Probe with the Jab, bait out the overhand, punish when he misses with a variety of uppercuts, hooks and straights.

His counters didn’t quite produce powerful shots, but it would soon pay off down the line. Bispings jabs and feints weren’t as energy intensive as Henderson’s attempts to throw that H-bomb. Bisping often baited out that H-bomb so often by probing and feinting, it  eventually added up down the line as Henderson’s stamina ended up hitting a low towards the later rounds.

The Value of Kicks

Another notable tool in Bisping’s arsenal was the utility of his kicks. When a kick is thrown at the head or the body, the opponent is generally forced to hold up their guard for protection. Throwing kicks against Henderson forced him to raise his guard, and took away the use of his power hand temporarily. This allowed Bisping to score at a safe distance.

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Bisping used  a wide variety of kicks. As an orthodox fighter, he had to use a switch kick and step up kick often in order to fire off a kick from his left leg to Henderson’s head. This was vitally important because kicking with his left leg meant he could effectively force Henderson to keep his right power hand in check. Using a kick from his right leg would have run the risk of allowing Dan’s right hand an opportunity to line up his power shot straight to his chin.

Short Range vs. Long Range

kicks allow you to impose a range further than the usual punching range Henderson is more accustomed to. Bisping found success exploiting his kicking range against Henderson’s shorter punching range. We saw a few times where Bisping would mix up his kicks with disruptive rhythm to throw the head kick. See this next example where Bisping feints to draw out Henderson’s counter then connects with a kick to punish his reaction.

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Bisping feints a kick, it baits Henderson into countering, then meets him with a follow up kick to score untouched.

Around round two, Bisping had realized this particular strategy was working and continued to use it repeatedly, having it go unanswered with anything effective from Henderson’s end to counter it.

When Henderson needed to back-peddle, Bisping was right on track from afar following up with a step-up kick to score shots that would also go unanswered.

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He even managed to hurt Henderson with a powerful body kick during a follow up in later rounds. In general, Bisping threw quite a few kicks that also went answered. For example, he threw a few oblique kicks; they’re not the type of shots to finish a fight, but they exploit the benefits of using a range the opponent can’t quite engage in.

Shutting Down The Power Hand

It’s no secret that Henderson often looked to throw his power hand. To keep that power hand in check, Bisping attacked by attempting to throw his inside leg kicks. To throw the power hand, Henderson puts weight on his lead foot in order to transfer his weight forward for power. He needs that stance to throw power effectively. When an inside leg kick is thrown, you either check the kick by lifting it up, or take the kick with the consequence of having your legs swept. Bisping was able to use his kicks to destroy Dan’s stance. Whenever he managed to disrupt Henderson’s lead leg, he took that opportunity to lead with follow up punches knowing his opponent couldn’t throw his power hand.

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Bisping takes away Dan’s lead leg, thereby disabling the H-bomb, then follows up with punches.

Bisping’s Growth

In their first fight, Bisping looked nowhere near what he looked like in the rematch. Back then, there’s was a strong absence of his kicking game when he fought Henderson. It was a fight where we mostly saw Bisping predominantly using his boxing with little results.  As far as the rematch is concerned, Bisping made significant adjustments accordingly to accommodate dealing with the power hand and using the full utility of kicks at his disposal.

A Legend’s Craft

Dan Henderson had his fair share of technical success in this fight as well. Bisping attempted to throw many jabs in attempts to bait Henderson to commit forward with his H-bomb. Dan Henderson didn’t always go to that power hand to answer all these jabs though. He’d often shut down Bisping’s own jabs on numerous occasions by throwing his pivoting jab. Bisping would throw the jab, but Henderson played the game of inches by adjust slightly to make Bisping’s jabs miss while returning his own.

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Dan fires a jab while pivoting off to bypass Bisping’s jab.

To give a clearer illustration of what’s going on, see my drawing (excuse the poor MS paint skills). Dan would pivot off with the rear hand up to catch the jab if needed. The pivot allows him to slightly turn away from a jab while connecting with own. It’s like a door opening opening while you’re trying to hit it.

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His hands are red from too many cherry pies.

Reminiscent of the first fight, Henderson tried some of his old tricks by trying to replicate his previous knockout. He could be seen throwing the inside leg kick to open up for that power hand shot. He didn’t find much success this time as Bisiping would often angle off as Dan missed.

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Dan trying to replicate the strategy that he used years ago to Knock out Bisping.

With a strong background in wrestling, he used a bit of this to his advantage by imposing the threat of takedowns. He’d feint a takedown only to transition into his power hand in hopes of connecting.

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Threat the takedown, feints low, throws the power hand.

He couldn’t quite find a clean shot attempting to execute this but was able to at least force Bisping to absorb it. This wasn’t something Henderson replicated too often, but it had promising results if he could build more onto this. Towards the ends of the round, he resorted to using his hands in order to lead so he could enter the clinching range to throw knees.

H-Bomb

The most compelling moments of this fight was when Henderson actually managed to connect with his powerful overhand. Out of all the offensive entries Bisping imposed, his jab posed the biggest liability to him because of the nature of Henderson’s overhand right. The overhand is originally used to time an opponent’s punch by looping over the top. Bisping would often probe at Henderson with it, but it was a matter of time before Henderson would make him pay for it. Bisping’s jabs were very fast, but timing beats speed, and Henderson reminded us of that when he managed to drop Bisping twice with this shot by punishing Bisping’s lead with his power-hand.

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Henderson came close to finishing off the fight after following up with his power shot but couldn’t quite finish the fight after pursuing the ground and pound.

Henderson did attempt to throw a tremendous amount of H-bombs in this fight. It became clear that it was losing its effectiveness as the rounds progressed. Dan found himself losing stamina, and unfortunately, the power of his rear hand also hit a decline. He managed to land about 3 or so H-Bombs but it was abundantly clear his power was fading with every shot that would land.  Despite absorbing such powerful shots, surprisingly, Bisping was primary the aggressor moving forward and pressuring Henderson regardless of the abuse he took.  It was unlike their first fight, Henderson had been the aggressor.

=)

If you can get pass the storm of debates over who won, there’s a lot to gain from this fight. As a fan, curious about the technical side of combat, you get a glimpse of how the current middleweight champion can deal with a fighter with a dangerous power hand. It’s a fight that showcased the extent of Michael Bisping’s maturity as a fighter and his ability to survive adversity. As far as Dan Henderson is concerned, he made solid efforts worthy praise in this fight and through his career. With such a decorated background, Dan “Hendo” Henderson may not have won the decision that night, but he’s secured his legacy in this sport and in our hearts.

If you like this piece, feel free to visit my homepage for other previous technical write-ups. I’ve done previous pieces on Conor McGregor‘s adjustments in his rematch as well as pieces like T.J. Dillashaw‘s adjustments in his rematch.

Come join in on the discussion with me or other fans to discuss the fight here at The MMA Community.

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