MANCHESTER - For the last four months, Michael (The Count) Bisping has been caught in a freeze frame - an unflattering image showing an unconscious fighter falling backwards after eating a devastating Dan Henderson right hand.
Nobody knows it better than Bisping, who hopes to erase that memory with a convincing win over Canadian Denis Kang on Saturday at UFC 105 at the M.E.N. Arena (Rogers Sportsnet, Spike TV, check local listings).
Kang, a veteran of the sport with 44 fights under his belt, also knows it.
"Sometimes some people never really come back from knockouts. But you can come back a better fighter as well, you know," Kang said. "We're going to have to see and test it out. But you never really know until you get in there."
Bisping's UFC 100 outing against Henderson on July 11 was an unmitigated disaster. The English middleweight looked tentative from the get-go and for some reason ignored his game plan totally by circling to his left, taking him ever closer to Henderson's hammer-like right hand. One of his coaches was screaming at him after the first round - "You're walking right onto the back hand, mate. Get off his back hand" - only to see him put asleep with it in the second.
Henderson might as well have hit him with a shovel.
The knockout blow, which was followed by another Henderson right for good measure, has been inescapable for the 30-year-old Bisping.
"With this sport, like boxing as well, you're only as good as your last performance, you're only as good as your last fight and my last fight wasn't very good. So it's been hanging over me," Bisping said. "Any time my name gets mentioned, obviously people just refer back to the Dan Henderson fight.
"So it's very frustrating. I have been very eager to fight. It's been a long time coming."
Bisping says the knockout has not affected his fight game. But it left a mark. His mother and his eight-year-old son Callum watched the fight from England, at 3 a.m. Both were reduced to tears.
"He and my mum sat up in bed, watching the fight, and then crying and stuff like that. It's tough,"said Bisping. "It's not a mental image I like to think about. I certainly don't want it to happen again."
The poster boy of British mixed martial arts was suddenly an object in derision in some quarters, with one English tabloid newspaper poking fun at him on its website by photoshopping his face at the moment of the knockout in mock photos.
The Henderson loss was painful in other ways.
A win and Bisping could have had a shot at champion Anderson Silva. Instead, his career was temporarily derailed and now he faces what amounts to be a must-win fight against a savvy veteran with well-rounded skills.
Kang (32-11-1) will test Bisping's mettle. He has a tight standup game and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He"s good at taking opponents down and is busy on the ground when it comes to submissions.
Like Bisping, Kang has something to prove. The 32-year-old Vancouver native, who now calls Montreal home, is 1-1 in the UFC and acknowledges he has yet to excel in the Octagon.
Unfortunately I haven't really shown my best in the UFC just yet, due to some unforeseen circumstances," Kang said.
Those include an ankle injury on the first day of training camp for his UFC 93 fight against Alan (The Talent) Belcher. Kang took the American down repeatedly but, short on cardio, was unable to profit from it. And when he left his head exposed during a takedown attempt, he was submitted via guillotine choke.
Bisping (18-2) believes he knows the Kang game plan.
"He's going to come out like he always does really, he always mixes it up," Bisping said. "He shows a nice variation of mixed martial arts skills really, he's a complete mixed martial arts fighter. He comes out, throws a few combinations and then he likes to back up a bit, goad his opponent on, and then shoot him in for a double leg (takedown) and take him down, and from there try for a few subs (submissions) or whatnot.
"To be honest, I think he's going to do the same, at the start of the first round, he's going to come out hard and fast, he's going to try and rush me, so I have to be prepared for that, I know he's got a big solid right hand, he's put some good opponents away with that."
Kang also expects few surprises, thinking that Bisping will come out strong with a loud hometown crowd behind him.
"He's been known to get out there and really come out hard and try to bully people around. So I'll be ready for that."
Bisping says he is going back to what made him successful, take the offensive.
"I'm going to let Denis Kang worry about what I do. As opposed to worrying too much worrying about what he's going to bring to the table."
The English fighter has made other changes as well. Believing he has a history of burning himself in pre-fight training, he has reduced the length of his training camp. He also plans to come into the fight bigger and stronger, cutting more pounds nearer to the weigh-in.
Bisping acknowledges the crowd will spur him on.
"Of course it adds a extra little pressure because, fingers crossed, a lot of people are going to be cheering me and want me to see me perform well but I always channel that pressure into something positive and I believe it makes me perform better. Every time I've fought in England, the crowd's really fuelled me and I've come out aggressive. It's just made me feel fantastic to be honest."
The charismatic Brit will enjoy the love. He became a villain in some quarters for his cocky showing as coach on "The Ultimate Fighter" and knows some fans revelled in his UFC 100 beatdown.
He was never a fan of the U.S. versus U.K. format on Season 9 of the reality TV show, knowing that it could spark a backlash. It didn't help when his British team dominated and Bisping, whose mouth sometimes moves faster than his brain, couldn't resist rubbing it in.
"I think, to be honest, a lot of people watching the (Henderson) fight, they were all dying for me to lose, certainly in America . . . A lot of people said I was really cocky and arrogant on the show," he said. "I still stand by the fact that I don't see what was that bad really to be honest. I had a bit of fun with it."
Bisping says he doesn't quite understand why he has become the bad guy.
"I know I get taken out of context quite a lot. A lot of time, I'm only kind of joking when I say (things). But when they're written in black and white, it sounds a lot different," he said. "I can be a bit cocky sometimes but I'm only messing around and having a laugh.
"I think for the most part I treat people with respect, things like that. As long as my team's happy, my family and the people closest to me, as long as I keep them happy, then on the whole I'm a happy man. You know you can't please everybody. Regardless of what I do these days, people find a reason to bitch about me."
Perhaps mindful of his image, Bisping has buttoned his lip prior to this fight although the veil of diplomacy slipped briefly during a media conference call.
"A lot of people say I'm going to go out there and be submitted," Bisping said of Kang. "With respect I believe his last opponent was a French kickboxer (Xavier Fouka-Pokam) who at one point could hardly stand, with his hands on his knees he was so tired, and I think he made it out of the fight without being submitted. And his previous opponent was a fighter (Belcher) who wasn't exactly known for his submission skills. In fact I think he was actually wearing Thai boxing shorts at the time and actually submitted Denis.
"Regarding all that, I think I'll be all right on the night."