LAS VEGAS – Michael Bisping spent most of his UFC 100 match with Dan Henderson backpedaling and staying out of range. Midway through the second round, we found out why.
The battle of "Ultimate Fighter 9" coaches ended with one of the most brutal knockouts of 2009. Henderson, coach of Team USA, floored Bisping with a hellacious right cross that knocked out the Team U.K. coach cold. Henderson added a flying forearm smash for good measure before referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the fight at 3:20.
It was a shocking conclusion to a season filled with trash talk and bad vibes. Bisping's fighters took both the lightweight and middleweight tournaments on the show and he seemed to spend the entire week of the fight badmouthing Henderson and rubbing in his success.
"I don't know if he'll ever shut his mouth," said Henderson (25-7) in his postfight octagon interview. "I think that last [forearm] was just to shut him up."
After the card, though, Henderson downplayed the incendiary comments.
"Things happen when you're in the heat of the moment," he said. "The ref's got to stop me. Who knows what's going to happen? He could get back up. I didn't go after him after the ref stopped the fight. It was just a reaction to keep going until I got stopped."
The victory was classic Henderson. The former two-time PRIDE champion has a patient style and is willing to pick his spots and finish an opponent if the opportunity presents itself, but he'll grind his way to a decision if he has to.
Henderson figured out early that the match may not go the distance: "In our first exchange I hit him very well. He started to run a little bit more. He landed more jabs than I thought. It didn't affect me one bit, he didn't feel strong."
Henderson turned on the aggression in the second and finished Bisping off with his big right. Bisping left the cage under his own power, and on his way back to the locker room was overheard asking fellow Wolfslair campmate Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, "What happened?"
The victory puts Henderson back in the running for another crack at middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Henderson lost to Silva via second-round submission in a UFC vs. PRIDE unification match at UFC 82.
Since then, though, Henderson has rebounded for three straight wins, defeating Rousimar Palhares and outslugging former champ Rich Franklin in a January battle of attrition.
Henderson feels a Silva rematch would go different than the first encounter and not without reason. Henderson had some trouble with his weight cut before the Silva fight and won the first round before tiring in the second. But he's clearly adjusted to the cut, and he sees things in Silva's game he feels he can exploit.
"I just felt my gameplan wasn't there [against Silva]," said Henderson, who won a $100,000 knockout of the night bonus. "My body was a little flat. That's the main reason I want that fight again. After watching his past two fights, that makes me want it all the more."
UFC president Dana White noted he will wait until after Silva's light heavyweight match against Forrest Griffin next month before deciding on his title defense.
"Ultimately it's up to him," Henderson said. "I understand I had to win some fights and beat other guys first. I did that and I feel I've earned it."
Going into the match, the company eyed a potential November date in Britain for a title fight between Bisping (18-2) and Silva. But with Bisping looking out of his league in his first match with an elite fighter, he doesn't figure to be in a main event anytime soon.
"I've had fans come up to me, from both the U.S. and the U.K., and say to me 'I used to like him [Bisping] before the show,' " Henderson said. "I don't think he did himself any favors."