With UFC 207 set to air just a day before the new year, it’s been difficult to release these “End of the Year” awards in a timely manner. Some media outlets have resorted to handing out their awards preemptively while others have elected to wait until January. Considering the name power scheduled to compete tomorrow night, I’ve decided to go with the latter option.
That being said, there are a couple awards that I can release prior to the final event of 2016, and Upset of the Year is one of them. Simply put, there is no possible outcome at UFC 207 that could top the underdog performance by Michael Bisping last June.
For years, his name had been synonymous with top contender. His resume of opponents could essentially double as a list of Hall of Fame candidates. But his career has also been a tale of falling short. He would go on a win streak, find himself one victory away from a title shot, and lose when it mattered most. It happened against Dan Henderson in 2009. It happened against Chael Sonnen in 2012. Now officially in his late 30s, it felt as if the chance at UFC gold may never come for the English veteran. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride, as they say.
However, an early 2016 win over Anderson Silva made him relevant once again. After all, Silva is arguably the greatest fighter of all time, and although he may be past his prime, that’s the sort of victory people remember fondly.
He was again in the mix for a title shot, but was not the #1 contender quite yet. Rather, Chris Weidman played that role, eager for his rematch with the man that stole his belt at UFC 194. Subsequently, Rockhold vs. Weidman II was scheduled for UFC 199 on June 4th.
Now here’s the magical part of the story. The twist of fate that seems to go hand-in-hand with athletic achievement: On May 17th, it was announced that Weidman was forced to pull out of the bout with a cervical disc herniation. This left the new middleweight champion without an opponent and on 17 days notice, Bisping accepted the offer.
Nearly a decade after his UFC debut, Michael Bisping got his first crack at a UFC Championship.
Unsurprisingly, he was a heavy underdog at nearly 6-1 odds. Nobody except for Michael Bisping believed he could walk away with that belt on June 4th. But in the end, nobody else needed to. He defeated Luke Rockhold that night. In fact, he destroyed him. A flurry of punches and it was over before we ever saw a second round. It was shocking. It was poetic. It was unquestionably the Upset of the Year and, in truth, one of the biggest upsets of all time.
Following this up with a title defense against an old rival and an upcoming fight against one of the most dangerous men on the planet, many are considering Michael Bisping to be the 2016 Fighter of the Year. I’m not quite ready to release my pick for that award. But this award was easy.
Honorable Mention: Nate Diaz def. Conor McGregor at UFC 196 (+400)
Honorable Mention: Eric Spicely def. Thiago Santos at UFC Fight Night 95 (+600)