Two men than were both zeroing in on a shot at UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will now instead face each other in the co-main event of UFC 159 on April 27 in New Jersey.
Bisping (23-5) was stung the worst by his loss to Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC on FX 7 earlier this month. His career has been centered on the UFC title, and he had been guaranteed the next shot at Silva had he won.
One stunning head kick later and Bisping was on the mat and out of title contention.
Belcher (18-7) was nearing that same position, returning from injury with a masterful performance against Rousimar Palhares. That victory put him on a four-fight winning streak and one or two wins away from the coveted shot at the belt.
Yushin Okami put a halt to Belcher’s streak, closing out Belcher’s 2012 with a loss at UFC 155.
Both men are now in rebuild mode, so a win in this fight will be crucial to either one getting back in the title mix any time over the next year or two.