UFC 199 Preview: Championships won’t change hands if challengers don’t evolve

UFC 199 is the third fight card out of the last four pay-per-views to have it’s original main event suffer an injury withdrawal. This time, Chris Weidman suffered a neck injury that derailed his hopes of reclaiming the middleweight title from current champion Luke Rockhold, who won the belt in December with a brutal fourth-round TKO. So in steps Michael Bisping, who’s receiving his first title shot since joining the UFC as The Ultimate Fighter: Season 3 winner in 2006. This will be a rematch of Rockhold and Bisping’s 2014 tilt, which Rockhold won by second-round submission.

In the co-main event, we get a trilogy fight between bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber. These two have genuinely despised each other for years, and this fight will be the tiebreaker to decide who wins the rivalry. Without further ado, here’s a look at the main and co-main events and predictions for each:

Main Event: UFC Middleweight Championship- Luke Rockhold (c) vs. Michael Bisping

The worst thing about this fight is not the fact that it was a rematch, but the fact that the first fight wasn’t even close. Rockhold stunned Bisping with a head-kick and then locked in a one-armed guillotine choke, forcing “The Count” to tap out. Bisping has since won three straight fights including his most recent victory over Anderson Silva, the longest reigning UFC champion of all time. Since losing his UFC debut in 2013, Rockhold has ran through every opponent put in front of him with five straight finishes.

Bisping is known for having outstanding cardio, so there won’t be any questions as to whether he gasses out early due to the short-notice. The thing is, there’s nothing in his last three wins that suggests that he’s a different fighter from the last time he faced Rockhold. He still has a boxing-focused attack with average kicks and minimal use of grappling.

Rockhold is the more diverse striker with a five-inch reach advantage. His kicks are brutal, both to the body and the head, and he sets them up very well by hiding them behind his punches. His grappling is also well above-average as he trains with high-level wrestlers like Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez and uses his long limbs to set up submissions.

Rockhold claimed he wasn’t at full strength during his fight with Weidman, and yet still he put away to former champ. Now that he’s all healed up, it’s hard to see a scenario where Bisping will get the better of him. Bisping has waited a long time for his title shot, but this is not the right time or opponent to achieve his ultimate goal of being a champion.

Prediction: Rockhold TKO, 1st Round.

Co-Main Event: UFC Bantamweight Championship- Dominick Cruz (c) vs. Urijah Faber

This bitter rivalry started nine years ago when an inexperienced Cruz lost to Faber by a first-round submission. Their personalities clashed at the time and the bad blood just grew from there. Cruz got some revenge with a unanimous decision win in 2011.

Cruz is probably the biggest feel-good story in all of MMA. After suffering multiple injuries, he was stripped of his title and sidelined for almost three years. He was able to reclaim the championship he never lost with a win over T.J. Dillashaw in January. “The Dominator” is the most elusive fighter in the UFC with the most unorthodox footwork ever seen in the octagon. His style is fun to watch, but it makes for close decisions as four of his last five wins all went the five-round distance.

Faber is a high-level wrestler and grappler with solid striking. But the question is, will he be able to catch Cruz? In their last fight “The California Kid” landed 50 total strikes compared to Cruz’s 90, though Faber did score a few knockdowns. Faber has had three shots at a UFC belt and lost each time.

This is a tough fight to call. Cruz is like a riddle and it’s Faber who has to solve it. If he can’t, Cruz will eke out another decision win.

Prediction: Cruz, Unanimous Decision.

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