By Adam Martin
Michael Bisping’s shocking upset of Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 to capture to UFC middleweight title has changed the entire landscape of the division. Not many people were expecting Bisping to win the fight. After all, he had already lost to Rockhold in a one-sided affair in 2014, and he took the rematch on short notice after Chris Weidman pulled out with an injury. But Bisping overcame the odds and defeated Rockhold in what will go down as one of MMA’s all-time greatest upsets, a victory that has changed the entire course the division was set to take.
Had Rockhold won, re-booking the rematch with Weidman, the man he took the belt from, was an easy sell for the UFC’s debut in New York this November at Madison Square Garden. But with Bisping’s victory throwing a wrench into things, whatever plans the UFC have been scrapped, and now the promotion’s braintrust will have to think of Plan B.
We can’t guess what the UFC will do, but we can narrow down the options. Here are some possible opponents for Bisping in his first title defense:
Yoel Romero: Romero is currently finishing up a six-month suspension after being busted for using a tainted supplement, something which USADA determined was not an intentional use of performance-enhancing drugs. With that in mind, it doesn’t seem fair to push Romero to the front of the line for something which was not his fault. Romero has seven wins in a row, including a win over Souza in his last fight, and based on winning streaks in the division, he deserves the title shot over anyone else at 185lbs. But that might not be enough to get it for him.
Dan Henderson: Henderson’s surprise knockout win over Hector Lombard on the same card has really boosted his stock in the middleweight division. Hendo is 45 and he’s said he will retire soon, but based on his social media activity, it seems he wants one more rodeo before he rides off into the sunset. He might not be as deserving as Souza or Romero, but Henderson is a legend of the sport and his resume speaks for itself. Hendo knocked out Bisping at UFC 100 in one of the sport’s all-time greatest one-punch KO’s, and a rematch between these two in Hendo’s final fight would be a massive draw at the box office. It would also give Hendo the opportunity to finally capture a UFC title, something which has eluded him his entire career, while also giving Bisping a chance at revenge. This fight makes a lot of sense.
Chris Weidman: The former champ Weidman has already been calling out Bisping on social media. This would actually be a very good fight but the problem is Weidman is coming off of a loss to Rockhold, so it doesn’t really make sense for him to get the title shot. If there’s an injury to whoever does get it and Weidman is the only guy available, sure, then it could happen, but as of right now there are better options. Having said that, Weidman vs. Bisping would be a fun fight to happen down the road.
Anderson Silva: To even get himself in title contention, Bisping had to defeat Silva back in February, which he did so via unanimous decision, but the fight was not without controversy. Near the end of the third round, Silva knocked down Bisping with a flying knee, and Silva started to celebrate, thinking he had won the fight. Referee Herb Dean, though, did not waive the fight off, and Silva had to regroup for the final two rounds of the fight, which didn’t go so well for him as he lost a close decision. If the UFC wants clarity on that fight for good, then they could run this fight again. However, a rematch doesn’t seem likely considering Silva hasn’t won a fight since 2012, although stranger things have happened.
UFC 199: Rockhold vs. Bisping 2 (formerly UFC 199: Rockhold vs. Weidman 2) took place on June 4, 2016 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.