What a night it was for UFC middleweight Michael Bisping.
Fighting in his first title bout after 25 appearances inside the Octagon, Bisping claimed the middleweight belt at UFC 199 with a shocking upset of incumbent champion Luke Rockhold.
With Rockhold a heavy favorite, Bisping took the fight on just two weeks notice after scheduled challenger Chris Weidman withdrew due to injury. Bisping needed just 3:36 to land the knockout blow, and in the process, tied legendary champion Georges St. Pierre for most wins in promotional history with 19.
Rockhold came out slow from the start, measuring distance with a few well-placed kicks to Bisping's body. But Bisping, known for his unorthodox head movement and striking, absorbed the early strikes before landing a spectacular hook to send Rockhold to the canvas.
And with Rockhold down, Bisping swarmed to land a series of ground strikes, prompting referee John McCarthy to call a stop to the bout.
"This has been a lifetime's work," offered Bisping, who earned the evening's Performance of the Night bonus. "I always felt I was capable of doing this. I've had my ups and downs along the way and I understand why people didn't believe in me cause I'd lost some key fights."
Bisping becomes the UFC's first British champion, and the eighth man to hold the middleweight belt.
In the evening's co-main event, bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz successfully defended his title against frequent foe Urijah Faber.
Fighting for the third time in nine years, Cruz and Faber put and end to their storied rivalry, with the champion taking near-perfect scores on the cards, en route to a unanimous decision win.
Cruz started off uncharacteristically slow, playing more of the wrestling game in the early going. But as the bout progressed, the champion found his form and battered Faber from pillar to post, while avoiding the majority of the challenger's advances.
Landing a knockdown blow in the second frame, Cruz used his signature footwork to dance around the Octagon, landing lead hooks and well-placed uppercuts at will.
And while Faber hung around until the final bell, withstanding all of Cruz's attacks and flurries, the effort would prove to be futile as Cruz cruised on the scorecards 50-45, 50-45, 49-46.
"Everyone in this Octagon is tough," offered Cruz after the bout. "Ring rust is not real. Anyone who fights, don't listen to them, it's all in your head. It feels so good to be able to compete again."
Top-five featherweights Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas went the distance, trading punches and kicks for 15 minutes, with Holloway walking away with the unanimous decision victory.
Holloway, who has now won nine straight bouts dating back to January 2014, used his slick striking and takedown defense to top Lamas, a former title challenger.
Already up on the scorecards, Holloway engaged with Lamas until the final bell, as the two traded heavy leather in a wild exchange at the end of the contest.
"I want the title shot," exclaimed Holloway. "This entire night of fights has been amazing."
A pair of veteran middleweights squared off in a featured bout, as former Pride champion Dan Henderson came from behind to stop Hector Lombard at 1:27 of the second round.
Early on in the bout, Lombard connected with Henderson's chin, sending the former Olympic wrestler to the ground. However, Henderson was able to withstand the early flurry from Lombard and survive the period.
Coming out in the second frame, Henderson patiently waited for his opportunity, looking for a destination for his legendary right hand, but rather connected with a head kick before sending Lombard to the ground with a back elbow.
Herb Dean stopped the bout just as Henderson landed a pair of follow-up elbows to a grounded Lombard. Henderson was rewarded with a Performance of the Night bonus for his efforts.
"I try not to make my fights quite that epic. I've done it before, but I try not to let it go that way, but sometimes it happens like that," stated Henderson. "It's definitely an emotional night and it's definitely a possibility that this was my last time in the Octagon."
Kicking off the main card, rising lightweight Dustin Poirier made quick work of thirteenth-ranked Bobby Green, landing the knockout punch at 2:52 of the first round.
With the pair trading punches from the opening bell, Poirier found his range after Green left his chin exposed amid taunting. As Green continued to trash talk, Poirier landed the first of two knockdown blows. And while Green was able to recover after his first trip to the canvas, he was unable to withstand a second trip to the mat.
Poirier landed a series of follow up punches before referee Jason Herzog stepped in to stop the fight.
"I needed this," commented Poirier, who remains undefeated as a UFC lightweight. "A big fight is coming next. I've been doing this a long time and I want big fights. I want to be the world champion."
Capping off the preliminary card, featherweight Brian Ortega finished veteran Clay Guida with a perfectly timed and placed knee to the temple at 4:40 of the third round.
Behind on the scorecards heading into the final frame, Ortega, who is known mainly for his jiu jitsu, turned up his offense as the bout progressed. And with Guida stalking forward, Ortega found his distance before landing the knockout blow. With Guida on the canvas, referee Herb Dean stopped the bout after Ortega landed one final punch on the ground.
"I don't know why I tend to be a slow starter, I have to pull the inner me out," stated Ortega, who remains undefeated as a professional. "I'm really emotional right now ... this really means a lot to me and I don't know how to put it into words."
The evening's opening bout between Polo Reyes and Dong Hyun Kim was named Fight of the Night, with Reyes taking the contest via knockout at 1:52 of the third round.
UFC 199 Results
Michael Bisping def. Luke Rockhold via KO (punches), R1 3:36
Dominick Cruz def. Urijah Faber via Unanimous Decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46)
Max Holloway def. Ricardo Lamas via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Dan Henderson def. Hector Lombard via KO (Head kick & elbows), R2 1:27
Dustin Poirier def. Bobby Green via KO (Punches), R1 2:52
Brian Ortega def. Clay Guida via TKO (Knee & Punches), R3 4:40
Beneil Dariush def. James Vick via KO (Punches), R1 4:16
Jessica Andrade def. Jessica Penne via TKO (Punches), R2 2:56
Alex Caceres def. Cole Miller via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Sean Strickland def. Tom Breese via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Henrique da Silva def. Jonathan Wilson via TKO (Punches) R2 4:11
Kevin Casey vs. Elvis Mutapcic Split Draw (29-28, 28-29, 28-28)
Polo Reyes def. Dong Hyun Kim via KO (Punches), R3 1:52