UFC 199: Rockhold vs Bisping

When original opponent Chris Weidman pulled out due to injury, the "Count" stepped in on late notice.

UFC 199

UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold (15-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) will defend his title for the first time when he faces Michael Bisping (28-7 MMA, 18-7 UFC) in the main event at UFC 199 on June 4 at The Forum in Inglewood, CA.

How Rockhold Became UFC Champ

Rockhold took the title on December 12 when he beat Chris Weidman by fourth round TKO. Weidman and Rockhold fought very close in the early rounds, but the fight turned when Weidman decided to throw a wheel kick in the third. Rockhold evaded the kick and took Weidman to the ground. From there he went on to dominate the fight with some absolutely vicious ground and pound, which almost forced a stoppage at the end of the third. In the fourth, the end came after more strikes, and Rockhold added the UFC title to the Strikeforce middleweight belt he won earlier in his career. Check out the fight in its entirety:

Injury Foils the Rematch

When a rematch between Rockhold and Weidman was announced a few months back it looked like another barnstormer of a fight would be on the cards. However, Weidman was forced to pull out of the fight last week after he herniated a neck disk while training.

The Beef With Bisping Kicks off again

As happens in many MMA fights when one fighter pulls out, the UFC was forced to scramble to keep the main event alive on the card. Enter Michael "The Count" Bisping, who is coming off of the biggest victory of his career when he won a split decision over Anderson Silva in London on February 27. Since then he has been shooting xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, which in an unusual twist, helped him keep his weight down so he could accept this challenge.

Rockhold and Bisping have a history together. The source of the bad vibes between the men originates from comments Bisping made about a sparring session he had with Rockhold when the latter was Strikeforce champion. Bisping said that following the session he was the unofficial Strikeforce champ. Rockhold did not find the remarks funny in the least, and relations have been frosty between the pair since. After some serious trash talking, the two fought on November 7, 2014, in Sydney, Australia. Rockhold got the better of the Englishman, winning by second round submission via guillotine choke. Once Bisping was confirmed as the new challenger for UFC 199, it didn't take long for the bad blood to resurface.

While Rockhold is going into this fight as a big favorite, given his recent record and increased confidence as champion, Bisping believes that the stars are aligning in his favor. The 37-year-old took to social media to give fans his take on the surprise title shot, saying:

A photo posted by Mikebisping (@mikebisping) on

Bisping will have to come up with a good game plan with head coach Jason Parillo. Not having the benefit of a full training camp means that a full five rounds will be very taxing on his body. Like many fighters who come in on short notice, he may elect to go all out for an early stoppage before his tank empties. Bisping also posted this fight stat comparison, which highlights the challenge that awaits:

There's no ranking for heart and will though. I beat everyone on this.

A photo posted by Mikebisping (@mikebisping) on

Practice makes Perfect for Rockhold

While Bisping is banking on his heart, it's all about the work for Rockhold, and his mantra seems to be that practice does make perfect. Rockhold trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, CA. There, he trains with some of the greatest fighters currently plying their trade in the UFC, among them former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, current light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and top lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. Rockhold is quite adept at the question mark kick, a kick that coincidentally worked for him well in his first fight with Bisping:

Practice, till it's perfect. Volume 2 #ufc199

A video posted by Luke Rockhold (@lukerockhold) on

Here he mixes it in after a few stomp kicks and before a nice tornado:

Saturday vibes. Feeling that @cytomonstermilk energy #monstermilk #musclemilk

A video posted by Luke Rockhold (@lukerockhold) on

Can Rockhold get the better of Bisping again? The Englishman says there is no pressure on him as he goes in a huge underdog, but the champ knows he will have to bring his A-game to the octagon to remain king of the middleweights. Also in action on the card is the third fight between Dominik Cruz and Urijah Faber. Cruz holds the bantamweight belt and to say that he and Faber dislike each other would be an understatement. Don't miss these great match-ups on June 4.