What can be said of UFC 199? What an insane fight card – announcements, upsets, possible retirements and more galore. Here’s a rundown of just some of the highlights…
Date with destiny
UK MMA veteran Michael ‘The Count’ Bisping fulfilled what he claimed to be his “destiny” at UFC 199 by beating Luke Rockhold for the UFC middleweight championship. It will go down in history as one of the most unlikely and inspiring MMA stories ever.
Bisping stepped up on two weeks notice to face Rockhold for a second time after former champ Chris Weidman pulled out due to injury. Bisping had been submitted by Rockhold in their first encounter, but entered with a fresh confidence after having beaten former champ and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva earlier in the year. He goaded Rockhold with claims he would KO him (despite having never knocked any UFC opponent out clean) and that the American would wake up in disbelief at having had the belt taken from him by a man who walked into the Octagon on short notice. Well, call him ‘Mystic Mike’ because, as unbelievable as it may still seem, that’s exactly what happened.
Now that the 37-year-old has finally achieved his dream and become Britain’s first UFC champion, it only remains to be seen who he will face next and if he can achieve any kind of longevity as champ. Potential opponents include Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, Rockhold (immediate rematch) or perhaps a chance to avenge his UFC 100 KO loss to Dan Henderson. Apparently, it’s all in fate’s hands.
All good things…
UFC 199 saw an end to the long-running Dominick Cruz-Urijah Faber feud. The two men settled their beef in a rubber match, contested for Cruz’s UFC bantamweight title. Cruz won via clear unanimous decision.
Following the loss, Faber hinted that the bout may have been the last of his pro MMA career. At 36 years old, ‘The California Kid’ has remained competitive at the highest level of MMA but this is the first time in three meetings with Cruz that he looked completely outclassed. Faber must realize at this stage that winning a UFC title is an unrealistic goal at best and, for an ultra-competitive athletic achiever like himself, retirement is therefore probably the most sensible option.
The Sacramento native has plenty of business ventures and outside sources of income to keep him occupied and affluent in his post-MMA life (whenever he decides that time should be), but his mark on the sport is permanent. Though his time fighting may be at an end, his fights and accomplishments will never be forgotten.
Fight in the old dog yet
One aging competitor who is still achieving success despite the odds is former Pride and Strikeforce champ Dan ‘Hendo’ Henderson. With a ridiculous head kick-back elbow combination, Hendo KO’d Hector Lombard – his 32nd pro MMA win at 45 years old!
The win bounces Hendo back into the mix after his KO loss to Vitor Belfort last November, and will almost certainly see him enter the top 10 at 185lb when the official UFC rankings are updated later this week. With top contenders Souza and Weidman both sidelined with injuries, and Rockhold likely to be handed a several-month medical suspension after being knocked out, Henderson is all of a sudden looking like arguably the most viable challenger for the middleweight title. Add in the fact that he and new champ Bisping have a history dating back to season nine of The Ultimate Fighter and a Bisping vs. Henderson 2 title fight starts to sound pretty interesting.
What. A. Night.
The UFC probably should have issued a health warning for anyone with a heart condition not to watch the live UFC 199 pay-per-view broadcast, because by Jove it was eventful! Even if the fights hadn’t been utterly spectacular, which can never be predicted, the planned announcements of Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 2 at UFC 202 and the return of Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 were enough to send even casual fans into a frenzy.
On a night that also paid tribute to Muhammad Ali after the boxing legend’s tragic death, the combat sports world seemed to spring to life in every aspect in a way that suggested Ali’s soul was alive and well in the hearts of every fighter and fan. Things went off the chart from the get-go as Marco Polo Reyes and Dong Hyun Kim opened the show with a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender. From there it seemed as though ‘The Greatest’ had inspired every athlete on the card to give their all for the Californian crowd, and the UFC’s surprise announcements only served to fuel the fire of the best night in combat sports so far this year.
And next month sees UFC 200 – the most stacked card of the year and one of MMA’s all-time biggest events – hit Vegas. What a crazy, crazy sport.