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Fortunes changed for five at UFC 199

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
One of the saddest aspects of one of the weirdest and most newsworthy weekends in UFC history is that Michael Bisping, a fighter who seemed destined to never even get a championship match, ended up reminding Luke Rockhold, and everyone who follows MMA, of a valuable lesson.

When two top fighters are in a cage, anything can happen. Bisping's unlikely story of walking off a movie set to take a short-notice title fight with a champion, who soundly beat him years ago, has in one fight changed his legacy. Bisping would have always been looked back on as good fighter with a solid career. Now, you have to at least ask the question if he's a potential Hall of Famer.

Very quietly, Bisping tied Georges St-Pierre's record for most UFC wins with 19. He was also the fighter who the UFC's original expansion into the U.K. was built around. His longevity as a star has been a decade in a sport where such fame is often fleeting.

Before the knock on him was that he had a lot of wins, but when put in with championship level fighters, he would fall. But now he's beaten Anderson Silva and Rockhold in succession. He won a world title at 37 years old, two years after many wrote him off after being outwrestled by Tim Kennedy to a decision loss.

Bisping has always been one of the UFC's better fighters when it comes to promoting fights, a strong talker who sometimes, including after the show, says things he later regrets. While it was clear instantly that he regretted the homophobic slur he used when going back-and-forth arguing with Rockhold after the press conference, it would be in everyone's best interest that he publicly apologize for it.

Bisping becomes one of the most interesting champions in recent UFC history. For years, Bisping has been a guy who had a big name, but was heavily criticized and often called out. The feeling was that he wasn't great in any aspect of the game past strong cardio, even though he was also good at everything. In many ways, he's a modern version of Forrest Griffin, another unlikely former champion who had a Hall of Fame career, who used to joke that he was a "B" across the boards in every aspect of fighting.

But now, everyone in the division has to be fighting more than ever for the next shot. If you look at the current rankings, Dan Henderson, at No. 13, holds one of the most famous knockouts in UFC history over Bisping. No. 10 Kennedy beat him. Most of the top 10 would probably go in as favorites against him.

But realistically, his next contender should come from the quartet of Rockhold (15-3), former champion Chris Weidman (13-1), Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (23-4, 1 no contest) or Anderson Silva (33-7, 1 no contest).

Given that Rockhold, Weidman and Silva are all coming off losses, while Souza is coming off a win, that would favor him. Bisping himself at the press conference mentioned Souza's name as deserving a shot, and kept pushing the idea that Rockhold ducked Souza to fight him. Rockhold said he chose Bisping.. There was an obvious reason, in that Bisping would talk the short notice fight up, which Souza wouldn't be able to do.

That same issue comes to play now. They key things when it comes to what is next is the sports call and the business call.

From the sports call, one could argue for Yoel Romero (11-1), who beat Souza last year in a fight that was supposed to be for a title shot. Romero has never lost in the UFC. Now most did feel that Souza actually deserved that decision, which would have given him a nine fight winning streak. Romero is also currently on a drug test failure suspension. His suspension of six months runs out in July, so he would be ready. But he's also the least marketable of the viable contenders.

In a business that has always been based on money, Silva, Rockhold and Weidman are ahead in that aspect. Rockhold and Bisping went at it constantly in the post-fight press conference. They are 1-1 against each other. Even if Bisping claims a sparring session a few years ago puts him ahead 2-1, everyone knows that's just talk. Bisping openly talked of a trilogy, but also gave the impression he felt the third fight shouldn't happen right away.

Weidman has only one career loss, to Rockhold, and he was injured going into that fight. The ace in Weidman's back pocket is that the Nov. 12 show is the company's debut in Madison Square Garden. Weidman, from Long Island, is New York City's best fighter. Him going for the championship in the MSG debut from a business perspective makes all the sense in the world.

Weidman has been adamant he'll be ready for that show, but that's only five months away and neck surgery is serious business.

From a pay-per-view drawing standpoint, the biggest draw in the division is probably still Anderson Silva, who Bisping defeated on Feb. 27. Silva showed enough in that fight to where it is hardly a foregone conclusion who would win if they fought a second time. While some would argue Silva can no longer beat the top guys, he was very competitive with Bisping. Silva, currently recovering from gall bladder surgery, had Bisping in trouble on more than one occasion before losing the decision. So in that sense, his loss to Bisping was hardly as devastating as Rockhold and Weidman's last loss.

