In 2022, the United Kingdom crowned its second-ever UFC World Champion. Jamaican-born Brit Leon Edwards was the one who delivered the gold.
He stunned everyone as he knocked out the welterweight champion and pound-for-pound number one, Kamaru Usman at UFC 278 last August.
Heading into the bout, the Nigerian Nightmare was perhaps the most feared fighter on the planet. He was on a 19-fight winning streak, a streak in which he had faced a murderer’s row of opponents. He had made five consecutive defences of his welterweight championship – four of which were split between UFC icons Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal – and he had his eyes set on Georges St. Pierre’s divisional record of nine consecutive title defences.
As such, online sportsbook Bovada who provide MMA betting online made the reigning champion an overwhelming favorite to retain his title. But the challenger was on a tear of his own. Edwards was unbeaten in seven years and had picked up victories against the likes of Nate Diaz, Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone.
Usman was the last man to defeat Edwards back in December 2015, and he looked to be on the way to victory in the pair’s rematch.
As the fight entered the fifth round, the champion was ahead by three rounds to one on the judges’ scorecards. But just when all hope seemed lost, the challenger found a head kick from the gods, leaving his rival flat out on the mat, and Edwards with his arms aloft as the new Welterweight Champion of the world.
The United Kingdom had waited patiently for its second UFC champion. To be exact, they’d waited five long years. Half a decade ago, the undisputed king of British MMA was sitting at the mountaintop.
The Rise of The Count
Michael Bisping, arguably the most successful UFC fighter to come out of Europe, enjoyed a long, and successful career spanning 15 years in the Mixed Martial Arts arena.
Throughout his career, “The Count” was well known for his entertaining trash-talk and extensive knowledge of the sport. He was a master of the mental game, often using it to his advantage to defeat opponents.
Bisping’s first big win came in season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter. The brash Brit would reach the final of the reality show where he would meet Josh Haynes, with the winner earning a mega money UFC contract. Bisping would duly knock out his opponent in Las Vegas to punch his ticket into mixed-martial arts’ premier organization.
The Lancastrian truly announced himself to the world at UFC 83 in 2008 against Charles McCarthy. After a closely contested fight, Bisping won by unanimous decision. This victory gave Bisping the recognition he needed to become a household name and catapulted him into the UFC’s middleweight ranks.
From there, Bisping continued to pick up wins against notable opponents such as Denis Kang, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and Jason Miller. But there were several heartbreaking defeats along the way.
The Englishman fought his way to the top of the rankings, however, was brutally knocked out by Dan Henderson at UFC 100, which cost him a title shot.
He would climb the rankings once again, and his 2012 tussle with Chael Sonnen was also for number-one contender status. Bisping would once again fall to defeat, with the “American Gangster” claiming a controversial, unanimous decision victory.
“The Count” wouldn’t give up, however, and he was booked to face Anderson Silva at the O2 Arena in London.
Bisping would win the fight by a razor-thin unanimous decision, with the Brazilian clearly thinking he had done enough to secure victory.
That performance put Bisping in contention once again, and when former middleweight champion, Chris Weidman pulled out of his rematch with Luke Rockhold at UFC 194, Bisping was finally given his first championship opportunity, albeit on just 17 days’ notice.
Champion at Last
Heading into his title tilt against Rockhold, Bisping was a heavy underdog. The champion had beaten the challenger 18 months prior and was expected to do the same again in his first title defence.
After landing a massive left hook, Bisping pulled off a stunning first-round knockout, becoming the Middleweight Champion as well as the United Kingdom’s first-ever champion.
As champion, Bisping would return home to Manchester and avenge his most devastating loss against Dan Henderson. Despite being dropped, the champion would pick up a unanimous decision victory against the American.
The Struggle Vs. Georges St-Pierre
One of Bisping’s most memorable title defences, however, would come against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden.
After two and a half rounds of trading strikes and submission attempts, Bisping was caught in a rear-naked choke and put to sleep by the Canadian, ending his title reign at 518 days.
Sadly, after the loss to St-Pierre, Bisping’s career was all but over. Just three weeks on from that heartbreaking defeat, he was knocked out by the up-and-coming Kelvin Gastelum in Shanghai. After that bout, Bisping announced his retirement from the UFC.
Throughout his 15-year career, Michael Bisping achieved numerous accomplishments, including a UFC championship reign, numerous Performance of the Night bonuses, and a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame.
He was an entertaining fighter and a beloved figure in the sport. After his retirement, Bisping (now a great commentator and MC) is remembered as one of the greatest, and enduring UFC fighters of all time.