Everything you need to know about this weekend’s UFC 199 fight between Luke Rockhold and Michael Bispring.
Michael Bisping has been a UFC fighter for a full decade, and throughout his career he has been setting his sights on precisely where he now stands. Or at least where he will be standing late Saturday night and what he’ll be wearing around his waist when he’s standing there.
When the 37-year-old expatriate Brit walks out of the octagon on Saturday night in Los Angeles following the main event of UFC 199, he’s hoping to be adorned by the championship belt he’s been chasing ever since he made his debut with the promotion as the winning contestant on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter. Reality TV was Bisping’s doorway into a dream, and now he’s trying to transform dream into reality.
Standing in his way is Luke Rockhold, the 31-year-old Californian who captured the middleweight belt last December with a brutal TKO of Chris Weidman. Rockhold (15-2), who before his UFC reign was the 185-pound champion in Strikeforce, is No. 3 in the SI.com pound-for-pound fighter rankings. He has won five straight matches, a streak that includes a 2014 win over Bisping.
Since that defeat, Bisping (28-7) has won three in a row, most recently earning a gritty decision over onetime pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva in February. The 37-year-old, who was raised in the north (of England) and now resides in the south (of California), is fighting on two weeks’ notice, taking the bout after Weidman was injured while training for the rematch.
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of Saturday night’s five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1, starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the event’s first four bouts will be available on the UFC Fight Pass streaming service at 6:15.
When Rockhold and Bisping first met, the fight ended in the second round. But it was a fight for only a minute and a half. It was at that point, early in the first round, when the fighters collided head-first while they were in the pocket, trying to evade each other’s punches. The clash of heads opened a gash on Bisping’s left eyelid, and seemed to discombobulate him as well. He became distracted by the blood, and never found his range.
The Brit hadn’t been having a whole lot of success at that before the ramming, either, but he’d seemed poised as he sought to close distance on the taller, longer Rockhold. Was he already on the road to frustration, a journey sped up by the head clash? Would Rockhold still have ramped up his urgency, even without Bisping visibly losing his cool? There’s no way to know. What happened, happened.
Now it’s happening again. Let’s see if Bisping can keep his head in the game by keeping it away from Rockhold’s.
Last Five Fights
|Rockhold (15-2)||Bisping (28-7)|
|12/12/15 Chris Weidman W TKO 4||2/27/16 Anderson Silva W UD 5|
|4/18/15 Lyoto Machida W Sub. 2||7/18/15 Thales Leites W SD 5|
|11/8/14 Michael Bisping W Sub. 2||4/25/15 C.B. Dolloway W UD 3|
|4/26/14 Tim Boetsch W Sub. 1||11/8/14 Luke Rockhold L TKO 2|
|1/15/14 Costs Philippou W TKO 1||8/23/14 Cung Le W TKO 4|
Tale of the Tape
|Oct. 17, 1984||BIRTH DATE||Feb. 28, 1979|
|Santa Cruz, Calif.||BIRTHPLACE||Nicosia, Cyprus|
|San Jose, Calif.||FIGHTING OUT OF||Orange County, Calif.|
* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 5 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)
Other Numbers to Count on
1: Number of times, in 35 career pro fights, that Michael Bisping has been submitted. Luke Rockhold did the deed back in 2014. It was one of his nine career subs (in 15 bouts).
1,393: Significant strikes by Bisping in his UFC career, the most by any fighter in the promotion’s history.
3: Consecutive bouts in which Rockhold has earned a Performance of the Night or Fight of the Night bonus.
Luke Rockhold becomes UFC champion:
Michael Bisping defeats a legend:
Rockhold has all the physical advantages. His size and agility allow him to keep a safe distance. He’s as dangerous on the mat as he is on his feet. All in all, the attributes that enabled him to beat down Chris Weidman make the champ a tough matchup for anyone in the division.
If Bisping has an advantage, it might be the short training camp. That’s not typically the case, but he knows Rockhold’s game already and will walk into the octagon a fresh fighter. There’s also the possibility that the champ, having already submitted this challenger with one hand (!), might underestimate the task at hand.
Rockhold is the heavy favorite, with a money line ranging from -715 (bet $715 to win $100) to -1000 (bet $1,000 to win $100) at various sportsbooks. The line on Bisping ranges from +460 (bet $100 to win $460) to +702 (bet $100 to win $702).
Cruz is the significant favorite, with a money line ranging from -525 (bet $525 to win $100) to -700 (bet $700 to win $100) at various sportsbooks. The line on Faber ranges from +360 (bet $100 to win $360) to +530 (bet $100 to win $530).
What a story it would be if Bisping were to pull this off. But while he’ll not be a pushover, this just doesn’t figure to be his night. Rockhold has big things ahead – rematches with Weidman and “Jacare” Souza, for starters. He’s not going to bow out now. Rockhold by KO.
“To be honest, I’m not a deep, spiritual person. Things have been happening in my life recently where I’ve started to think, ‘Maybe things do happen for a reason.’ I was given this opportunity, and I’m going to take it.”
--Michael Bisping in a SirusXM radio interview
“It’s his destiny, right? That’s what he calls it. It’s his destiny to be my b***h.”
--Luke Rockhold during a conference call with reporters
The Rest of the Card
Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber, men’s bantamweight championship; Max Holloway vs. Ricardo Lamas, featherweight; Dan Henderson vs. Hector Lombard, middleweight; Dustin Poirier vs. Bobby Green, lightweight.
Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): B.J. Penn vs. Cole Miller, featherweight; Brian Ortega vs. Clay Guida, featherweight; Beneil Dariush vs. James Vick, lightweight; Jessica Penne vs. Jessica Andrade, strawweight.
Online prelims (6:15 p.m., UFC Fight Pass): Sean Strickland vs. Tom Breese, welterweight; Jonathan Wilson vs. Luiz Henrique da Silva, light heavyweight; Kevin Casey vs. Elvis Mutapcic, middleweight; Polo Reyes vs. Dong Hyun Kim, lightweight.
Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main-card telecast on pay-per-view as well as prelims on Fox Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass. There will be an hour-long postfight show on Fox Sports 1, starting at 1 a.m. ET.