It’s not often that you can blame all three actors for some debacle that took place during a cage fight. We have that situation thanks to the flying knee Anderson Silva landed on Michael Bisping at the end of round three.
To recap, with fifteen seconds remaining in the round, Bisping’s mouth piece falls out of his mouth. It’s difficult to tell whether it was the natural result of a strike to the face dislodging it from his mouth or whether he spit it out in order to buy himself time. That he immediately motioned to the mouthpiece suggests the latter, but Bisping’s also savvy enough of a fighter to attempt to capitalize on such a scenario. In any event, referee Herb Dean refuses to pause the proceedings, but does saunter over to pick up the mouth piece as the action circles away along the cage.
With approximately four seconds left in the round, Silva whiffs on a knee from the double collar tie, and Bisping motions to Herb Dean regarding his mouth piece. Dean responds by stepping toward Bisping and saying something inaudible before very clearly communicating that Bisping needs to fight back. Unfortunately for Bisping, during this exchange Silva has set up a flying knee, which he lands flush on Bisping’s chin, sending the Brit crumpling to the mat. Silva walks off as the horn sounds, leaving Dean standing bewilderedly over Bisping before reiterating that he told him to fight back.
Chaos spills into the Octagon. Dean insists to Bisping that the fight isn’t over as Silva celebrates as if it is. Dean then indicates to Silva’s team that the fight isn’t over, and their fighter then proceeds to climb atop the cage wall to further celebrate. The message is finally conveyed to Silva who releases an expletive as he hops off the cage. At this point, approximately 50 seconds have elapsed since the end of round three. Another 42 seconds go by before Dean restarts the fight, with Bisping on his stool up until the final moments.
Bisping made the mistake of not protecting himself at all times. This mistake is compounded by the fact that the man he is not protecting himself from is Anderson Silva, who is not one to take lightly even at forty years old. Bisping winds up looking marginally less stupid than Victor Ortiz, who was knocked out by Floyd Mayweather coming out of a break. Where Ortiz naively forgot he was involved in a prizefight, Bisping had a legitimate reason for being more concerned with the referee than the fight in front of him. Whatever veteran savvy Bisping was showing with the mouth piece ordeal, he showed a complete lack of it by round’s end.
The controversy could have been contained in that single moment, but Herb Dean allowed the fight to continue. The use of “crumpled” earlier is not an overstatement. Watch the sequence in slow motion, and you’ll clearly see Bisping’s lights turn off as he falls to the mat in a heap. Four seconds after the knee lands, Bisping regains enough consciousness to make some motion towards Dean. (He may also say something, but it’s difficult to tell.) Bisping looks as if he doesn’t believe Dean when the latter tells him the fight isn’t over, and then proceeds to very groggily get himself back to his feet before the camera cuts away. The argument to stop the fight right here is not a difficult one to make.
Of course, that argument would have been made much easier had Silva decided to follow up on Bisping instead of walking off in a moment of glory. The horn sounded very quickly following the knee, though Silva would have had enough time to land a couple of punches before Dean would have been able to step in. It likely would have only taken one punch, however, to show that Bisping was in no position to defend himself, forcing Dean to stop the fight then and there. But no punch was thrown, the fight went on, and the judges awarded Bisping a 48-47 decision on all three cards.
In the end, the events leading up to and following the knee at the end of round three demonstrated both the disastrous effect of actors making a compounding series of poor decisions and the sensitivity of important split-second decisions. Had any one of the three men’s brains reacted differently in the moment, the fight would be remembered in a much different fashion. Instead, Michael Bisping recovered from a devastating knee at the end of round three to earn a unanimous decision over Anderson Silva.