Today’s UFC 199 main event clash between Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping is about more than the middleweight championship belt on the line.
There is considerable hatred between these two, as has been on display since the fight was set up two and a half weeks ago. Not unlike their first matchup in Nov. 2014, the verbal jabs have been swift and furious, like this exchange from Thursday’s press conference.
Bisping: “It sounds like the worst self-help book you've ever read. Conceive, believe, achieve. Shut the (expletive) up. Listen, you're talking like you're this dominant champion. You just won the belt, this is your first defense. It’s not like you’re Anderson Silva, who I just beat by the way. This is your first defense, and you’re going to lose the belt.
Rockhold: “And watch the difference. I’ll separate myself from the pack. I’ll show you and the world that I’m that much better than you and Anderson!.”
Bisping: “Everybody here knows you won the first fight, Congratulations! Good job! Every fight is different my friend.”
Rockhold: “Listen, you’re just an average bloke. I’m a (expletive) samurai. Silent, undetected, and I’m going to knock you out.”
As if that weren’t enough, the vitriol reached fever pitch in Friday’s weigh-ins as Bisping touched Rockhold before quickly being separated by UFC President Dana White.
But what will happen when the two meet in the Octagon this evening? As heated as things got in the short buildup to this fight, expect even more firepower once the Octagon door is shut.
Rockhold, a high-level kickboxer, does not waste time once the bell rings. According to FightMetric, he currently holds the longest-active finishing streak in the UFC with five consecutive finishes – a span that includes his win over Bisping in 2014. The champion’s average fight time in the UFC is a mere 6 minutes, 29 seconds, fifth-shortest among active middleweights.
As heated as things have gotten over the last few days, expect an even more ferocious Rockhold.
“I’m going to knock him out with something else,” Rockhold said in a phone interview before arriving in Los Angeles. “I’m not even going to use my left leg – everybody knows I can knock someone out with my left leg. I’m just not even going to use it. I’m going to use my right hand, I’m going to use my left straight, I’m going to use my right kick. I’m going to eliminate the left kick. I’m going to show everybody something different.”
“I’m not going to lie, I enjoy hearing his banter sometimes, (Bisping) is a clever (expletive). But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s a (expletive). He’s a (expletive), he’s a (expletive) and I’m going to make him pay.”
For his part, Bisping will bring his own firepower to The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Not only does the 10-year UFC veteran hold the mark for the most significant strikes in UFC history, but he holds the second highest striking rate among active middleweights with 4.5 significant strikes per minute (Rockhold holds the mark at 4.92).
While “The Count” has certainly held his own — or has even been superior — in the verbal wars, that edge hasn’t swayed the oddmakers. Most sports books have him as a significant underdog tonight. But Bisping has been in this position before – he was the underdog prior to his last fight against Anderson Silva before claiming the biggest victory of his career and putting himself in position for Rockhold again.
“Listen, I know I’m expected to lose and I know everybody’s got me as the underdog, but I don’t see myself as the underdog,” Bisping said Thursday. “I’m performing amazingly. I’m fresh, I’m explosive, I’m strong.”
The war of words is over. Tonight, the real show begins.