Michael Bisping gets his revenge over Dan Henderson in five-round war
For the past six years, Michael Bisping has dreamt about getting his revenge against Dan Henderson for arguably the most memorable knockout in UFC history when they first met in 2009.
Henderson laid Bisping out at UFC 100 with a thunderous right hand in the second round that contorted the Brit's head around like a cap being twisted off a bottle, and the replay of that moment has haunted him ever since.
Bisping finally got his chance at revenge in the first defense of his middleweight title at UFC 204 on Saturday night, but he almost experienced a nightmarish case of déjà vu after he got blasted with Henderson's signature "H-Bomb" in the closing moments of the first round.
Bisping looked confident as the fight got underway while stalking Henderson across the cage, but the 46-year-old veteran always has the ultimate equalizer cocked and ready like a gunslinger just waiting to draw.
Henderson unleashed that right hand late in the round and he connected flush as Bisping crashed to the mat, much to the dismay of his hometown crowd in Manchester.
Henderson followed the champion to the mat where he unloaded a flurry of punches and elbows trying to duplicate the finish he had in their first fight, but this time around Bisping managed to survive until the horn sounded and he made his escape.
Bisping took full advantage of the one minute rest period and came back fresh for the second round as he started landing shots at will while Henderson slowed down considerably following that burst of energy used to look for the finish in the opening stanza.
It looked like Bisping was going to cruise to a decisive round until Henderson once again surprised the champion with another stunning right hand that sent him back to the ground in a heap. Henderson jumped to the mat to rain down shots from the top, but Bisping stayed composed until he was able to pull guard and survive the onslaught.
Those two scary moments were enough for Bisping to know that Henderson was still just as dangerous as ever. As Bisping came out in round three, he stayed on the attack but used good footwork and head movement to stay away from his opponent's power hand.
Bisping cracked Henderson with a few stinging head kicks and straight punches that backed up the future Hall of Famer several times throughout the next two rounds as it looked like he regained control.
As the fifth round got underway, Henderson knew that he was running out of time to either land the knockout or pull ahead on the scorecards, so he gave everything he had left as he engaged in a back-and-forth battle with Bisping over the final five minutes.
Bisping was still landing with better volume, but Henderson fired back time and time again before getting a takedown late in the round. Bisping quickly worked back to his feet before he tagged Henderson with a few more punches as the final horn sounded and the war came to an end.
Bisping embraced his long-time rival after the fight while admiring the golf-ball sized wound Henderson gave him during the first round.
When it was all said and done, the judges all agreed that the middleweight champion did enough to retain his title with scores coming back 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 all in favor of Bisping, who successfully defends his belt for the first time.
"Give it up for Dan Henderson. This guy is incredible. At his age, he just kicked my ass. He's tough as old boots. All the trash talking, you got to respect the guy's a legend," Bisping said after the win.
"I know people spoke 'oh he's not No. 1 contender or anything'. This guy knocked me out cold. Worst knockout in UFC history. The jitters that I had this week, it's all well and good having bravado but stepping in here, look at my face for crying out loud. You know what this guy can do. That took a lot of courage for me to do that."
For Henderson, the loss did sting a little bit after he was given an opportunity to win the UFC title in the final fight of his legendary career but he came up just short.
Henderson said beforehand that this would be his last fight — win, lose or draw — and he stuck by that while calling it a career after putting together one of the most impressive resumes in the history of the sport.
"I guess fortunate for you guys, unfortunate for those who didn't come. That was the last time that anyone will see me fight live," Henderson said to the crowd. "I appreciate all the support throughout the years. Worldwide. I gave my heart and soul to this sport and fans like you, even though you booed me at the beginning of the night, made it worthwhile for me to keep competing year after year. I just absolutely love the sport.
"I want to say thank you to the fans for making this fight happen and thank you to Michael Bisping for giving me this opportunity, my last fight for the belt. I came up a little short but not bad for an old man! I wish they judged the fight on how you look after the fight."
The long rivalry was finally settled as Bisping paid respect to Henderson after the fight and they shook hands one last time following an epic 25-minute war.
With the first defense of his title out of the way while gaining a measure of revenge at the same time, Bisping quickly turned his attention back to the top contenders in the middleweight division with a very strong message following the win.
"All you (expletive) (expletive) in the rest of the division — (Chris) Weidman, what the hell? You lost your last fight. I've got three victories since you got your ass kicked from Luke Rockhold. Rockhold, I knocked you out in three minutes, buddy. Yoel Romero, you're suspended for steroids, shame on you. And (Ronald Souza) "Jacare" — you just got beat up," Bisping shouted.
"Win a fight, get off the couch and (expletive) let's do this."