UFC 199: The Fallout

“Inevitably, underlying instabilities begin to appear.” –Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

UFC 199 was an extremely satisfying event. From the opening bout, an old-fashioned brawl that mostly consisted of seeing who could take the other man’s best shots longer; UFC 199 delivered. Part of this had to do with some underdogs and fan favorites coming through in unexpected ways.

Dan Henderson somehow taking Hector Lombard’s best shots and getting a head kick/reverse elbow KO had to be the biggest surprise, until Michael Bisping turned in an upset on par with GSP/Serra 1, clipping the rangy Luke Rockhold with the same left hook that put down Anderson Silva. He suggested we call him Left Hand Larry, during the most turbulent post-fight press conference ever. The goodness was spread all through this card, from Dustin Poirier knocking out Bobby Green, to Cruz putting a thrashing on Urijah Faber, to Max Holloway pointing at the ground in the last ten seconds of a fight he was winning and going full rock-em-sock-em robots with Ricardo Lamas.

All that, with a side of juicy announcements- Conor McGregor finally gets that rematch he’s been obsessing over at UFC 202 against Nate Diaz, and Brock Lesnar, the WWE megastar, is returning for an unprecedented one-off match at the fabled UFC 200.

The fact that the man to break the Lesnar news, Ariel Helwani, was kicked out of the event and had his credentials revoked, along with his co-workers, for doing his job as a reporter, isn’t anything new, but it is inexcusable. The UFC, perhaps because of a culture set by president Dana White, has a history of occasionally being juvenile, thin-skinned, and petty, particularly towards members of the media who don’t act as their PR team. Frankly, it’s unacceptable and unprofessional behavior.

With that aside, on to what UFC 199 meant for the winners and losers. Who should they fight next?

Michael Bisping: The newly crowned middleweight champion of the world (that feels weird even typing that) finally got his shot, after ten years in the division, and against all odds, somehow succeeded. “I guess destiny is real,” mumbled Luke Rockhold in the post-fight press conference. Bisping proceeded to be insufferable straightaway in the post-fight press conference, but at least he is genuine, and you have to feel happy for him, and all his die-hard fans in Britain. This was such an unlikely outcome. He won two controversial split decisions over CB Dolloway and Thales Leites, somehow beat Anderson Silva despite being knocked clean out, and then came in on short notice to starch a man who had knocked him down and choked him out with one arm not two years ago. Credit to him, he showed genuine improvement. 

Who is next for him? Rematches always seem a waste, even though in this case Rockhold has shown us he can beat Bisping. Weidman is coming off a loss. Jacare would seem to be next in line, and that’s the fight Bisping himself suggested. It should take place in England- “The Count” has richly earned that- and after this one, I’m not at all sure how it will go. Jacare would have to be the favorite, but Bisping has a fighting chance. Of course, if the UFC wanted to give him an easy first defense, that Dan Henderson rematch from UFC 100 is tempting… if only UFC 200 were a little further away.

Luke Rockhold: Rockhold couldn’t believe he lost any more than we could, and the post-fight press conference was not a friendly stage. The most talented grappler in the division, and probably still its best fighter, he will need to go back to the drawing board after getting caught like that. If he doesn’t get an immediate rematch, which I hope he does not on general principle, then that Weidman rematch still makes sense. But the one that might make more sense, given the shallow nature of the middleweight division, is a rematch with the previous guy to starch him, Vitor Belfort. Belfort is on the tail end of his career now, so Rockhold likely won’t get another chance to even the score on that wheel kick loss. I have other plans for Vitor though, so perhaps he should get someone like Mousasi.

Dominic Cruz: The best fighter ever to fight at 135, Cruz cemented his comeback by soundly beating up Urijah Faber and nearly finishing his rival of 10 years in a fantastic performance. This was a big win for him, and he looks better than he has ever looked before his Benjen Stark-like disappearance from the sport for four years.

