INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Michael Bisping won the UFC middleweight championship with a stunning first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold on Saturday night, earning his first title at UFC 199 after 10 years and 26 fights in the promotion.
Bisping (30-7) spectacularly won the UFC 185-pound title just more than two weeks after accepting the bout as an injury replacement for former champion Chris Weidman.
Bisping abruptly knocked down Rockhold midway through the round with a left hand to the jaw of the backpedaling champion. Rockhold bounced back up and engaged Bisping, who knocked him down for good with another left hand, finishing the champion with 1:24 left in the round.
Bisping, an Englishman fighting out of Orange County, had never fought for a title in a decade with the UFC.
“This was my dream. Nobody was taking this away from me,” Bisping said. “Two weeks? Two days, two hours, two minutes. I’ll fight anybody on a moment’s notice.”
Dominick Cruz also defended his UFC bantamweight title with a clear unanimous decision over Urijah Faber, settling a nine-year feud in the third bout between the two California fighters.
The 37-year-old veteran was on set in Toronto – playing a villain in a new Vin Diesel movie – when he got the call to replace Weidman, who had to drop out of the rematch with a neck injury.
Bisping immediately began trading insults with Rockhold, who won his title in December with a fourth-round stoppage of Weidman. Although Bisping acknowledged he was an underdog, the loquacious brawler claimed he had learned enough to shock the world while losing to Rockhold by second-round submission 19 months ago in Sydney.
Cruz (22-1) largely dominated his 13th consecutive victory and his first title defense since reclaiming the 135-pound belt earlier this year after four years of injury setbacks. Although Cruz never appeared to be close to a stoppage, the clear victory was even sweeter coming against Faber (33-9), his longtime rival.
“Nothing surprising,” Cruz said about the win. “I’m just glad I’m here. It feels so good to be able to compete again. I thought I lost this at one point.”
Faber’s beef with Cruz began in 2007 and it never cooled during their two previous bouts and Cruz’s years out of the sport with knee woes that forced him to vacate the title. Faber beat Cruz in their first meeting nine years ago, but Cruz evened the series with a rematch victory in 2011.