Before either of the UFC 199 main event title fights even kicked off, it was already one of the craziest nights in recent UFC memory. Dan Henderson had one of the greatest knockouts of his career before hinting at retirement, the rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz at UFC 202 was announced and, oh yeah, Brock Lesnar was teased at the end of the UFC 200 trailer.
There were two title fights, though, so let’s get to those. These are the UFC 199 Talking Points.
It Only Takes One
Michael Bisping sounded like one of the most confident fighters in the UFC in the two week buildup to UFC 199. Whether anyone – outside of his team, family or friends – believed him is a different story. At one point Luke Rockhold was a -1000 favorite at some Las Vegas sports books. Most assumed the Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman rematch was all but a sure thing. But Bisping shocked the world with one punch.
“This has been a life time’s work and I always felt I was capable,” Bisping said. “I understand why people didn’t believe in me because I’ve lost some key fights.”
Bisping came out swinging, like he has his whole career, and silenced his critics who’ve always said he doesn’t have elite punching power. Near the end of Round 1 he caught Rockhold with a left hook that stunned the champ and sent him to the ground.
Bisping’s run this year will go down as one of the best the UFC has ever seen. The 10-year veteran was always been viewed as the man who couldn’t win the big fight. Now, in a span of four months, he defeated the man most call the greatest ever, Anderson Silva, and then the third-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
“Obviously I didn’t respect him enough and I did something I normally don’t do,” Rockhold said. “I guess destiny is real. If you give me the rematch I will respect him more, but I will put him away.”
The “Decisionator” lives on. The judges were left with an easy decision (50-45 twice and 49-46) as Dominick Cruz put on a classic performance and retains his bantamweight title.
“There’s nothing I can say, he bested me tonight,” Faber said in the Octagon after the fight.
RELIVE UFC 199: Buy the replay | Complete results | Read: Bisping stuns Rockhold, wins UFC title | Cruz dominant in title defense | Hendo scores emotional win; Poirier, Holloway win | Ortega, Dariush, Andrade get TKO wins | Strickland, da Silva Reyes win in early prelims
For once the two rivals agree on something. Cruz started slow, feeling out the “California Kid”, and even fell victim to a big takedown. From that point on it was the same Cruz that has won 12 consecutive fights. He used his unique style to nudge close to Faber before ducking right back out while Faber threw at air. Other times he crept in and surprised Faber with a big left hand. Twice the champion had Faber on the brink after knocking him down, but couldn’t get the finish.
“I felt like he didn’t respect my power so I wanted him to come at me. And he did,” Cruz said. “I try to shut down people’s strengths and make them useless to them.”
Turning Back the Clock
On a night with two world title fights, it was Dan Henderson who temporarily stole the show. The future Hall of Famer was on the edge of getting knocked out by Hector Lombard in the first round. But behind chants of “HENDO!” by The Forum’s energetic sellout crowd, the 45-year-old landed a clean elbow to Lombard's temple, knocking him out.
The Forum erupted and gave Henderson a standing ovation as referee Herb Dean raised his hand for what could be the final time. Henderson hinted before and after the fight he may retire. If he does, it’d be a fitting ending for his last fight to conclude with arguably his best knockout ever.
“I don’t want to make any decisions emotionally but in my mind there’s a possibility that that may be my last one,” Henderson said. “It all depends what my options are so we’ll see what happens.”
Max Holloway has been tested throughout his career and particularly in his last three fights. But Saturday presented a new challenge as Ricardo Lamas is the highest-ranked, and best wrestler, he’s faced yet. Holloway shunned Lamas’ takedowns and made it look easy en route to a unanimous win (30-27 three times). It was a clinic all the way with Holloway using his distance to avoid nearly everything Lamas threw at him.
Now a winner of nine straight, Holloway is clearly next in line for a shot at the 145-pound title; he just may have to wait a bit. Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar fight for the interim title at UFC 200 with the winner likely to face champ McGregor.
“If I have to make it 10 (wins in a row) I will,” Holloway said.
The hype behind Brian Ortega is officially justified. His two wins over Thiago Taveres and Diego Brandao were enough to make “T-City” the 12th-ranked featherweight. Saturday, his knockout of longtime vet Clay Guida was enough to put the rest of the division on notice.
Ortega finished his last two opponents in the third and final round in stunning fashion and it seems to be becoming a pattern. He looked tentative in Round 1 against Guida, who was very bouncy and aggressive on the way to a clear 10-9 round. Then Ortega found his groove, starting to counter Guida’s attacks by popping in and out and eventually maintaining clear Octagon control in the third. His knee with just minutes left makes all three of his UFC wins come in the final round.
A bump into the Top 10, and a Top 10 opponent, seems realistic for Ortega’s future.