It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2016. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
Male Fighter of the Year – Michael Bisping
For much of his career, Michael Bisping was known as a guy who couldn’t win the big one. However, that all changed in 2016.
Bisping entered 2016 on a good note by winning both of his fights in 2015. Still, Bisping’s place as one of the best middleweights was still up in the air. If there were any lingering doubts, Bisping did his best to erase those after defeating Anderson Silva in February.
For years, Bisping had campaigned for a shot against Silva while the Brazilian was on top of the 185-pound division. Most fans balked at the chances of Bisping lasting more than a round, let alone being competitive against Silva.
In one of the most shocking wins of his career, Bisping not only competed with Silva, he beat him. This despite being clearly knocked out by a Silva flying knee at the end of the third round. Bisping was motioning to the referee to grab his mouthguard when Silva launched himself. Bisping crumpled to the ground and was clearly out of it. Yet, the Englishman recovered and managed to take home unanimous decision win over a MMA legend.
As great as the Silva win was for Bisping’s career, it was at UFC 199 where he’d validate his legacy. After Chris Weidman was forced out of his rematch with champion Luke Rockhold, the UFC was sent scrambling for a replacement. Considering much of the focus was on the upcoming historic UFC 200 event, the last thing the promotion needed was a short-notice injury to UFC 199’s headline fight. Luckily for them, Bisping was willing and able to step in.
At UFC 199, Bisping found himself in a familiar position as MMA fans seemed more interested in debating what round Rockhold would finish him in, rather than his chances of winning. To be fair, Rockhold had just soundly beaten Bisping in November of 2014. He was also coming off an emphatic victory against the former champ Weidman. Taking a championship fight on extremely short notice against a seemingly unstoppable middleweight champion would be a tough task for Bisping to overcome.
The fight wouldn’t last longer than a round has Bisping threw a hook over the shoulder of Rockhold to crack the champion on the chin. Bisping swarmed the champion and earned the crowning achievement of his career. And as an added bonus, he did it at the expense of a heated rival.
The newly-minted UFC champion found himself back in the cage against another rival at UFC 204. This time it was American hero Dan Henderson standing opposite the champ. The two had met previously at UFC 100 with Henderson providing one of the all-time great knockouts at Bisping’s expense. The image of Henderson flying through the air to land a vicious forearm would even be used in Henderson’s logo for his apparel line.
The two men engaged in one of the best fights of 2016 as Bisping found himself rocked on multiple occasions. Despite taking a slew of “H-bombs” from Henderson, Bisping’s cardio and toughness would wind up helping him take a decision victory over his vaunted rival.
The win over Henderson put Bisping at 3-0 for 2016 with those three wins coming against some of the greatest 185-pound fighters to ever step foot in MMA. He also not only won an UFC title but also defended it in an action-packed fight.
For beating the all-time great Silva, dropping Rockhold on short notice and finally getting a measure of revenge on Henderson, “The Count” is your Combat Press 2016 Male Fighter of the Year.
Other finalists: Conor McGregor, Stipe Miocic, Donald Cerrone
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