By Adam Martin
The injury bug continued to hit Chris Weidman, as the former UFC Middleweight Champion announced he had suffered a neck injury in training and would not be able to fight archrival and current champ Luke Rockhold for the title at next month's UFC 199 event. Immediately after the news of Weidman's injury was revealed, other middleweights took to social media asking for the fight, and fans and media alike began speculating about who would get the next shot at the belt.
The most obvious choice was Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, who just destroyed Vitor Belfort while taking no damage at UFC 198. Souza and Rockhold previously fought in a five-round war back in Strikeforce, with “Jacare” losing his belt to Rockhold in a close match, and a rematch was compelling. But Souza has a torn meniscus in his knee and couldn't take the fight in just two-and-a-half weeks, although UFC President Dana White admitted the Brazilian was the promotion's first choice as a replacement.
Other options included Uriah Hall, Gegard Mousasi, and Derek Brunson, but although all those are good fighters, none of them are really deserving of a shot at the title, and the UFC did the right thing by not gifting any of them into a championship fight.
Ultimately, the promotion settled on Michael Bisping to be Rockhold's opponent, and Bisping will not get his first chance to fight for a UFC title in just a few weeks in Los Angeles. It's a huge opportunity for Bisping, and after 10 years in the Octagon he deserves the opportunity to fight for the belt, but there's just one problem: Bisping fought Rockhold 18 months ago at UFC FN 55, and he got absolutely destroyed.
first Bisping vs. Rockhold fight wasn't close at all. It was just a beatdown. Rockhold needed just over five minutes to get the finish of Bisping, throwing a head kick to knock Bisping down, then beating him up with punches, and then choking him out with a guillotine choke -- and he didn't even need both arms to crank it. It wasn't a competitive fight, and considering Bisping is older now, it's hard to envision the rematch being competitive either.
As much as folks want to pretend this rematch is a big fight, it's really hard to agree with that. Bisping isn't as big of a star as some would make you believe. He's a solid middleweight, but not a superstar, and his shows don't draw crazy numbers. In fact, the first fight with Rockhold was on Fight Pass, and it wasn't a show with much buzz. Yes Bisping has gained a little bit of buzz since then due to his three-fight win streak and win over Anderson Silva, but nothing that will turn him into a PPV sensation overnight. It's a medium-sized fight, not a big one.
Ultimately, the UFC's hands were tied here, because the card is just a few weeks away and Rockhold needed to fight someone. Bisping stepped up and he should be commended for his bravery, but with a short camp and considering he's already fought and lost to Rockhold recently, it's hard to take him seriously as a contender. Congrats to "The Count" on finally getting his long-awaited title shot, but it's hard to see this opportunity working out for him.
• Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping (UFC Middleweight Championship)
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UFC 199: Rockhold vs. Bisping 2 (formerly UFC 199: Rockhold vs. Weidman 2) takes place on June 4, 2016 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.