Silva, at 41, would have his own story as the aging legend going against a champion that he has a very legitimate shot at beating. If there is an idea of trying a stadium show in the U.K., like boxing has been able to pull off, that would probably be the most viable fight.

Let's look at how fortunes changed for five stars of UFC 199:

DOMINICK CRUZ - Cruz finished a three-fight series that dated back nine years with a convincing decision win over Urijah Faber. Faber immediately starting pushing his protege, Cody Garbrandt (9-0) for a title shot after Garbrandt's strong win over Thomas Almeida on May 29.

That would still seem early. The perfect scenario would be for TJ Dillashaw (12-3) to beat Raphael Assuncao (23-4) at UFC 200 and challenge next. Cruz beat Dillashaw, but it was an exciting and competitive fight that had people arguing over who deserved the win.

An Assuncao win would throw a monkey wrench into those plans. But no move should be made when it comes to the bantamweight title picture until after that fight.

LUKE ROCKHOLD - The last time Rockhold lost, via knockout to Vitor Belfort, he came back and went on a tear, looking the best he had in his career. The UFC has to decide who gets the shot at Bisping and work from there. If it isn't Rockhold, then Rockhold should face either Souza, Weidman or Silva in a match to determine the top contender.
It would also make sense for that to be in Madison Square Garden, or in November, with the idea that if there was an injury, Rockhold or his opponent would be ready to step into the title shot.

DAN HENDERSON - For years, Henderson has bristled off all the media talk of retirement, even with frequent losses, saying he feels great. But in the lead up to the fight, if was Henderson himself using the word.

From a storybook standpoint, you could not end a career on a better note, a come-from-behind spectacular knockout and with your family celebrating with you. As long as Henderson has his right hand, he is always a threat. But he's 45 and has taken a lot of punishment over the last several years, both in his wins and his losses. He noted his contract expired with this fight. He's also the type of fighter that Bellator may want, and has a prior relationship with Scott Coker.

But after the fight, he could have stepped up and challenged Bisping, given his famous knockout of him at UFC 100. Henderson shouldn't get the shot, but he does have something Bisping would like to avenge. But he didn't do that. He gave the strong impression that if UFC was to offer him a non-fighting position, he's at the point he would take it. And as his family was in the cage with him, it was a living reminder why, if that doesn't transpire, he'd feel the urge to fight again. Hopefully, he has an alternative and can leave the sport on the high note.

MAX HOLLOWAY - Holloway's decisive win over Ricardo Lamas was his ninth straight, putting him in the position of deserving a championship fight.

If Conor McGregor isn't going to come back to featherweight after the Nate Diaz fight, then Holloway deserves the winner of Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo's fight at UFC 200. If the Aldo vs. Edgar winner is going to face McGregor, then Holloway's position becomes more interesting.

By rankings, the most logical opponent would be Chad Mendes (17-4). The clear drawback is that a Mendes win would eliminate Holloway as a contender, while Mendes has lost to Edgar, McGregor and Aldo (twice) already. Because of that, this could benefit Brian Ortega (11-0, 1 no contest) who would make the most sense of the remaining contenders. If Ortega can beat Holloway, he would at least replace Holloway's spot in the top mix.

URIJAH FABER - Faber (33-9) will go down as a key figure in the sport's history. He established the featherweight division as WEC champion. But the almost always upbeat fighter was clearly questioning himself after losing every round on two of the three judges cards against Cruz.

The smaller weight classes are young men's divisions, and at 37, Faber was starting to realize that he may no longer be competitive with championship level fighters. If Dillashaw were to lose to Assuncao, there is history to make a Faber vs. Dillashaw fight. Faber himself talked of moving to 145. But with Cruz, he was having trouble dealing with the reach disadvantage. The evolution of the sport has brought in much bigger man cutting to featherweight, with much better takedown defense, then when Faber dominated the division. He also talked of wanting to fight when the new arena in Sacramento, his home town, opens up.

Faber can still be a popular fighter on a card and have good fights against people not at the championship level. He hasn't taken the kind of damage where you'd suggest he get out, but getting out before that happens is always better than after.

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