Michael Bisping fights Luke Rockhold at UFC 199. Photo: Hans GutknechtNobody saw that coming.
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Nobody.

We’re not talking about the debut of the UFC 200 promotional video that featured a glimpse of former UFC heavyweight champion and current WWE superstar Brock Lesnar, confirming his return for one fight only against an opponent yet to be determined but rumoured to be Australian star Mark Hunt.

Nor the vicious reverse elbow from 45-year-old MMA legend Dan Henderson that shut out Cuban-Australian fighter Hector Lombard’s lights, a fight that may be Henderson’s last.

Not even the official announcement of Conor McGregor’s rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202 on August 20.

No, what nobody saw coming, what nobody thought possible, was that 37-year-old UFC veteran Michael Bisping would knock out champion Luke Rockhold in the first round to claim the UFC middleweight belt at UFC 199.

It was the fairytale finish to what is arguably the biggest, the best Cinderella story the UFC has ever had.

Over the span of his nearly 10-year, 25-fight UFC career, Bisping campaigned relentlessly for a title show, falling short in two title eliminators against Chael Sonnen and Henderson.

In recent times he had been written off, considered an also-ran. A gatekeeper. A very, very good gatekeeper, but a gatekeeper all the same.

So when Chris Weidman hurt his neck and Bisping was called up on two-weeks’ notice to fight champion Rockhold, it was almost like the Manchester fighter was being given a consolation prize.

If you take into consideration the beating Rockhold gave Bisping when they last met, headlining UFC Sydney in 2014, the idea of Bisping beating Rockhold seemed disturbingly far-fetched.

But anything can happen in a fight. It is the great equalizer. Nobody is unbeatable and eventually, everyone gets caught.

Roughly two and a half minutes into the fight, Rockhold leaned too far into a jab and Bisping uncorked his left hook, staggering the champion. One more big left hand and Rockhold was prone against the cage, lights out.

Even Bisping, supremely confident in his own ability, seemed shocked. Ten years and 25 fights into his UFC career without a title shot and suddenly, through injury and a perfectly timed hook, Bisping cemented his place in history. How long he can stay at the top of the hill remains to be seen, but Bisping is the middleweight champion, and nobody can take that away from him.

It stands comfortably, with Matt Serra knocking out Georges St-Pierre and Holly Holm blasting Ronda Rousey, as one of the greatest upsets in UFC history.

In the co-main event, Dominick Cruz confirmed he is the best bantamweight fighter in history, retaining his championship in a dominant five-round performance against Urijah Faber.

It was trademark Cruz, all footwork and angles. Every time Faber threw a punch, Cruz simply wasn’t there to be hit, and when Cruz connected, it was with power we hadn’t previously seen from the champion. He dropped Faber multiple times and while the Team Alpha Male fighter never quit, he simply had nothing for Cruz, who now has not been defeated since 2007. There is no question he is the best bantamweight fighter of all time.

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