CHICAGO -- Michael Bisping was the prefight villain of the night at the United Center, but with a hard-fought performance against Chael Sonnen, he converted an awful lot of haters.
Sonnen took a unanimous decision but it was far from easy. Don't believe it? The brash Sonnen had nothing but nice things to say about one of mixed martial arts' No. 1 heels.
"The whole fight I was never in a position tonight where I was comfortable, not one. It was 15 awkward minutes. I don't have a bad thing to say about the guy," said Sonnen,
Both fighters were surprised it was announced that Sonnen swept the scorecards and one judge, Clay Goodman scored it 30-27.
"There's no way on earth that was a 30-27 and that judge needs to have a serious thinking about his career," said a frustrated Bisping.
Bisping's resolve was strengthened by an outpouring of support on Twitter and the Internet. He's never been received very well by fans and MMA media.
"I think I won rounds one and two. In this modern day of social networking, you just gotta look at the internet, and the general consensus is that people think I won the fight," said Bisping.
UFC president Dana White was also a strong backer of Bisping's performance.
Seconds after the final bell, even Sonnen thought Bisping may have pulled the upset.
"I said to him 'what do you think?' He said 'I think I might have gotten the first two.' I said 'yeah I think you might be right,'" Sonnen said.
The winner was quick to point out that a 30-27 score can be deceiving.
"That doesn't mean I disagree with the judges. They were close rounds. You can have a 30-27 that's still a close 30-27. I don't know that that judge was out of his mind. If it had gone the other way I don't know that I would've been complaining."
It might be even more surprising for fans and MMA experts to hear Sonnen say Bisping could've won the fight in the first.
"I was surprised about everything. Michael Bisping hit me so hard in the first round, I didn't even know what day it was," Sonnen said. "I remember when I came to, I looked at him thinking 'oh my god, you have no idea how bad you hurt me or you'd step in and do something about it.'"
- The event at the United Center was a rousing success with a huge crowd of 17,425. Lower ticket prices were great move by the promotion which still hauled in a gate of $1.2 million.
- The UFC handed out postfight awards to Lavar Johnson for Knockout of the Night and Charles Oliveira for Submission of the Night. Nick Lentz and Evan Dunham got Fight of the Night honors. All four got $65,000.