Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will attempt to defend his title for the first time, this Saturday, June 4 (10 P.M. EST, Pay Per View), as he faces challenger Michael Bisping in the UFC 199 main event, live at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
A winner of five-straight contests, all by stoppage, Rockhold captured the belt at last December's UFC 194, finishing former champion Chris Weidman via fourth-round TKO. Originally set to face Weidman in an immediate rematch, Rockhold was partnered with Bisping just two weeks ago, after Weidman was forced from the bout due to injury.
Rockhold (15-2, 5-1 UFC) has been dominant inside the Octagon, blending together crisp and powerful striking with his elite and unorthodox jiu jitsu game. A tall and big middleweight, Rockhold now looks for a second victory over Bisping, after submitting the Englishman 19 months ago.
The UFC's fourth-ranked middleweight, Bisping (28-7, 18-7 UFC) enters his first UFC title shot on the heels of three straight wins, including a decision over former divisional great Anderson Silva in February. Bisping, who celebrates his tenth year with the UFC later this month, is known for his forward pressure and cardio training, which allows the kickboxer to unload punch and kick combinations.
But against Rockhold, Bisping's best attributes will be his undoing, and as the challenger pushes forward to look for an entry, the champion will uncork some vicious kicks before bringing the bout to the ground.
Expect Luke Rockhold to defend his title and push his win streak to six, likely finishing the fight via submission in the early rounds.
Co-main event: Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber
A rematch four years in the making, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber will finally settle their decade-long feud, after splitting their previous two encounters.
Cruz (21-1, 4-0 UFC), who reclaimed the bantamweight title in January, has not lost since 2007, when he tapped out to a Faber guillotine choke. But the champion avenged his lone loss in 2011, taking a decision over Faber. And while the pair were initially set to square off in July 2012, on the heels of a coaching appearance on The Ultimate Fighter, injuries have kept Cruz out the Octagon for the majority of the last four years.
Faber (33-8, 9-4 UFC), who is coming off a decision win over Frankie Saenz at UFC 194, has quietly remained near the top of the division, using his signature pressure and submission game to knock off a host of challengers.
With two previous bouts in the books, there's a lot of evidence that points towards Faber's power and pressure as his keys to victory. Faber will also likely attack Cruz's knees, which have taken a beating throughout the years. But Cruz will employ his unorthodox footwork and angles to avoid Faber's best advances.
And much like their last bout, Cruz will walk away with the decision, using his speed and quickness to batter Faber when he needs to and land takedowns in opportune moments.
Max Holloway vs. Ricardo Lamas
An intriguing bout of top-five featherweights, this matchup between Holloway and Lamas may likely determine the division's next contender.
A skilled and adept kickboxer, Holloway (15-3, 11-3 UFC) is the division's hottest fighter, currently riding an eight-fight win streak. Holloway, who most recently took a decision over Jeremy Stephens at UFC 194, last lost to Conor McGregor in 2013. But the Hawaiian has been impressive ever since.
Lamas (16-4, 7-2 UFC), who currently sits at number five in the rankings, is a former title challenger, who won a decision over veteran Diego Sanchez in his last outing. A Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt and expert grappler, Lamas remains a legitimate threat at 145 pounds, but Holloway has shown improvement with every passing bout, and there's no reason not to expect the same result here.
Look for Holloway to take a unanimous decision, using his phenomenal take down defense to thwart all of Lamas' early advances. And with Lamas frustrated and tired, Holloway will use his sharp and crisp striking to outpoint the competition.
Dan Henderson vs. Hector Lombard
A battle of aging middleweights, this bout between decorated former champion Henderson and Lombard promises to be a heavy-handed affair.
Both former Olympians, Henderson (31-14, 8-8 UFC) and Lombard (34-5-1 2 NC, 3-3 1 NC UFC) have done well to implement their past athletic training into the MMA game. Henderson, who was an elite Greco-Roman wrestler, evolved into a hard-hitting striker, collecting multiple Pride titles in the process. Lombard, who competed at the 2000 Sydney games in Judo, went on to claim a Bellator title before signing with the UFC in 2012.
With both fighters coming off of loses, both Henderson and Lombard will need an emphatic win in order improve their standing within the division. And with both Henderson and Lombard more interested in the knockout than the submission game, expect both combatants to come out swinging.
Early on, Henderson and Lombard will threaten with feints and punches, but eventually, Lombard will find an opening and uncork a heavy shot from close range.
Look for Lombard to take this bout by TKO in the second.
Dustin Poirier vs. Bobby Green
Kicking off the main card is a pair of top-15 lightweights looking to move up in the divisional ranks.
A well-rounded fighter, and a winner of three straight, Poirier (19-4, 11-3 UFC) has looked impressive since moving up a weight class last year. Poirier, who is currently ranked number 11 by the UFC, displayed phenomenal grit in his last bout, fighting through a broken nose and a handful of submission attempts to outlast Joseph Duffy at UFC 195.
Green (23-6, 4-1 UFC), who is currently ranked thirteen, is making his first appearance in nearly two years, after a series of injuries has kept him sidelined for the last 11 months.
Known for his pressure and wrestling, Green is a complete fighter who owns some impressive victories. But ring rust will play a role in this bout, as Poirier, the fresher fighter with more recent experience, will take an early lead and win the bout by decision.