Despite it being near to 5am local time for UFC 204's main event, fans were in full voice as "The Count" avenged his devastating loss to Dan Henderson by outscoring the American - in what also was Hendo's last ever fight.
It capped off a remarkable evening (or morning) of action inside the Octagon, with all fights barring the opener and main event being finished inside the 15 minute time period. The more notable of those finishes was by way of Gegard Mousasi, finishing the legendary Vitor Belfort. Not to forget, Jimi Manuwa reached a new high after a brutal knockout against Ovince Saint Preux, scratching the surface on yet another night to savour in the eight sided cage.
Things would certainly pick up in the featured Fight Pass prelim, however, with Mike Perry brutally finishing Britain's Danny Roberts in the third frame of a riveting clash. The American appeared to be on the front door throughout the duration of the fight, although the fans in attendance were willing "Hot Chocolate" on at every opportunity, with sons clean head kicks and swift one-two combinations landing on his part. But in the third round, Roberts time would come to an end with less than a minute on the clock, succumbing to a big punch, knee and then subsequent ground and pound as the referee halted the bout.
Following that up was further success for the Brits, as Leon Edwards added a substantial feather in his cap at the expense of Albert Tumenov. He showed his prowess when the fight hit the mat with exceptional early grappling, but it appeared to take a toll on the energy reserves. Despite Tumenov growing in optimism, a swift, late takedown eventually opened up for the rear naked choke - and the biggest victory of his career.
Wrapping up the prelim portion of the card, Brad Pickett was swept away by Iuri Alcântara as the Brazilian constructed one of the finest performances of his career. Working finely around the cage, he pounced at the opening by connecting with a spinning elbow, and adding a left hook to send Pickett down. From there, survival mode and a roaring support from the crowd wasn't even enough. Alcântara pounded, took the arm, until his opponent rolled over and tried to step out. Then he slapped on a triangle choke and that was all she wrote.
Bektic calling his shot backstage: "I’ve been a prospect for a long time, but I’m not a prospect any more. I’m a contender and that’s that."— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) October 9, 2016
Following that trend, the tallest UFC fighter on the roster dominated horizontally too. Despite possessing an astronomical height and reach advantage, it was the mat game of Stefan Struve which guided him to the win against Daniel Omielanczuk. His prowess on the ground was evident, leading to a D'Arce choke submission.
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In the evening's co-main event, Gegard Mousasi further added to the pile at 185 lbs as he eventually tore through Vitor Belfort. Respect was shown from the outset, though, with knowledge abundant of The Phenom's danger in the opening minutes.
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Is that the last we see of The Phenom? Mousasi finishes Belfort impressively #UFC204 pic.twitter.com/E7LxttQls3— Waq (@TheBallackRole) October 9, 2016
And then, after the fights had flown by, one matter was left to be resolved: the right to retain or seize the middleweight throne. The answer would be unearthed after five compelling rounds of combat, in which Manchester's very own Michael Bisping prevailed.
He would have to give it all he had when it came to the title fight, suffering two knockdowns in the first two rounds which really nullified his neat and composed work. The champion was playing with fire almost as he opted to stand toe-to-toe with Dan Henderson. The first instance was in the closing stages of the round one in which Bisping was left a bloodied mess; with the American not afraid to swarm and land a selection of elbows and punches. Before the second of those knockdowns was a demonstration of Bisping's progression in the contest, where he mixed up high and low smoothly, and hurt Hendo (although it seemed to be a groin strike), right until another overhand caused his legs to go from under him.
|Image: USA TODAY|
Michael Bisping retains the belt in front of his hometown crowd with a UD victory over Dan Henderson! 👊🇬🇧 #UFC204 pic.twitter.com/BMFOSmZ4M3— TheMMAMatrix 👊 (@TSM_MMA) October 9, 2016
With five rounds passed, it went to the judges scorecards. They read 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46 all in favour of the champion, confirming his first title defence as a success.
Post-fight, the two opponents appeared to finally put their bad blood to bed, acknowledging respect for one another - and rightly so after waging war for five incredible rounds.
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Dan Henderson may not have retired with UFC gold, but after a lengthy career of unrivalled dedication, he walked off into the sunset as a respected and appreciated legend.
Michael Bisping, meanwhile, went through it all but remains world champion. Even with other middleweights breathing down his neck, what he achieved in front of a home crowd will live long in the memory.