What’s next for him now? The division is growing beneath him, and his brilliant dismissal of Cody Garbrandt (“I don’t know who that is”) only provides a great sound bite for that fight. But Garbrandt needs at least one more big win. The obvious next contender is the winner of Dillashaw-Assuncao next month at UFC 200.

Urijah Faber: The Team Alpha Male captain got, in his own words, outclassed in this fight. He might be looking at retirement, but from the sound of it, he wants one more fight in Sacramento’s new stadium. There are a few that make sense, but either John Dodson or Bryan Caraway would be good choices, especially as they both are coming off of wins and looking at high-profile fights. Urijah may have lost, but he is still the highest profile matchup in the division and a good test for anyone looking for a title shot.

Max Holloway: 9 fight win streak at 24 years old, and Max keeps getting better. He is exciting, incredibly talented and running out of guys to fight at 145. It seems almost obscene that he might not get a title shot after this, but it all depends on how the Conor McGregor fight plays out, and that won’t happen until August. If he doesn’t get that, then perhaps he can get the loser of Aldo/Edgar, if it’s as close a fight as last time those two went at it.

Ricardo Lamas: Lamas is in featherweight limbo right now, having traded wins and losses in his last four. He could get a Cub Swanson rematch- their first fight was with Swanson off a long layoff, and Swanson was winning until he rushed a grappling exchange and got caught in one of Lamas’ opportunistic submissions. That fight would still be a lot of fun. Jeremy Stephens is coming off a big win but has also alternated wins and losses recently, so that would be a good fight as well. I know this is winner vs loser matchmaking here, but Lamas is basically a gatekeeper at this point. The Swanson fight seems like the most fun, and Swanson doesn’t have many other options at the top of featherweight right now.

Dan Henderson: Part of me hopes he retires off this spectacular win. What a way to cap off a legendary career. I was cringing at this fight when it was announced, but it seems Magny may have taken something out of Lombard with that extended beating, and Henderson still has power. He showed surprising craft, too, the most we have seen from him in a long time. The only way I want to see him fighting again is if somehow the UFC decide to give him a title shot to capitalize on Bisping’s success. It wouldn’t be even close to deserved, but would be a memorable story and a fight Bisping could actually win.

Hector Lombard: Lombard came into this fight the less worn fighter with more power and more speed, but he got rocked, and when he hurt Henderson he couldn’t finish him. Lombard is still an entertaining fighter. At this point, with back to back stoppage losses, perhaps he should take some time off. When he does return, Lyoto Machida could be interesting, but I would be curious to see him clash with Vitor Belfort. I know I picked Rockhold to fight Belfort, but I would be more interested in this one for Vitor, honestly.

Dustin Poirier: You have to love Dustin Poirier. His ability to apply his natural power seems to be getting better and better. His thugjitsu beat Green’s Stockton-esque posturing, and at only 27 years old he has found new life in the UFC’s deepest weight class. The guys above him are mostly booked, so unless he wants to square off with Khabib Nurmagomedov, he doesn’t have a lot of options above him in the rankings. The fight I really want to see is Al Iaquinta. Both men are coming off four-fight win streaks, both are aggressive power punchers with roughly similar styles. The winner will have a claim to being the lightweight division’s best slugger.

Bobby Green: Green’s background and story make me want to root for him, but his in-cage antics make that really difficult. Perhaps this loss will make him re-evaluate taunting opponents after getting hit cleanly, instead of trying to punch them back, but I doubt it. Josh Burkman makes sense to me for his next fight.

FS1 Prelims:
Brian Ortega vs Doo Ho Choi
Clay Guida vs Loser of Elkins vs Pepey
Beniel Dariush vs Khabib Nurmagomedov
James Vick vs Tatsui Kawajiri
Jessica Andrade vs Tecia Torres
Jessica Penne vs Paige VanZant
Alex Caceres vs Makwan Amirkhani
Cole Miller vs Myles Jury

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