UFC 204: Stars, takewaways and highlights
At UFC 199, Michael Bisping stepped in on short notice to replace Chris Weidman in his middleweight title rematch against Luke Rockhold. Up until that point, Bisping had never gotten a shot at the title in his illustrious 10-year career, coming close but always losing in title eliminator bouts. But he got his chance and took advantage, knocking out the champion in the first round to win his first UFC title.
At UFC 204, Bisping was welcomed home in Manchester, England to defend his belt against Dan Henderson.
This fight was personal for Bisping, who was looking to avenge a brutal knockout suffered at the hands of his foe way back at UFC 100, a K.O. that is immortalized on MMA highlight reels. This time around, the champion was pushed to the limits in the first title defense of his career.
In the opening round, Henderson dropped Bisping with an overhand right and jumped on him looking to finish things quickly with ground-and-pound, a move that had fans thinking they were experiencing a bit of deja vu. Bisping managed to weather the storm and escape, but he caught another right hand that almost put him away in the second round.
At that point, Bisping's endurance and in-fight adjustments—like adding more feints—allowed the champion to survive. The fight went to the score cards, the judges giving it to incumbent via unanimous decision.
After the fight, Bisping praised Henderson.
"People said he's not a No. 1 contender or anything, this guy knocked me out cold, worst K.O. in UFC history," Bisping said. "Look at my face for crying out loud. You know what this guy can do."
Henderson also confirmed that this would be the final fight of the career.
In the co-main event, UFC legend Vitor Belfort took on Gegard Mousasi. The fight ended in the second round after a vicious attack from Mousasi, that began with a head kick, transitioned into Belfort being a human punching bag against the cage before a ground-and-pound ended the fight.
"He's a legend you know? Fighting him is an honor. I like Vitor a lot, he's a nice guy besides being a great athlete," Mousasi said before calling out Anderson Silva.
Stars of the Night
1. Gegard Mousasi - Finished Vitor Belfort in dominating and impressive fashion, then called for a fight with Anderson Silva.
2. Jimi Manuwa - Landed what could be labeled the Knockout of the Year against Ovince Saint Preux.
3. Iuri Alcantara - Made quick work of the home country favorite Brad Pickett, possibly working his way to a bonus.
4. Marc Diakiese - He was one of our fighters to watch coming into the night and didn't disappoint in his UFC debut. He got his third straight TKO, albeit it was a littler harder than anticipated. Still, great resiliency shown to get the win.
1. Never underestimate a card
UFC fans have grown spoiled with some spectacular cards and fights over the past several months. Many lambasted this card and wondered if it was worth the $60 for the pay-per-view.
The card started with a bang, thrilling fights on all phases. Fans love finishes, and only two cards on this fight went to the judges, and both of those were thrilling bouts.
The lesson here? Never assume the worst when it comes to a card. You never know how spectacular it can be.
2. Never underestimate an opponent
As Bisping pointed out in his post-fight interview, many people thought Henderson wasn't deserving of a title shot and the challenger proved otherwise. Two knockdowns in the first-round nearly gave UFC 204 a stunning ending.
Time and time again this year, we've seen chaos reign supreme. Bisping upset Rockhold on short notice, Nate Diaz upset Conor McGregor on short notice.
The takeaway in all of this is to never underestimate your opponent.
3. Never underestimate Michael Bisping
Since winning the belt, top middleweights and former champions like Rockhold and Weidman have mocked Bisping. At the post-fight press conference at UFC 199, Rockhold said Weidman being embarrassed that he lost to him is nothing compared to losing to Bisping. Weidman doubled down on this, saying it was embarrassing to have to remind people that Bisping is the champion of his division.
But make no mistake about it, Bisping will go down as an all-time great. Not top-5, and maybe not even top-10, but an all-time great. And then look at his 2016 season. He defeated Anderson Silva in a five-round war, knocked out belt-holder in Rockhold in the first-round and outlasted Henderson in a five-round war. That is a stellar string of victories in a calendar year, all three main events, and two title fights.
UFC newcomer Diakiese showing off incredible strength to slam his opponent.
Leon Edwards locks in the rear naked choke for the win.
Alcantara made quick work of Brad Pickett.
The beginning of the end for Belfor was this flurry from Mousasi following a head kick.
Henderson nearly ended the fight in the first round.
Henderson got rocked, but some how managed to drop Bisping again.
The big question is who will Michael Bisping defend his belt against next? Well, there might not be a concrete answer to that question right away. Currently, the top-four ranked middleweight challengers are all slated to fight each other in the upcoming months; No. 1 Rockhold takes on No. 3 Jacare Souza, and No. 2 Weidman fights No. 4 Yoel Romero. Since Weidman has not fought Bisping before, and he was slated to get a rematch with Rockhold for the belt at UFC 199, it makes sense that he would get the next title shot, if he can defeat Romero at UFC 205. If he can't, Rockhold and Souza fight two weeks later, and the winner of that bout might very well get the opportunity.
There was originally scheduled to be a card in Manila, but that event was canceled after an injury forced BJ Penn off the card. The next will be in Mexico City in early November. Former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos fights Tony Ferguson in the main event.
The next UFC pay-per-view is UFC 205, a week later at Madison Square Garden in New York City. That card is stacked and arguably the best in history. In the main event, featherweight champion Conor McGregor fights Eddie Alvarez for his lightweight title and the chance to become the first simultaneous two-weight champion in UFC history.
In the co-main event, welterweight champion Tyron Woodley defends his belt against Stephen Thompson. Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk will defend her belt against Karolina Kowalkiewicz as well.