After losing the middleweight title rematch, the fight that caught our eye around here for this weekends UFC 199 was the matchup between Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas.
Yeah, yeah, we hear you. There’s two titles on the line. There’s a ton of beef between Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold, as well as Dominick Cruz and Uriah Faber. We get it, it’s just that those fights seemed so obvious in their outcomes, that witnessing the continued growth of Max Holloway was of more interest.
But then, all of a sudden at the UFC 199 Press Conference Luke Rockhold goes and tells everyone that he’s been dealing with a knee injury for the majority of his camp (an MCL to be specific). Before that, Daniel Cormier sent out a tweet earlier in May suggesting that he may have gotten the better of the UFC’s middleweight champion in a sparring session.
Now, obviously we saw the way the first fight between Bisping and Rockhold panned out. Or at least, the first fight inside the UFC, that is. The two have a feud dating back to a sparring session years ago, where Bisping alleges (and Rockhold seems to agree, to an extent) he got the better of the current champion.
The odds-makers certainly aren’t giving Bisping much of a chance in their unofficial rubber match, as hit sits generally around the 3:1 or 5:1 underdog mark. But is that fair? Sure, there’s not a lot to go on with regard to their sparring match-up, but it does seem like Bisping had some success there. When the two finally faced off under the bright lights in the octagon, Rockhold floored Bisping with a head kick before submitting him. The first round, however, was a fairly close contest.
The stats indicate just how close that first round was. Bisping landed slightly more significant strikes (14 to 12), while throwing double the volume of strikes (60 to 30). Now, this isn’t to say that Bisping necessarily won the first round. It was close, with Bisping finding most of his success from a distance, and Rockhold likely landing the more powerful shots. But it certainly wasn’t a blowout. The second round however, didn’t last very long. Head kicks are devastating, and are absolute game changers when they land flush (even sometimes when they don’t). It wasn’t long after the kick, that Bisping was tapping out. His prior successes in the first round smashed to bits.
But what about that injury Rockhold has been dealing with to his knee? He’s alleged that he’s spent his whole camp focusing solely on boxing, and seems to believe that even with a severe lack of mobility he’ll handle “The Count” easily. Bisping, to his credit, has claimed to have learned a lot from his fight against Anderson Silva. The Bisping that engaged Silva, arguably the greatest striker of all-time, on the feet for 5 rounds, may very well be a much different Michael Bisping than the one that stepped into the cage against Rockhold back in 2014.
While the title assuredly means a lot to Bisping, his win over Silva is perhaps an even greater achievement in terms of his overall career. There seems to be no pressure on Bisping, as he rides a mental and emotional high for a few short weeks in the lead up to UFC 199. A fighter with nothing to lose, riding the current wave of momentum competing against a champion who may be underestimating him and who is (somewhat) hurt, well, we may just be in for another shocking UFC title change.