UFC Fight Night 55 went down in Sydney, Australia Friday night (for those of us in North America, and Saturday in host country Australia), featuring what was possibly the grudge match of the year heading into the card, a headlining clash between middleweights Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping. Rockhold, the former Strikeforce middleweight champ, had been chomping at the bit to get his hands on “The Count” ever since the brash British fighter quipped that he was the real Strikeforce middleweight champion because of a sparring session between the two. This led to an escalating war of twitter taunts and bickering in the media, all culminating in the clash between the two Friday night.

Did the fight live up to the hype? Well, it ended in a finish, with Rockhold victorious. If you add in the fact that it represents Bisping’s first submission loss, then yes, probably. In fact, overall, the main card was very solid. Be sure to check out our full recap here.

Speaking of, elsewhere on the card, Australian heavyweight Soa Palelei took on the returning Walt Harris, Clint Hester looked to continue his win streak against TUF: Smashes winner Robert Whittaker, and Ross Pearson went toe-to-toe with Al Iaquinta.

Now lets rate every main card fighter for UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Bisping!

Soa Palelei— B-

Soa Palelei wound up on the wrong end of a decision loss to wrestling standout Jared Rosholt his last time out, and he ensured the same would not happen again at UFC Fight Night 55. When it comes to heavyweight bouts early on cards, you never really know how they’ll turn out, but Palelei and Harris put on an excellent show, trading kicks in the first, punches in the second, and rocking one another before The Hulk took Harris down towards the end of the second and pounded him out for the TKO.

Extra credit for Palelei singing out “I’m so in love with you” to the people of Sydney after the fight.

Walt Harris— C

Walt Harris was getting a second chance in the UFC as an injury replacement at UFC Fight Night 55 after being cut following a 0-2 run his first time out. He put in a valiant effort against Palelei but came up short, dropping him to 0-3 in the promotion. That said, the man who served up his loss Friday, Soa Palelei, said in the octagon after the scrap that he hopes Harris sticks around, and we agree. It was a solid outing, and in a thin heavyweight division, Harris still has some upside. He just needs to find a way to win.

Robert Whittaker— B+

In his debut at middleweight, Robert Whittaker became the first fighter to finish TUF 17’s Clint Hester with strikes. It was an excellent back and forth fight, two solid rounds of action, and it was Whittaker’s best performance to date. He showed good movement, looked fluid, and utilized a crisp, strong jab before finally catching Hester with a knee in the second round and swarming with punches.

He found himself rocked a couple of times, so there’s definitely room for improvement, but it was a great showing overall.

Clint Hester— C+

It wasn’t the outcome Clint Hester was looking for, but it was a fantastic fight nonetheless. The + on that C, however, is coming mostly because of a wicked spinning back elbow thrown in the first round, the crack of which, when it connected with Robert Whittaker’s jaw, could be heard throughout the arena. That said, there was a lot of sloppy haymakers thrown on Hester’s part, and while exciting to watch, some restraint probably would have served him better than the “drop the game plan and throw” approach he wound up taking. Tiring in the second, he wound up retreating and caught.

It ends a four fight win streak in the UFC, but the loss is mitigated by the tremendous action, and it’s an opportunity for Hester to learn from some of the mistakes he made on the night.

Al Iaquinta— A

Another Matt Serra product along with middleweight champion Chris Weidman, who was in attendance, Al Iaquinta silenced all doubters with a stunning knockout over Ross Pearson. Officially a TKO, Iaquinta rocked Pearson with a shot with about two minutes or so to go in the second, then wobbled him again moments later. He finished off the sequence by knocking Pearson down and moving in for the kill, but the ref moved in to wave things off as Pearson was clearly done.

Iaquinta is suddenly looking like a solid contender in a stacked lightweight division, and for the first time in a while, it’s featherweight and lightweight, not the heavier divisions, that are star-studded and getting a lot of the attention.

After the bout, Iaquinta suggested he was going to suplex a kangaroo, and puts Jaws in the camel clutch. It’s pretty clear fighters are learning from the fast rise of Conor McGregor that a little bit of entertainment along with a strong performance can really get them noticed.

Ross Pearson— C

Simply put, it just wasn’t Ross Pearson’s night. He’s now 1-2 (1NC) in his last four, and struggling to find consistency in a division that has a lot of heavy hitters these days. Worse, he hasn’t had a win over a relevant fighter arguably since he bested Dennis Siver in 2010, although to be fair, his loss to Diego Sanchez might as well have been at gunpoint, with the judges holding the gun.

Pearson’s a gutsy fighter who has earned his spot in the organization, but it’s possible we’ve already seen him peak. He needs to string a couple of wins together to really right the ship.

Luke Rockhold—A

He didn’t get the win in the first round like he wanted, but early in the second, Luke Rockhold connected with a kick, wobbled Bisping with another, moved in with strikes, and when “The Count” exposed his neck, the fight IQ of Rockhold shone through and he sunk in the guillotine. Throughout the fight, he showed little respect for the offense of Bisping, controlling most of the bout, choosing his spots, and walking right in when he felt like it.

Rockhold proves once again that he’s a legit threat for the title at middleweight, and it’ll be interesting to see who he gets next. A rematch with Jacare has been mentioned most, but Lyoto Machida could be an interesting option, despite The Dragon having just lost a title shot against champ Chris Weidman.

Michael Bisping— D

Once again, Michael Bisping comes up short in a big fight. Once again, he’s out of the title picture. Once again, his relevance is in question.

Bisping looked outclassed at UFC Fight Night 55. In the first, after an accidental headbutt, he seemed more interested in jawing with ref Herb Dean then focusing on the fight. In the second, he looked unsure of himself, and by the time he got caught by a Rockhold kick (which didn’t exactly land clean), leading to the end of his night, it was clear the Count wasn’t going to make it to five rounds. In the end, he didn’t even make it past a round and a half.

Worst of all for Bisping is that he doesn’t have a win over a single active UFC fighter under the age of 40 on his record since 2010, when he beat the recently returned Yoshihiro Akiyama. Bisping has headlined events in four of his last five fights but has lost three of those four headlining bouts. That seriously jeopardizes his viability as a draw, as does the fact that his last win streak ended in 2011.

It’s not looking good for the TUF 3 winner — but don’t count out the count just yet. He has proven time and again that he’s capable of bouncing back. Like an accident-prone cat, however, he’s quickly running out of lives.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.