INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Stipe Miocic wasn't supposed to have a chance against Fabricio Werdum. Miesha Tate was supposed to be a way for Holly Holm to keep busy while she waited on Ronda Rousey's return. Rousey herself thought she'd be able to outbox Holm. Only Conor McGregor's most wild-eyed fans expected him to knock out Jose Aldo in a matter of seconds. Rafael dos Anjos was supposed to be Anthony Pettis' disposable challenger of the month on the latter's path to superstardom.
Into this pattern of unpredictability stepped Michael Bisping. Surely, this time, predicting an upset would be a bridge too far. "The Count" was supposed to be happy to be there, getting a short-notice title shot at age 37 in his adopted Southern California backyard as something of a lifetime achievement award.
This was an opportunity to erase the backhanded compliment of being the winningest fighter in UFC history to never get a title shot, in and of itself. Few actually expected Bisping to actually pull off the upset in his UFC middleweight title fight on Saturday night at UFC 199.
Luke Rockhold certainly didn't. Nor most of the sellout crowd, as an air of disbelief permeated the Forum as Bisping celebrated his first-round knockout.
But Bisping's victory is a cold hard fact, and here's another: His win over Rockhold is the 11th UFC title change -- not counting interim belts -- dating back to UFC 185, less than 15 months ago.
Maybe this simply is a historical blip, a tumultuous stretch in which the next set of long-term champions are beginning to take root. Perhaps the new Anderson Silvas and Georges St-Pierres are about to emerge.
Or maybe this is the new normal: Big shows ending with guys like Miocic and Bisping running around the cage like wildmen, unable to quite comprehend what they just pulled off.
Time will tell.
In the meantime, cheers to Bisping. Whatever you want to say about his loudmouth demeanor, here's a fighter who whose faith never wavered when he was presumed to be on the decline, even knowing his prime seemed derailed by cheaters and those operating in murky gray ethical waters. If nothing else, Bisping with a title belt in the USADA era is fitting, and for that, perhaps we should be grateful for this era of championship hot potato.
UFC 199 quotes
"God. That guy is such a di*k. I mean, you show your true colors after a fight, and that fu*king guy comes up to me like, 'Do you know where you are?' Like, I fu*king picked you up off the canvas and gave you respect. That guy is a piece of sh*t, and I want to fu*king come kill him next time around." -- Rockhold, not exactly holding back his feelings on Bisping.
"You just said I can't compete with you. I knocked you out in the first round -- cold. Have you seen that replay, buddy? Your head was bouncing around like a pinball machine. Watch it again. Obviously it didn't sink in." -- Bisping's retort.
"I don't want to make any decisions emotionally, but knowing that in my mind there's a possibility that might've been the last one. It was obviously a good one to have that and all my kids and everybody were able to come. It was a little more emotional." -- Dan Henderson, following his knockout win over Hector Lombard
"I didn't think fatigue was an issue, but I got caught a couple times and got outclassed in the fight," Faber said at the post-fight press conference. "I don't like that. I'm fighting a great fighter, but for me to get outclassed, I gotta assess things." -- Urjiaj Faber, after his loss to Dominick Cruz
Up: Dan Henderson. It will never get better than last night for one of the sport's true legends. Two months shy of his 46th birthday, with a packed house full of fans on his Southern California home turf wholeheartedly and almost desperately urging him on, Henderson survived trouble and knocked Hector Lombard cold. The former PRIDE double champion got to bask in a delirious crowd response and jump out of the cage to share the moment with his family. This for someone who had lost six of his previous eight fights and was finished in four of them. It sounds like Hendo's leaning toward retirement after the final fight of his contract. He's understandably angling for a new paycheck, whether it involves fighting or a UFC office job. Let's hope he's offered the latter path, because he has the opportunity to go out the way so few do in the fight game.
