Michael Bisping retains the middleweight championship as Dan Henderson bows out at UFC 204
It may have been the early hours of the morning, but the Manchester Arena played host to an incredible night of UFC action as Michael Bisping created history by becoming the first British fighter in history to defend a UFC title on home soil.
Bisping retains his title after five round war with Henderson
Both fighters made their way to the Octagon at 4:45am local time as the sold-out crowd rose their feet and cheered for both men as they entered the arena and were introduced by the Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer.
Round one began with both looking tentative on the feet. Henderson had his infamous right hand 'Hendo bomb' cocked as the Brit slowly and methodically marched him down and looked to pounce. After 90-seconds Henderson dived in with the right hand, but Bisping evaded it smartly and countered with a good left of his own.
Bisping then landed a pair of jabs, but just as he looked to be asserting dominance he was caught with a huge right hand that dropped him to the mat. Henderson swarmed him looking for the finish; but the Brit hung on and managed to rise to his feet, his face bloodied, but still in the contest as the round ended.
Round two began with Bisping still circling into the right hand just as he'd done wrongly in their first infamous fight back at UFC 100. The tide in the fight seem to turn as Bisping poured forward looking to land his own right hand, but every time he succeeded Henderson ate them well and plodded on.
With a minute remaining, Bisping looked to stagger Henderson, but as he ran in he was caught again with another big right hand and he dropped to the mat. This time around, Henderson simply dropped into his guard and failed to follow up with any ground and pound of significance as the round finished.
Bisping's right eye was incredibly swollen as the third round opened though this didn’t perturb the Brit who continued to push the pace. Bisping proceeded to have the better of the exchanges, but the crowd were tense having witnessed two huge momentum swings in both previous rounds.
Bisping continued to look for a big right hand but every time he was met a solid block from the American. The round was largely uneventful though Henderson was noticeably breathing very deeply at the conclusion.
It was now down to the championship rounds with Bisping continuing to push Henderson on the back foot. The sheer volume of Bisping's output seem to be getting to the American, but he was given rest bite after a minute or so of the fourth as he recovered from a low blow.
When the action resumed, very little changed. Bisping pushed forward and the American methodically looked to counter and finish the fight with a single strike. The round ended with little else of note.
The fight made it to the final round with most at cageside scoring it two rounds a piece. Henderson looked to step it up and began to push forward with his own jab and kicks, but the Brit evaded well and fired back with jabs and another right hand. With half the round still left it was all to play for. Bisping landed some stiff body kicks and then a right hand and then nicely evaded a flurry from the American.
A potentially pivotal moment happened when Henderson looked to secure a takedown, but Bisping defended it well as the crowd rose to their feet.
An incredible fight demanded an incredible finish and the crowd got one. Henderson dove in for an unsuccessful monkey flip takedown as the crowd gasped. Bisping landed another jab before the final klaxon sounded on an incredible fight.
After an action packed twenty-five minutes it was down to the three judges at cageside to determine who would be taking the UFC middleweight belt home. To the delight of the crowd, Bruce Buffer proceeded to announce that it was unanimously scored 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 to the hometown man Michael Bisping.
A relieved Bisping spoke afterwards and thanked the hometown crowd for their incredible support. Dan Henderson then took to the mic and confirmed his retirement just minutes after coming so close to becoming the UFC middleweight champion.
Jimi Manuwa knocks out Ovince Saint Preux
After nearly a year out of action, British light heavyweight Jimi Manuwa returned to the Octagon to face the American Ovince Saint Preux.
The fight started slowly as the two clinched against the cage and jostled for positional control. After a brief breakaway, the two again clinched up. This time though Saint Preux managed to take Manuwa's back and he looked to work into a position for a rear-naked choke. The British fighter managed to break free and for a minute appeared to have Saint Preux in trouble with a guillotine choke. Saint Preux managed to get out, but before the round was out Manuwa landed a nice elbow as they clinched again on the feet.
In round two, Manuwa asserted his dominance early and he forced Saint Preux's knees to buckle momentarily with a slick left hand. OSP already looked to be totally out of gas and Manuwa poured on the pressure looking for the finish.
After two minutes and thirty-eight seconds of the round, Manuwa put an incredible combination of strikes together; first attacking the body and then landing a crushing a right hook and then a killer left to send Saint Preux to the mat without his consciousness.
It was an incredible finish to a great performance by Manuwa.
Also in action …
In the co-main event of the evening, Gegard Mousasi defeated Vitor Belfort via TKO in the second round. The Dutch fighter dominated the bout from the outset and forced the referee to call the fight to an end when he dropped the Brazilian to the mat and finished the fight with some heavy ground and pound.
In the main card opener, Mirsad Bektic wasted little time dispatching late replacement opponent Russell Doane; defeating him by rear-naked choke submission.
In heavyweight action, seven-foot tall Stefan Struve submitted Daniel Omielanczuk with a slick D’arce choke to get the tap in the second round of a competitive battle between two European giants.
Full UFC 204 fight card:
Michael Bisping def. Dan Henderson via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
Gegard Mousasi def. Vitor Belfort via TKO (Punches), Round 2, 2:43
Jimi Manuwa def. Ovince Saint Preux via knockout (punches), Round 2, 2:38
Stefan Struve def. Daniel Omielanczuk via submission (D'Arce choke), Round 2, 1:41
Mirsad Bektic def. Russell Doane via submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 1, 4:22
Iuri Alcantara def. Brad Pickett via submission (triangle choke), Round 1, 1:59
Damian Stasiak def. Davey Grant via submission (armbar), Round 3, 3:56
Leon Edwards def. Albert Tumenov via submission (rear-naked choke), Round 3, 3:01
Marc Diakiese def. Lukasz Sajewski via TKO (strikes), Round 2, 4:40
Fight Pass Preliminary Card
Mike Perry def. Danny Roberts via KO (punches), Round 3, 4:40
Leonardo Santos def. Adriano Martins via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)