The hits keep on coming as we enter yet another fight week leading up to UFC 204 in Manchester, England. Who would have thought we would have a Middleweight Title fight in 2016 between Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson? Bisping won his title in a shocker of a fight, coming on short notice to challenge champion Luke Rockhold as a major underdog. Henderson is coming off a massive KO win over Hector Lombard and has made it clear that win or lose, this will be the last fight of his MMA career. The card is stacked with action fighters and, I admit, it was hard to pick the best finishes of fighters on this event. Here is what I came up with.
5. Gegard Mousasi defeats Thiago Santos (UFC 200)
Mousasi had a wildly successful career fighting overseas and continued his success upon entering the UFC and dropping to middleweight. Santos was a competitor on TUF: Brazil 2 and was on a four fight win streak. Mousasi was originally to fight Derek Brunson but Brunson dropped out due to injury and Santos took the fight on short notice. Both fighters came out looking to strike and Mousasi immediately worked his patient boxing game. After a few minutes of tentative back-and-forth, Santos tagged Mousasi, who then hurt Santos and knocked him down. Mousasi gained back control and kept pressure on Santos. Santos nearly escaped before Mousasi threw him down again and gained side control. After Mousasi moved from half guard to mount, Santos escaped only to be caught with a perfect right uppercut immediately upon standing. He collapsed and Mousasi swarmed, the referee waving off the fight right away. Mousasi was declared the winner via TKO in the first round.
4. Ovince St. Preux defeats Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 56)
Mauricio Rua was the former Pride star and former UFC light heavyweight champion. He had been on the downside of his career but still possessed dangerous knockout power and big fan appeal. He had been scheduled to face Jimi Manuwa but Manuwa was injured and replaced with Ovince St. Preux. St. Preux was a talented college football player and dangerous kickboxer and was looking to rebound from a loss to Ryan Bader. The fight was expected to go in Rua’s favor as St. Preux was still young in his MMA career and wouldn’t be as talented as the superstar Rua. Both fighters came out throwing kicks and looked to circle and find range. Only thirty seconds in, Rua threw a leg kick that backed St. Preux up against the fence. Rua came in with a straight right that was parried and as he moved forward, St. Preux threw a short left hook that caught Rua directly on the chin. Rua collapsed against the fence and St. Preux immediately pounced. After a barrage of punches that were mostly undefended, the referee waved the fight off only thirty seconds into the contest. St. Preux was declared the winner via TKO in the first round.
3. Vitor Belfortdefeats Luke Rockhold (UFC on FX 8)
I’m aware this period in the career of Vitor Belfort has been somewhat tainted by the TRT era but that doesn’t change just how amazing this knockout truly was. Rockhold was coming into the UFC on a nine fight winning streak and as the final Strikeforce middleweight champion. Belfort was coming off of the huge head kick knockout of Michael Bisping. Both fighters were on their way up the title ladder and needed a big win to make their case. The fight opened with Belfort stalking Rockhold across the cage. Rockhold would then take the Octagon center with Belfort moving backwards and waiting to counter. A stuffed takedown from Rockhold would prompt a big flurry from Belfort and both fighters battling for position against the cage. Rockhold would escape and begin throwing leg kicks and looking for one big shot. Belfort threw a few combos to put Rockhold moving backwards. When Rockhold finally stood still for a moment at the halfway point of the round, Belfort threw a spinning back kick that landed soundly to the side of Rockhold’s head. Rockhold hit the canvas and Belfort was all over him. When Rockhold stopped fighting back, the fight was over and Belfort declared the winner via KO in the first round.
2. Michael Bisping defeats Luke Rockhold (UFC 199)
It was truly difficult to choose this KO as number 2 and not 1 on this list but we’ll get to that in a moment. UFC 199 was originally a rematch between Chris Weidman and champion Luke Rockhold but Weidman dropped out due to a back injury. Michael Bisping took the fight with less than three weeks to prepare, hoping to avenge a previous loss to Rockhold. It can be said that Rockhold perhaps did not take Bisping as seriously as he should have, believing that the second fight would be as one-sided as the first. Bisping came into the fight knowing that it might be his only shot to win a UFC title in his career. Rockhold took the center of the cage immediately with Bisping utilizing a large amount of lateral movement early. Both fighters threw pawing strikes to establish range and some early leg kicks from both sides. It was noted early on by Joe Rogan that Rockhold was fighting very upright and had his chin straight up and not tucked. Rockhold worked Bisping early with big kicks to the head and body and it appeared we were in for a repeat of their first fight. When the end came, Rockhold came bouncing in and missed with a straight right. When he tried to back up and reset, his chin was straight out and Bisping pushed forward with a flurry. When he did so, Bisping caught Rockhold moving backwards with a swinging left right on the chin. Rockhold’s legs gave out and he tumbled to the canvas. He managed to stand up on wobbly legs as Bisping rushed in and received an overhand left directly to the skull. Rockhold crumbled and Bisping swarmed, forcing the referee to stop the fight. Just like that, Michael Bisping was the new UFC middleweight champion.
1. Dan Henderson defeats Michael Bisping (UFC 100)
As the movie Highlander once stated, there could only be one. Among all the fighters on Saturday’s card, only one has had a knockout big enough to be remembered this well almost nearly eight years later. Never before had the true H-bomb been dropped so perfectly and on one of the biggest cards in UFC history. Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping were coaches on TUF 9 and there was no love lost between the two men. It was believed that a title shot was on the line when the two fought and the battle would take place at the historic UFC 100 card. The fight itself was evenly matched early with Bisping utilizing his lateral movement and throwing small but damaging strikes. Henderson was content to stalk the Brit around the cage, waiting for the moment to throw the finishing blow. Just with less than two minutes left in round two, Henderson finally capitalized on Bisping moving towards his power hand. When Bisping moved to his left and Henderson’s right, Henderson threw a left leg kick and immediately launched the H-bomb right hook. The hook smashed Bisping right on the chin and knocked him unconscious upon hitting the canvas. Before the referee could stop him, Henderson threw a flying right hook and bombed Bisping on the chin once again. Truly one of the greatest knockouts in MMA history and I’m excited to see how Henderson goes out in his last and most important fight.
Agree or disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or hit me up on Twitter: @mattpete1088
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(Matthew Peterson is an MMATorch contributor who has been a fan of MMA since he first watched UFC 100. He currently resides with his wife in St. Cloud, Minn. He believes that Chris Lytle was God’s gift to fight fans and Cowboy Cerrone comes in at a close second. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mattpete1088.)