Hail to “The Count.” Michael Bisping is the new undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder.
Bisping -- a short-notice replacement for the injured Chris Weidman -- authored one of the year’s biggest upsets, as he knocked out Luke Rockhold in the first round of their UFC 199 headliner on Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Bisping (29-7, 19-7 UFC) shut the door in emphatic fashion 3:36 into round one. The shock value was off the charts.
Rockhold (15-3, 5-2 UFC) chipped away with kicks before the fight turned in an instant. Bisping connected with a chopping counter left hand that felled the American Kickboxing Academy ace. The badly dazed Rockhold tried to return to his feet but was immediately met with a clean left hook that dropped him against the cage. Bisping cleaned up what was left with follow-up punches.
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Cruz Dominates Archrival Faber to Decision
In the co-main event, Alliance MMA’s Dominick Cruz spent the better part of five rounds toying with Urijah Faber, as he captured a one-sided unanimous decision, closed the book on the trilogy with his archrival and retained the UFC bantamweight championship. All three cageside judges sided with Cruz (22-1, 5-0 UFC): 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46.
Faber (33-9, 9-5 UFC) might as well have been fighting a ghost. Cruz darted in and out with punches, mixed in occasional leg kicks, initiated the few grappling exchanges that took place between the two and knocked down the Team Alpha Male patriarch twice. Faber’s situation deteriorated as the seconds and minutes ticked away, as he ate punches while mostly swinging at air.
The 30-year-old Cruz has recorded 13 consecutive wins since submitting to a Faber guillotine in March 2007.
Holloway Wins Ninth Straight
Max Holloway continued his climb on the 145-pound ladder, as he picked apart a game but outgunned Ricardo Lamas in a three-round featherweight attraction. Holloway (16-3, 12-3 UFC) swept the scorecards with matching 30-27 marks from all three judges, extending his winning streak to nine fights.
Quick, accurate punching combinations, exquisite counterstriking and a seemingly unshakable chin carried Holloway to the winner’s circle. He had Lamas in trouble in the first and second rounds, as he blasted away with the surgical precision for which he has become known on the feet and even threatened with chokes during a few ground exchanges. Three-, four- and five-punch combinations kept Lamas (16-5, 7-3 UFC) at bay, and his desperation increased as the fight wore on. Though clearly in front, Holloway never stopped hunting the finish. In the closing seconds, he invited Lamas to trade blows in the center of the cage, and the two featherweight contenders gave the audience what it wanted.
Lamas, 34, has lost two of his last three fights.
Henderson Head Kick, Elbow KOs Lombard
Former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson authored one of the most memorable knockouts in his unrivaled career, as he put away Hector Lombard with a head kick and a slashing backward elbow in the second round of their featured middleweight clash. Henderson (32-14, 9-8 UFC) flipped the switch on the Cuban judoka 1:27 into round two.
Both men teetered on the brink in the first round. Henderson staggered the onetime Bellator MMA champion with his fabled right hand, only to have the American Top Team rep fire back with a short left and follow with a takedown. Later in the round, Lombard (34-5-1, 3-4 UFC) leveled “Hendo” with a clean left hook; a finish seemed near and inevitable. Henderson survived and pushed the fight into the middle stanza. There, he connected with the head kick, followed with the elbow and landed two more blows on the already unconscious Lombard before referee Herb Dean could arrive on the scene.
Afterward, the 45-year-old Henderson hinted that retirement could be on the horizon.
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Surging Poirier Dispatches Green
American Top Team’s Dustin Poirier wiped out former King of the Cage champion Bobby Green with first-round punches in a lightweight showcase. Green (23-7, 4-2 UFC), who had not fought since November 2014, met his end 2:53 into round one.
Poirier (20-4, 12-3 UFC) has become impossible to ignore in the pool of contenders at 155 pounds. The 27-year-old Louisianan ran circles around Green, answering his verbal taunts with deft footwork and clean punches in tight spaces. Poirier dropped the “King” twice, first with a left hook. Green withstood his bid for the finish but only for a short time. Back on the feet, Poirier continued his assault, floored the Californian with a straight left to the side of the head and closed the deal with subsequent ground strikes.
Poirier has won four fights in a row.