A brand new feature to answer the biggest question from the night before, Andreas Georgiou looks at a potential trilogy following UFC 204.
It had all the makings of a dramatic movie plot; a palpable narrative with multiple endings, but the UFC 204 main event proved to be a divisive finale for the Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson rivalry.
A rematch over seven years in the making, a rocking Manchester Arena played host to Bisping’s first title defence, with the Brit notching a unanimous decision over his old foe.
The sequel to their historic fight at UFC 100, where Hendo ‘H-bombed’ Bisping in such a manner that is still talked about today. This time, with retirement pending for the 46-year-old American hero, he looked to once again spoil the party for Bisping.
In some senses the fight was akin to a Rocky movie, with had the old grizzled foreigner coming into enemy territory against the hometown hero with equally as much to lose.
Overcoming two early knockdowns, Bisping battled through to take the decision win, with two 48-47 scores and one 49-46. It was a decision though, which caused a serious amount of debate.
There were confused calls for a 10-8 round in the first and despite a solid H-Bomb, it was a preposterous claim. MMA judging criteria will always be in the line of fire, but unlike boxing, a knockdown does not automatically equate to a 10-8. Of course it holds a strong amount of weight, but it is not the definitive criteria.
Certainly, Henderson did very well early on in the fight, bloodying Bisping in the first five minutes. But it was evident that “The Count” showed far too much apprehension and respect for the fearsome right hand of Hendo, something which hindered him in the opening two rounds.
Hendo landed 11 more strikes than Bisping; nine more significant, in the first round. It would be tough to dispute that the former two-weight PRIDE champion had claimed the opening stanza at UFC 204.
But as the fight progressed, Bisping’s confidence and comfort grew and that was a massive proponent of his win. Although Henderson once again stumbled the champion in the second round, it was Bisping – as he is known for – who began landing in higher volume.
It was Bisping’s key to victory and even though Henderson pulled out an important takedown in the final moments of the fight, the 37-year-old’s resilience saw him drag himself upright to end the bout.
A fight full of emotions and multi-layered stories, Bisping may have avenged his loss to Henderson but the narrative told much more than just who the winner and loser was.
When it was all said and done, the ‘old man’ proved that although age may prove to be a limitation, his heart cannot be questioned.
“You just kicked my arse man,” nodded Bisping after the fight, as Henderson affirmed his decision to retire, in spite of his disapproval for the decision.
As the camera glanced at their retrospective faces, the marks and cuts on the champion may have signified a different story to the one told on the scorecards.
It’s obvious the reason the fight happened, the UFC presented Bisping with a winnable fight in his back yard where they could capitalise on a strong gate without sacrificing pay-per-view numbers.
With over 16,000 in attendance to help the UFC claim a live gate of $1.96 million, you would think that if the PPV numbers return at around 300,000 buys, it would prove the event to be a resounding success.
So why not book the trilogy? An adamant Hendo is seemingly furious in defeat, he thought he had the fight won. Yes, the retirement is still on the cards, but who’s to say the right money couldn’t persuade one (more) last hurrah? Henderson did seem rather upset that his family couldn’t be in attendence for his final showcase.
The names that stick out, Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza and even Gegard Mousasi, all plausible following UFC 204. I’m not sure how Bisping deals with any of those names, all much tougher than his first defence.
I’m sure the UFC never planned on giving Nate Diaz a rematch if the first fight with Conor McGregor went the way they would have hoped. Circumstances change things and I strongly believe the affairs of UFC 204 provided less answers than we would have hoped.
It was a homecoming of massive proportions for “The Count,” and to pack out an arena at 5am is a true testament to his value.
The finish – although less notable than their first fight – gave us the slight feeling of closure. But a trilogy match-up; much preferable for Bisping compared to other opponents, would help give doubters and more importantly the challenger, the ultimate feeling of finality.
Leave a comment below or tweet us @MMAPLus, should Bisping and Hendo do the trilogy?