No one can deny Michael Bisping’s place in history now.
After nearly 10 years and 26 appearances inside the Octagon, Bisping reached his desired destination, as he captured the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title with a stunning first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold in the UFC 199 main event on Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Bisping buried Rockhold with punches 3:36 into round one, completing his unlikely ascent to the top of the 185-pound division.
Never known as a power puncher, Bisping cut down the American Kickboxing Academy standout with two left hands. The first dazed and dropped Rockhold. The second, moments later, knocked him unconscious and left him defenseless against the cage. Bisping did the rest, forcing referee John McCarthy to step in on Rockhold’s behalf. At 37, he becomes the eighth UFC middleweight champion, following in the footsteps of Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, Evan Tanner, Murilo Bustamante and Dave Menne.
In wake of UFC 199 “Rockhold vs. Bisping 2,” here are five matchups that ought to be considered:
Related » UFC 199 By the Numbers
Michael Bisping vs. Ronaldo Souza: Few gave Bisping against Rockhold, the proverbial deck supposedly stacked against him. He had been soundly beaten in their first meeting -- Rockhold submitted him with a guillotine choke -- in November 2014, and there was little reason to believe the rematch would result in a vastly different outcome. Bisping laughed last, however, as he accepted the accepted the assignment on less than three weeks’ notice and capitalized on the opportunity. “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner has rattled off four straight wins and will find no shortage of options as the newly minted middleweight king. Of the current crop of contenders, Souza seems to be the most deserving challenger, but a pairing with Weidman or a trilogy bout with Rockhold both have appeal.
Dominick Cruz vs. T.J. Dillashaw-Rafael Assuncao winner: Cruz closed the book on his rivalry with Urijah Faber, as he retained the UFC bantamweight championship with a one-sided unanimous decision over the Team Alpha Male frontman in the co-main event. The 30-year-old carried all three judges’ scorecards: 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46. According to FightMetric data, Cruz outpaced Faber in significant strikes, 87-34, and total strikes, 99-49, scored the only official knockdown, executed three takedowns and passed guard twice. The performance could not have been more complete. Dillashaw will face Assuncao at UFC 200 on July 9.
Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar-Jose Aldo winner: Firmly entrenched as one of the world’s premier featherweights, Holloway continues to show growth as he ascends the 145-pound ladder. The 24-year-old Hawaiian recorded his ninth straight win with a three-round unanimous decision over Ricardo Lamas. With featherweight champion Conor McGregor set to move up in weight again to rematch Nate Diaz at UFC 202, plenty of uncertainty exists atop the division. Edgar and Aldo will collide for the interim featherweight title in McGregor’s stead at UFC 200. Holloway would be a natural fit for the winner, depending on what direction McGregor choose to take post-Diaz.
Dustin Poirier vs. Beneil Dariush: Poirier was sensational in his dissection of former King of the Cage champion Bobby Green. The 27-year-old American Top Team export blew away Green with punches 2:53 into the first round and now owns a perfect 4-0 record since returning the lightweight division, having bested Green, Joseph Duffy, Yancy Medeiros and Carlos Diego Ferreira in succession. It goes without saying that Poirier is an emerging threat at 155 pounds. Dariush, meanwhile, righted himself after a submission loss to Michael Chiesa in April, as he stopped the previously unbeaten James Vick with punches on the UFC 199 prelims. The Kings MMA rep has won six of his last seven fights.
Luke Rockhold vs. Vitor Belfort: The UFC could go any number of directions with Rockhold. He entered his rematch against Bisping with a torn knee ligament and promptly coughed up the middleweight championship in a stunning knockout loss. In hindsight, perhaps discretion would have been the better part of valor. The setback snapped Rockhold’s five-fight winning streak, and afterward, he openly admitted to taking the Englishman lightly. While rematches with Bisping and Weidman are definite possibilities, he has always pined for the opportunity to avenge his 2013 defeat to Belfort. There may be no better time than the present. Belfort, 39, last fought at UFC 198 in May, when he succumbed to first-round punches from the aforementioned “Jacare” Souza in Curitiba, Brazil.