What was your reaction to Michael Bisping’s UFC 199 title win? Who do you want him to defend that title against first and why?
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
First and foremost, I felt amusement. Amusement at Luke Rockhold’s total arrogance being exposed in the most definitive way possible. Rockhold took the fight on short notice with a bum knee for one reason and one reason only: because no man on this planet likes himself more than Luke Rockhold likes Luke Rockhold. And who can blame him, what with that face and the surfing and the abs and the kicking and stuff. Unfortunately, none of that was of any use on Saturday night.
Of course, there was a bit of shock in there as well. I mean, even though the entire civilized world and New Jersey knew that Rockhold was going to tease Michael Bisping like Ramsay Bolton’s pre-flaying of Theon Greyjoy, most people gave Greyjoy a better shot of beating Rockhold (and Greyjoy doesn’t even exist; He’s a fictional character). That Rockhold went so overboard with the – I don’t want to swear here so I’ll just say – with the Rockholding was a testament to his belief that Bisping was less dangerous to him than Jessica Penne.
So now the UFC has a Middleweight Champion who will be a decided underdog in his first tile defense. Rockhold, Jacare Souza, Chris Weidman, Yoel Romero, Tim Kennedy, Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort, and even Dan Henderson’s Right Hand would all open as a favorite over Bisping.
The biggest winners coming out of UFC 199 are Bisping (of course), whichever middleweight gets the call from Uncle Dana (my call is that Dan Henderson’s getting the shot because Jacare vs. Bisping ain’t drawing that Anderson Silva money, dig?), and Miesha Tate. Miesha Tate? Yes, Miesha Tate can now revel in the knowledge that she is no longer the weakest reigning champion in UFC history.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor. It’s pretty amazing to see a guy break through after all these years. That’s one of the great things about sports. It was pretty awesome. As for who he should defend against first, I’m of the mindset that Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza should be the guy. For one, it would give Bisping a chance to crow about getting the title shot Jacare missed because of is surgery, but it’s also an extremely interesting fight. I would put Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman with the winner getting the next title shot. Both of those guys are coming off of losses while Jacare won his last fight, so that’s how I would decide this very close decision.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I went through all the stages of shock. Denial. Anger. Disgust. Twitter. All the basic channels of funneling frustration at the outcome of a bout. Michael f’n Bisping is the champion? How many guys in this division have beaten him like its nothing? I’m at a loss for words here, I doubt he retains the title in a defense against just about anyone (Paging Conor MacGregor) but yeah this isn’t good for the division to have a mediocre guy win a lucky fill in title bout.
JAMIE PENICK, MMATORCH EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
I was legitimately shocked. I didn’t see a scenario in which he actually pulled it off, even if Rockhold came in as cocky as he did. It still seemed like Rockhold was going to find a way to hurt Bisping when he felt like it to finish the fight just as he did in the first bout. I didn’t quite anticipate him taking Bisping as lightly as he did, leaving himself open to getting clipped similar to what happened against Vitor Belfort, and him allowing for that to happen is entirely on him.
I credit Bisping for proving me wrong. Mea culpa. Crow eaten. It’s a fantastic accomplishment, a wonderful human story after years and years of falling just short, and quite simply one of the craziest title outcomes in UFC history.
Now we move on. Bisping’s the champion, and there are four names with varying cases for that first shot: Rockhold, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Chris Weidman, and Yoel Romero. My initial thoughts would be to book Bisping against Jacare for a fresh and interesting new matchup, while Rockhold and Weidman rematch in New York in November to determine the next challenger. There’s also a very strong case for Rockhold getting the trilogy fight given the late notice opponent switch and the fact that he’s got a stoppage win over Bisping himself. The rubber match allows them to determine who is truly better than the other, but it leaves both Weidman and Souza in limbo, and I’m not sure it’s right to make Souza have to take a fight with someone off a loss to get his shot.
Romero, given he technically beat Souza, could have a case in his return from a shortened suspension, but that’s a bit less interesting. Weidman, meanwhile, probably shouldn’t leap frog any of them given his loss to Rockhold, so he’s out and awaits whichever name the UFC decides to give him in NYC this November.
Depending on when they want to book Bisping and how quick they can make it happen, the Rockhold rematch could be the top option. If both are healthy enough to fight at UFC 202, that’s a strong co-main under Conor McGregor-Nate Diaz. If it moves into September or October, “Jacare” should get the shot with the Rockhold-Weidman rematch then happening in NYC.
[Photo (c) Jake Roth via USA Today Sports]
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