Post UFC 199 Thoughts
The fights were great: Top to bottom UFC 199 was the best fight card of the year. UFC 196 in March might’ve been more excited at the top with Nate Diaz submitting Conor McGregor and Miesha Tate upsetting Holly Holm at the last minute but this past Saturday featured spills and thrills all night long. From the first fight on Fight Pass between ‘Marco’ Polo Reyes and ‘the other’ Dong Hyun Kim to the main event which saw the fourth title change hands this year. Eye opening performances from the likes of Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier, Beneil Dariush, and Jessica Andrade, great comebacks from Dan Henderson and Brian Ortega, and capped off by two important title fights for two different reasons. Next month’s UFC 200 looks phenomenal on paper but I’ll be happy if it can match the enjoyment I got out of this weekend’s event.
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Michael Bisping is the Middleweight champ: Bisping knocked out the newly minted title holder Luke Rockhold at just 3:36 in the first round shocking the world and maybe himself to complete one of the biggest upsets in UFC title fight history. It was a feel good moment for the promotions now first ever British champion after he filled in for Chris Weidman on short notice just a few months after he beat Anderson Silva in his home country, at least until he gloated like crazy and shouted ‘**** you’ to his slowly regaining consciousness competitor. Rockhold came in as the heavy favorite for good reason having already handily beaten Bisping by second round submission in November of 2014. I didn’t give ‘The Count’ much of a chance but the former Strikeforce champion Rockhold didn’t seem to be taking the fight very seriously himself. I’ve always thought the California native was cocky outside of the cage but he brought that into the fight and paid for it. Now the Middleweight division is wide open with possibilities with potential opponents for Bisping’s first title defense lining out the door. An instant rematch with Rockhold isn’t impossible but doesn’t seem likely. Jacare Souza seems like the most logical choice. Yoel Romero and Chris Weidman are coming off suspension and injury respectively but depending on other options and timeline could be possibilities. Outside shots are rematches with Anderson Silva or Dan Henderson which aren’t exactly deserving but would bring in the most casual interest.
Dominick Cruz is still ‘The Dominator’: Cruz finished the trilogy with his arch nemesis Uriah Faber in dominant fashion winning a unanimous decision and practically shutting out ‘The California Kid’. Its still remarkable enough that Cruz is even able to fight at all after coming back from multiple knee surgeries to win back his belt that he never lost against TJ Dillashaw but we’re going to have to get over that because he appears to be better than ever. Faber handed him his first and only loss when he submitted him nine years ago in the WEC but Cruz revenged that in 2011 when he beat him in a competitive but decisive decision. This time it was decisive but not all that competitive after the first round. Cruz even managed to knock him down a few times despite not being known to have much power in his striking. He looked as unpredictable and frustrating to fight against as ever and is still somehow only 30 years old. Maybe the silver lining in the time he was laid off is that he hasn’t put much wear and tear on his body or more importantly his brain while still being able to train and improve his own skills. The bantamweight division is quickly becoming one of the deepest in the UFC and there are plenty of intriguing matchups ahead for the champ. Next up should be the winner of TJ Dillashaw vs. Raphael Ascuncao at UFC 200 with Uriah Faber’s teammate Cody Garbrandt lurking not far behind.
Big Announcements: Despite Ariel Helwani breaking both big fight announcements hours before the UFC could unveil them on the pay-per-view (and then ridiculously yanking his credentials for… doing his job?), we found out that Conor McGregor will finally be rematching Nate Diaz at UFC 202 in August and that Brock Lesnar would be returning to the UFC to fight on 200 to complete what looks to be the most stacked event in UFC history. Fortunately after feeling pressure from the rest of the MMA and sports media Helwani and his team got their credentials back but the excitement from these fights and the great promos that announced them is still abound. McGregor vs. Diaz 2 was supposed to headline UFC 200 before the bizarre fallout between Conor and the UFC caused him to retire, then be pulled from the card for not doing press, and then ‘reportedly’ training for a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather before cooler heads finally prevailed. All that nonsense has only made the anticipation for the fight that much greater and there is a legitimate question as to whether UFC 200 or 202 will earn more PPV buys at this point. In 200′s favor is the return of the former Heavyweight champion Lesnar who it was later announced would be fighting Mark Hunt as the co-main event of the milestone event. Its unclear as to whether this is a one time deal to celebrate Brock’s participation in UFC 100 and help the UFC beat that still record buy rate and for everyone involved to make loads of money or if this is just the start of a serious comeback attempt. What is clear is that in fighting Mark Hunt he’s not being given an easy opponent to walk through. Hunt is a killer on the feet and Lesnar has a history of not liking being hit. But of course if the fight hits the ground its all but over. Needless to say about 1.5 million + will be glued to their TVs to see what happens.
Dan Henderson Should Go Out On Top: 45 year old Dan Henderson has been a lock for whatever the MMA hall of fame would be for quite some time now from his time in Pride, to his run in the UFC, and from beating all time great Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce. It looked like he was going to be one of those old guys like Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz who just keeps fighting and losing despite it being clear to everyone that they’re shot as far as competitive fighters. Its hard in this sport for most fighters to let go when the time is right especially when there aren’t exactly great job opportunities lining up for them when they get out. ‘Hendo’ had lost six out of his last eight and looked like he was about to make it seven of nine multiple times in his fight with Hector Lombard as he got mostly brutalized in the first round. But something magic happened in the second as somehow Henderson was able to get his leg up high enough on a kick to land on Lombard’s head. As Lombard caught the leg on its way down Henderson hit him with a back elbow so hard that Hector was out cold before he even hit the canvas. In typical Dan Henderson style, as Michael Bisping knows all too well, he finished things off with a couple nail coffin elbows for good measure. It was a great moment that will be almost impossible to top as he searches for the perfect time to hang up the gloves. I find it hard to believe that this will actually be his last fight but at least we can add this to his list of accomplishments and perhaps imagine that it was.