After more than a year out of action because of an eye injury, perennial Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight contender Michael Bisping hoped to jump right back into title contention.
Tim Kennedy had other ideas.
Kennedy effectively mixed his takedowns with enough strikes to keep Bisping honest in winning a unanimous decision Wednesday in the five-round main event of a UFC card in Quebec City.
It was the third straight win for Kennedy since entering the UFC and fourth straight overall.
Still, the former Army Ranger said he was “furious” with his performance.
“I finish fights, and I didn’t finish the fight tonight,” Kennedy said. “I hit Mike with my best shots, and things weren’t clicking. My hat’s off to him as an opponent. I have great respect for him.”
Kennedy turned takedowns into long periods of control on the ground in the first and third rounds. Bisping found his range when Kennedy stopped moving in the second round, but Kennedy avoided Bisping’s offense and landed enough of his own to win the fourth and fifth rounds.
Kennedy, who won 50-45 on one card and 49-46 on the other two, said the victory is another step in his evolution as a fighter.
“I’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “I’m still getting better with every fight. People said I can’t stand with anybody, and I think I beat him on the feet. I’m just going to keep getting better.”
Also on the card, Patrick Cote won a unanimous decision over Kyle Noke in a battle of coaches from “The Ultimate Fighter: Nations” reality show.
It was the third straight win and seventh in eight fights for the 34-year-old Canadian welterweight, who lost to Anderson Silva in a middleweight title match in 2008.
“I’m establishing myself in the welterweight division now. I feel I can go from here and challenge the best in the division,” Cote said. “Georges St. Pierre has stepped away, so the division is wide open.”
The two tournaments from the reality show also were decided on the card. Elias Theodorou won the middleweight crown with a second-round knockout of Sheldon Westcott, and Chad Laprise claimed the welterweight title with a split decision over Olivier Aubin-Mercier.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.