UFC 199 PREVIEW: Penick’s main card thoughts and predictions for “Rockhold vs. Bisping II” event

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

UFC 199 hits The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Saturday night, headlined by Luke Rockhold’s first defense of the UFC Middleweight Championship. The card also features the Bantamweight Title fight between Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, and high level bouts between Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas as well as Dustin Poirier and Bobby Green.

The UFC’s June pay-per-views often struggle due to their proximity to Memorial Day weekend and July 4 events, but with no pay-per-view in late May and an extended break until UFC 200, there’s a possibility Saturday’s card can avoid those historical lows.

Here’s what’s on tap Saturday night to try making that happen:

Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping (UFC Middleweight Championship): Bisping’s status as a durable, reliable veteran has kept him on the fringe of contention for most of his UFC run. He’s fallen short in his biggest opportunities time and time again, which is why this is his first shot at a UFC title after a decade in the organization. Though he’s entering off a win over Anderson Silva and is certainly deserving of this shot he’s getting, there’s little reason to believe he’s going to take the title from Rockhold. The current Champion has fight-ending power on the feet, relentless attacks on the ground, brutal submission ability, and excellent instincts whenever he’s got someone hurt. That’s how Rockhold won the first fight; he hurt Bisping early in the second round, and locked on a guillotine finish to end the bout. Rockhold’s knee injury may affect some of his attack, but he’s still likely to beat Bisping to the punch in their exchanges, and when the opening comes he’ll finish this fight. The only question is just how it happens; either he locks on another submission once he gets Bisping down, or he beats him up on the ground to force a stoppage. Either way, he’s almost assuredly holding onto the belt. Rockhold by TKO in the second round

Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber (UFC Bantamweight Championship): The history to this matchup drives it more than just about anything else. Faber had far from his best performance in his last outing against Frankie Saenz, and lost to Frankie Edgar the fight before that. Granted, that was at featherweight, and his two fights before that were submission wins, but it’s been more than two years since he’s had a peak-level performance. Cruz had a really good fight with T.J. Dillashaw in January, and even though I felt he lost that fight he still utilized his footwork well, his speed was on point despite the injury layoff, and it didn’t seem as if he’d lost a step. If that speed advantage is there, Faber’s going to need to be much better than he’s been with his attack in the last couple years, because he needs the aggression to cut down distance and to press his pace against Cruz. When he connected five years ago, he hurt Cruz, and just didn’t do it often enough to fully secure that win. He can’t allow Cruz to dictate the pace, stick and move, and avoid his rushes. He has to get in to land, he has to do so often, and if he fails to do that he will lose a decision. I don’t know that I see 2016 Faber finding enough success here to do that, and though it’ll be competitive I see this going to Cruz by decision.

Max Holloway vs. Ricardo Lamas (Featherweight): Holloway has been winning fights in every conceivable fashion, out-striking most of his opponents while adding intermittent submission wins along with a couple of decision victories. He went toe to toe with Conor McGregor in a competitive three round fight for his last loss, and he continues to impress in most of his performances. Lamas was beaten by Jose Aldo in a one-sided fight for the title two years ago, and though he’s won three of four since then, a TKO loss at the hands of Chad Mendes stands out. He’s out-worked fighters below him, with his best of those three wins coming against Dennis Bermudez. This one is a significant test for Holloway, because if he can be impressive against someone at Lamas’ level it’s a sign of how close he is to a title fight. I think he takes that next step forward, but this could be a road block fight as well. Holloway by TKO in the second round.

Dan Henderson vs. Hector Lombard (Heavyweight): This fight will either end quickly, or be one of the worst fights of the year. It’s hard to imagine much in between with what we’ve gotten from both fighters in recent years. Lombard’s loss to Neil Magny after failing to stop him in his last fight could have him more tentative so as to not gas out as quickly, and when he fights like that it’s hard to watch. Of course, Henderson’s chin hasn’t been entirely there, so a quick first round finish is easy to see happening as well. That could be the case on the other hand if Henderson can land the big right hand. Either way, this is probably the least anticipated fight on the card for most. Lombard by TKO in the first round.

Dustin Poirier vs. Bobby Green (Lightweight): It’s been a year and a half since Green was in the cage, while Poirier has found new life as a vicious and talented lightweight since moving up. Poirier’s win over Joseph Duffy in January was extremely impressive, and though he didn’t stop that fight he was every bit as good as his two previous first round finishes. Green is a tough out, and has the overall game to make this a close, competitive fight, but it’s hard to know how the layoff will have affected him. It hits everyone differently, but this should play out competitively. Poirier should have an edge, and I think he’ll do enough to win, but Green will stay with him on the feet, in the clinch, and on the ground should it get there. Poirier by decision.

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