On a card that featured stoppages in every single fight, handing out awards can be an arduous task. Still, UFC middleweight Luke Rockhold's second-round submission victory over perennial contender Michael Bisping earned the AKA product an extra $50,000 and a Performance of the Night award. UFC President Dana White announced the award recipients on Twitter late Friday evening.
Rockhold opened the first round in the main event bout opposite Bisping by putting the British native at the end of his kicks. Specifically, Rockhold employed a strategy of relentless body kicks while moving out of the way of Bisping's blitzing punching attacks. There was a moment of inadvertent head clashing, which opened a cut over Bisping's left eye - one that had previously occurred earlier in the week - but it ultimately played little, if any, role.
By the second frame, Rockhold's strategy paid huge dividends. After drilling Bisping's body with kick after kick, Rockhold went high, crashing his shin into Bisping's head. The strike sent 'The Count' reeling, which prompted Rockhold to lock up a guillotine choke. The American moved into mount and used a one-arm guillotine aided by a posting hand to score the finish, which is also the first submission loss of Bisping's career.
The end came officially at 57 seconds of the second round.
Earning Fight of the Night honors were main card competitors Robert Whittaker and Clint Hester. The pair of middleweight wasted no time in trading huge strikes from the opening bell, but it was Whittaker who would take charge, putting the American on the defensive. Jumping up a weight class from welterweight, Whittaker appeared to be quick, agile and one step ahead of Hester. He scored everywhere, with inside elbows, leg kicks and crosses. Hester was able to land his own set of strikes, including a thudding spinning back fist, but it was Whittaker who controlled all phases of the fight and badly rock the American during the frame. He also managed to also take Hester to the ground and pass to mount before being reversed seconds prior to the bell sounding.
In the second round, Whittaker picked up where he left off. He drilled Hester with any number of different strikes, but set up the finish by scoring with a step-through knee-punch combination. The first one hurt Hester, but a follow-up knee planted him on the canvas. A series of ensuing strikes landed with Hester doing nothing but covering up, prompting the referee stoppage. The stoppage came at 2:43 of the second round.
Last, but certainly not least, Louis Smolka claimed the other Performance of the Night bonus with his comeback win over Richie Vaculik on the preliminary portion of the card. Smolka, who took the fight on late notice, was being battered by Vaculik for over two rounds, drawing blood and visibly rocking the Hawaiian. While Smolka had moments of inspiration on the ground, he was clearly outgunned heading into the third. Out of nowhere, though, Smolka drove a side kick directly into Vaculik's face, badly rocking him. A series of follow-up punches closed the show in what appeared to be a clear victory for Vaculik.
The stoppage came at 18 seconds of the third round.
UFC Fight Night 55 took places the Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia and aired on Fight Pass.