Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight rivals Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson clashed last night (Oct. 8, 2016) at UFC 204 inside Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
After years and years of grinding away in the Middleweight division only to come up just short, Bisping finally headlined a bout in England with a title on the line. More than that, the Englishman was actually defending his crown! In a massive moment for Bisping — personally and professionally — "The Count" looked to avenge an infamous loss. On the other hand, UFC 204 will be remembered in part as Dan Henderson’s swan song. The 46 year old knockout artist was finally given a second shot at UFC gold, and he was looking to find the perfect spot for his right hand.
He came close, but the finish never materialized.
The first round occurred largely at a very slow pace. Henderson threw little besides some low kicks and pawing jabs, while Bisping threw at a higher volume but didn’t fully commit to his punches. For a majority of the round, Bisping landed more and slightly better punches. However, with about 30 seconds remaining, Henderson landed a massive right hand that sent Bisping tumbling to the mat. The fight very nearly ended right there, but Bisping survived until the end of the round.
Despite the disastrous ending of the opening round, Bisping really found his rhythm quickly. His punches began landing with more force, and Bisping was making great use of kicks and knees from the left side. With about 1.5 minutes left in the round, Bisping stunned his opponent with a combination and an illegal low kick. As he pursued his wounded foe, Henderson once again dropped the hammer directly into Bisping’s jaw line.
Once again, Henderson was unable to finish, but the knockdown and top control likely earned him the round.
For the first time in the fight, Bisping was able to go the entire round without getting dropped. He continued his measured attack, landing lots of kicks and jabs. When Henderson was out of position, Bisping was able to commit more to his heavy punches and landed fairly well.
Unexpectedly, the fight moved into the championship rounds.
The fourth round was a bit odd. Henderson ate a second illegal low kick but was awarded his time to recover, and he used that time to catch his breath a bit. Following that period of time, Henderson was able to compete far more effectively, landing at a higher volume than before.
It was still Bisping’s round, but things were likely tied up heading into the fifth and final round.
Shockingly, the fifth was the closest of the fight. Henderson used the last bits of his gas tank to score with more activity — though no massive overhands — and he even scored a takedown and controlled from top position for a bit. Meanwhile, Bisping was still able to throw and land more strikes, but not to the same extent as before.
It was close, but ultimately all three judges award Bisping the decision victory.
This was hardly the dominant defense Bisping was hoping before. To be honest, he really didn’t look that great, as he left openings for precisely what we all knew Henderson would throw.
While his left kick heavy strategy was smart, it has to be asked why Bisping didn’t look to wrestle at all. He’s proven to be a strong wrestler before, and there’s nothing more draining than wrestling. Even if he didn’t turn to his takedowns early, there were times in the third and fourth where Henderson was stumbling around barely on his feet.
Just one takedown could’ve brought in a stoppage via exhaustion.
Either way, Bisping’s conditioning and toughness earned him a title defense. His next opponent will be one of the top four contenders he called out in his post-fight speech (Weidman, Rockhold, Romero, and Souza), and each of those men will be an extremely tough fight.
As for Henderson, he did a fantastic job given his skill set and conditioning. He came far closer to a decision win than anyone thought possibly, and that’s solely due to his toughness and experience.
Diminished or not, Henderson doesn’t go away. While Henderson ultimately came up short, nearly capturing the UFC title at 46 years old is an accomplishment in its own right. Henderson has more than earned his relaxing retirement.
Last night at UFC 204, Michael Bisping successfully defended his crown for the first time. How long can the Englishman retain his strap?
For complete UFC 204: "Bisping vs Henderson" results and play-by-play, click HERE!