Down: Urijah Faber. The trilogy fight between Faber and Dominick Cruz went about as most expected it would. Faber was tough and went the distance but never came close to threatening Cruz, who has progressed leaps and bounds beyond his rival. Faber's most likely path forward is as a "fun fights" type of competitor, and he's clearly interested in fighting on whatever turns out to be the UFC's first card in Sacramento's new downtown arena. But last night finally closed the book on Faber as a title contender.
Up: Max Holloway. Holloway thoroughly outclassed one of the toughest fighters in the featherweight division in former title challenger Ricardo Lamas. That's nine in a row for the 24-year-old Hawaiian since going the distance in a 2013 loss to Conor McGregor. With this victory, Holloway thoroughly stamped himself as part of the elite at 145 pounds. With the champ tied up with Nate Diaz awhile, Holloway should not be fighting anyone besides Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, or Chad Mendes next.
Down: Luke Rockhold. Earlier in the week, Rockhold got on Werdum's case for the way Werdum conducted himself leading up to his loss to Miocic at UFC 198. And while he had a point in saying Werdum wasn't acting like a champion, how do you explain Rockhold's behavior? Rockhold was the most openly and flagrantly overconfident defending champ we've seen in quite some time, both in the way he treated Chris Weidman in the original buildup to UFC 199 and in his demeanor this week, right up to the moment Bisping landed his first big left. Confidence is one thing. Smarm is another. Rockhold could learn a lesson here from his American Kickboxing Academy teammate, Cain Velasquez, who has stayed humble through all his ups and downs.
Up: Marco Polo Reyes and Dong Hyun Kim: This was a night full of noteworthy performances, from Brian Ortega's last-minute KO of Clay Guida, to Jessica Andrade's buzzsaw win over Jessica Penne in her strawweight debut, to Dustin Poirier's brutal first-round finish of Bobby Green. But two guys most never heard of set the tone for the night with just about the most incredible opening matchup you'll ever see. The lightweights slugged it out in a display of heart and toughness before Reyes finished the "other" Kim in the third. The duo got well-earned Fight of the Night bonuses and set off a "can you top this?" night of fights which will be long remembered.
The Forum and Staples Center are just 10 miles apart, but they seem light years removed as fight venues. The UFC's first show at the venerable Forum, the legendary home of Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky, and decades of big boxing matches, featured the loudest and most boisterous crowd the company's ever had in Los Angeles. Fans are right on top of the action at the Forum. Staples Center is cavernous and antiseptic and not a great atmosphere. The Forum should be the UFC's LA home from here on in.
It wasn't a bad night from an officiating standpoint, but one result of note was Kevin Casey's split draw against Elvis Mutapcic. The scores were 29-28 Casey, 29-28 Mutapcic, and 28-28. I had it 29-28 Casey, with Casey winning the first and second. Judge Derek Cleary scored round three a 10-8 for Mutapcic. I've been vocal about wanting more 10-8s scored, but I didn't see one here. As a result, Casey, the son-in-law of Muhammad Ali, was deprived a victory in the building in which Ali regained his heavyweight title from Ken Norton in 1973.
Finally, while one show is a small sample size, could it be a coincidence such a great night of fights occurred following the California State Athletic Commission's new weigh-in procedure, in which fighters don't have to stay dehydrated all day waiting for the late afternoon dog-and-pony show? The fighters just about unanimously loved the opportunity to weigh-in Friday morning and the fights were great. While that's not enough to definitively state the weigh-ins were the cause of the great fight night, there's more than enough positive to make it a no-brainer the experiment should be continued, and not just in the Golden State.
Fight to make next: Bisping-Rockhold 3
A Bisping-Rockhold trilogy seems obvious for reasons both in and out of the cage. In the cage, both fighters own convincing victories over one another. A rubber match is merited from a competitive aspect. And that doesn't even factor in the fact a full buildup of hype, fresh with the footage from last night's postfight press conference histrionics. Sure, other fighters have title shot cases at 185, but after a night like last night, they'll have to take a back seat.
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