Bisping's title aspirations dashed

Regardless of any opinion you have on Michael Bisping, there's no arguing the Brit was all class after suffering a crushing defeat last week.

The accelerating fall of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua on Saturday overshadowed the death of Bisping's UFC title hopes, but that doesn't make them any less dead.

Never say never in this sport, but it's hard to see Bisping reaching a title fight before he hangs them up. Even he probably knows that. He's too smart not to.

It's one of those things that makes you ask: "How did this happen?" For forever, it just seemed like Bisping had time. Even after setbacks, he was just too polarizing, too marketable (not to mention too consistent) to go an entire career without a single shot at the belt. If Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and Demian Maia all got their opportunities, it was only a matter of time before Bisping got his turn.

But Dan Henderson embarrassed him at UFC 100 in 2009 and Wanderlei Silva edged him out seven months later. Chael Sonnen beat him in a crucial fight in early 2012, and of course there was the knockout loss to a blown-up Vitor Belfort the following year. There was an eye injury, a layoff, an influx of new talent from Strikeforce and the creeping effects of Father Time.

Basically, we blinked and Bisping turned 35. Cote, Leites and Maia have been replaced at the top of his division by Luke Rockhold, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Lyoto Machida.

After suffering that submission/knockout hybrid loss Saturday to Rockhold at UFC Fight Night 55 in Sydney, Bisping said it was "back to the drawing board." But at this point, there might not be anything left on any board to get him past those guys.

Rockhold, someone who closely follows his own sport, is well aware of it. Even after all of the trash talk, you could tell there was a part of him that didn't cherish being the guy to hammer the nail in the coffin of Bisping's title hopes. Whether you're a fan of Bisping or not, looking through his record and counting the losses he suffered to opponents who later ran into drug-testing issues makes you feel for the guy.

"He always fought clean," Rockhold said after the fight. "He's had some unfortunate fights in the past -- unfair fights. The guy fights tooth and nail to the end. I've got nothing but respect for the guy in the cage."

MMA is a tough sport and title shots are obviously not guaranteed, regardless of how long you fight for a certain promotion or how well you sell a bout. Getting back to the class Bisping showed Saturday: He doesn't want any of our pity. Yeah, he lost key fights to opponents who were later exposed as willing to skew the playing field. If he wanted to use that as an excuse, he could -- but Bisping doesn't. In his mind, he should have won those.

"I lost those fights," Bisping told ESPN.com before the Rockhold bout. "I've had opportunities to fight for a title and I've lost in chances to get there. I have only myself to blame for that."

It's a classy attitude to have in a situation that would have left many of us extremely bitter. Bisping made it a point to applaud Rockhold's performance. He should save some of that for himself, even in a loss.

With that, here are the full main card grades for both UFC Fight Night events over the weekend.