MANCHESTER, England — Michael Bisping retained his UFC middleweight title early by taking a unanimous decision victory over Dan Henderson at UFC 204 at the Manchester Arena on Sunday, ending the retiring American’s career in defeat.
The fight started tentatively, with Henderson wary of combinations from Bisping, and the Englishman concerned about the right hook with which Henderson had knocked him out at UFC 100.
With 30 seconds to go in the first round, however, the 46-year-old Henderson landed the shot for which he is known, almost finishing Bisping and creating prominent swelling under his left eye.
With Bisping controlling the second round, a groin strike not spotted by the referee, and led to an ailing Henderson hitting the right hook, dropping Bisping once more, although again he was able to recover.
The remaining rounds were less dramatic, although Bisping continued to land more strikes. That led to the judges awarding the hometown favorite the fight, despite the differences in overall damage.
“He just kicked my ass, man. He’s as tough as old boots,” said a relieved Bisping after the fight.
Henderson had announced his retirement prior to the fight, and confirmed it afterward.
“That was the last time anyone will see me fight live,” Henderson said. “I appreciate all the support throughout my career, worldwide. I gave my heart and soul to this sport.
“I came up a little short, but not bad for an old man.”
In the co-main event, Gegard Mousasi defeated Vitor Belfort in the middleweight division.
After an early flurry of punches by Belfort, he took a head kick in round two, and referee Marc Goddard stopped the bout quickly when the Brazilian fell to the ground and covered up under fire from punches.
“(Belfort) is a legend. Fighting him is an honour,” said Mousasi after the bout. He then challenged UFC legend Anderson Silva, stating that “it would be a good fight for me.”
Jimi Manuwa delivered three good punches to take his fight against interim light-heavyweight contender Ovince St. Preux.
After being out-wrestled in round 1, Manuwa landed a left to the body, an overhand right, and a left-hook to stop the bout, and invigorate a crowd that was beginning to wilt at just after 4 a.m. local time, with the event timed to suit U.S. television audiences.
Stefan Struve became the first man to finish Daniel Omielanczuk in MMA competition, winning via d’arce choke for the 17th submission victory of his career. After the bout, he reminded UFC’s matchmakers that he holds a TKO victory over current heavyweight title-holder Stipe Miocic.
Bosnia’s Mirsad Bektic returned to action for the first time since May 2015 and took a rear naked choke victory over Russell Doane in the featherweight division, giving him a 4-0 record in the UFC.
In the final fight of the preliminary card, London’s Brad Pickett was rocked by a spinning back elbow, never fully recovering before submitting to Iuri Alcantara’s triangle choke.