Michael Bisping denied the fairytale ending for Dan Henderson.
“The Count” withstood two knockdowns to retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown with a unanimous decision over Henderson in the UFC 204 main event on Saturday at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. Scores were 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46, all in favor of Bisping. Afterward, the 46-year-old Henderson announced his retirement, closing out a remarkable career that spanned 47 fights across nearly two decades of competition. The trophy-case space he was saving for a UFC championship will remain forever vacant.
It was anything but a walk in the park for Bisping, who hit the deck twice -- once in the first round and again in the second -- after absorbing the former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder’s fabled right hand. He was in jeopardy of being stopped in round one, where Henderson bombarded him with crushing elbows after he sent him crashing to the canvas with an equilibrium-jarring overhand. Bisping endured but emerged with substantial damage to his left eye.
Henderson faded down the stretch, particularly in the championship rounds, as he could muster neither the speed nor the power necessary to author the finish. Bisping continued to apply pressure while “Hendo” sucked wind. According to FightMetric data, he out-landed Henderson in significant strikes and total strikes in each of the final four rounds.
In wake of UFC 204 “Bisping vs. Henderson 2,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Michael Bisping vs. Luke Rockhold-Ronaldo Souza winner: Bisping waited more than seven years to avenge his brutal knockout loss to Henderson at UFC 100 and made the most of the opportunity. The 37-year-old left the Octagon with the middleweight championship strapped to his waist after being awarded a unanimous verdict over the future hall-of-famer. Bisping has now rattled off five consecutive victories, but his degree of difficulty figures to increase substantially in his next title defense. Rockhold will square off with Souza in a UFC Fight Night headliner on Nov. 27 in Melbourne, Australia. The winner of a Chris Weidman-Yoel Romero showdown at UFC 205 could also factor into the equation at 185 pounds.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Derek Brunson-Robert Whittaker winner: Mousasi systematically dismantled Vitor Belfort in their co-main event, as he continued to distance himself from his surprising technical knockout loss to Uriah Hall a little more than a year ago. The former Strikeforce, Dream and Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder has strung together three straight wins since his ill-fated encounter with Hall, keeping himself relevant in the middleweight division. Brunson will lock horns with Whittaker in the UFC Fight Night 101 “Rockhold vs. Jacare 2” co-headliner on Nov. 27.
Jimi Manuwa vs. Ryan Bader-Antonio Rogerio Nogueira winner: He had become a bit of a forgotten man at 205 pounds, but Manuwa reminded onlookers of his devastating capabilities with a show-stopping finish of Ovince St. Preux. He jarred “OSP” with an overhand right before knocking him unconscious with a mean left hook 2:38 into the second round. The powerful and athletic Manuwa, 36, now owns a 5-2 record in the UFC, with his only losses coming to Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson. Bader will rematch Nogueira atop a UFC Fight Night card on Nov. 19 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Stefan Struve vs. Derrick Lewis-Marcin Tybura winner: The 6-foot-11 Struve recorded his third win in four appearances, as he submitted Daniel Omielanczuk with a second-round brabo choke in their heavyweight showcase. It marked the first time Omielanczuk had been finished in his 26-fight professional career. Struve despite his flaws remains a factor in a heavyweight division lacking in depth and young talent. The 28-year-old Dutchman also benefits from a 2012 victory over current champion Stipe Miocic. Lewis and Tybura will do battle at UFC 206 on Dec. 10 in Toronto.
Mirsad Bektic vs. Brian Ortega: Bektic made his first appearance in nearly 16 months and showed no signs of rust, as he submitted former King of the Cage and Tachi Palace Fights champion Russell Doane with a first-round rear-naked choke. The American Top Team prospect solidified himself as a premium talent at 145 pounds, pushing his perfect record to 11-0. Bektic has now beaten Doane, Lucas Martins, Paul Redmond and Chas Skelly since he arrived in the UFC in April 2014. Ortega last appeared at UFC 199 in June, when he knocked out Clay Guida with a knee strike in the third round of their bout at The Forum in Inglewood, California.