UFC 120 Preview
The UFC returns to the United Kingdom this weekend as UFC 120: Bisping vs. Akiyama takes place from the O2 Arena in London, England, free on Spike TV for those in the United States.
It coincides with the first ever UFC UK Fan Expo at Earl's Court in London, featuring appearances by such UFC stars as Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Frankie Edgar, Rich Franklin, Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, Jon Fitch, and many others.
The main event is going to be a battle of international superstars as England native Michael "The Count" Bisping takes on Japanese star Yoshihiro Akiyama, who many in the mixed martial arts community dub "Sexyama."
The other top fights on the night feature a potential fight of the year as former top contender at 170 pounds, Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy, takes on former WEC Welterweight Champion "The Natural Born Killer" Carlos Condit, and rising undefeated British fighter John "Hitman" Hathaway takes on veteran Mike "Quicksand" Pyle.
A heavyweight battle between long-time UFC veteran Cheick Kongo and undefeated Travis Browne, and a welterweight shootout between The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 winner James "Lightning" Wilks and Canadian standout Claude "The Prince" Patrick round out the evening's five-fight main card.
As normal with the United Kingdom events, the preliminary card highlights a lot of England's more well-known fighters, most of whom are making their UFC debuts on this show, including Rob Broughton, Paul Sass, and Kurt Warburton.
Former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion Steve "The Robot" Cantwell and the always-exciting UFC lightweight veteran Spencer "The King" Fisher are also among those competing in the night's undercard.
Here is your match-by-match breakdown of the show, followed by predictions.
Michael Bisping Vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
UK Superstar Michael Bisping (right) is looking for a win in the night's main event
Michael Bisping (19-3, 9-3 UFC) vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-2 2 NC, 1-1 UFC)
Michael Bisping enters the fight coming off of a win over Dan Miller at UFC 114 that followed a tough decision loss to legend Wanderlei Silva at UFC 110.
Yoshihiro Akiyama is coming into this fight off of a tough submission loss to Chris Leben at UFC 116 which many are calling 2010's Fight Of The Year thus far.
Akiyama is 1-1 in his UFC career, his win being a decision victory over Alan Belcher that was close enough to where many thought Belcher had won the fight.
Akiyama's Octagon career could be on the line in this fight, and he is in desperate need of a victory.
Akiyama has been training with Greg Jackson's camp in preparation for this fight, and Jackson is arguably the best coach in MMA, and often finds a strategy that brings out the best in his fighters and is often a winning strategy.
Bisping is looking to climb up the ladder in the UFC Middleweight Division, and a win here would certainly move him up the ladder a little bit in his quest for a title shot.
Bisping's strategy in this should be to use his stand-up ability to counter Akiyama's judo takedown ability.
This should be a stand-up battle, and if it is anything like the previous fights both men have been in, the crowd at the O2 Arena is sure in for a treat in the night's main event.
Dan Hardy Vs. Carlos Condit
Dan Hardy looks to return to title contention
Dan Hardy (23-7 1 NC, 4-1 UFC) vs. Carlos Condit (25-5, 2-1 UFC)
Dan Hardy returns to the Octagon for the first time since his title shot at the UFC Welterweight Championship and subsequent defeat at the hands of champion Georges St. Pierre.
Carlos Condit comes into the fight on a two-fight winning streak over Jake Ellenberger and a come-from-behind TKO stoppage of Rory MacDonald at UFC 115 in June.
Both men are well-known for having entertaining fights, and this fight should be just as entertaining as their previous fights, and is a huge contender for fight of the night heading into the show.
Hardy is looking to freshen up on his weaknesses that were shown in his fight against St.Pierre, but he's facing a guy in Condit who comes from the same camp as St. Pierre, Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque, N.M.
Jackson is probably looking to use the same strategy for Condit that worked for St.Pierre on Hardy, and that is utilizing the takedown and making the fight a ground battle.
Hardy is known for his power that he showed in knocking out Rory Markham at UFC 95, but Condit is extremely tough and very hard to finish.
This is a fight that Condit asked for, and Hardy has let it be known that he wants to finish the fight, and in the end the fans will be the winners. A potential fight of the night.
John Hathaway Vs Mike Pyle
John Hathaway puts his undefeated record on the line
John Hathaway (14-0, 4-0 UFC) vs. Mike Pyle (20-7, 2-2 UFC)
John Hathaway is undefeated and coming off by far the biggest win of his career when he dominated Diego Sanchez en route to a unanimous decision victory at UFC 114 in May. He is the most hyped of all of the British fighters, and it is justified.
His next test comes in the form of veteran Mike Pyle, who is coming off of a submission win over Jesse Lennox at UFC 115 from Vancouver in June. Pyle is entering his 11th year of mixed martial arts competition and has fought Quinton Jackson and Jake Shields, and even holds a win over Jon Fitch.
Pyle is a long-time member of Xtreme Couture while Hathaway comes from the London Shootfighters team, and is a very well-rounded fighter who excels at everything.
Hathaway is going to have to use his reach advantage and his ground and pound in an attempt to fend off Pyle's submissions, which have handed him the majority of his wins.
This fight will prove whether Hathaway is able to make the next step into the elite of the 170-pound division, or whether the veteran Pyle still has many more fights to come. This fight could also be in the running for potential fight of the night honors.
Cheick Kongo Vs. Travis Browne
Cheick Kongo (right) looks to add another win to his record
Cheick Kongo (15-6-1, 8-4 UFC) vs. Travis Browne (10-0, 1-0 UFC)
Cheick Kongo is one of the more well-known UFC heavyweights. Travis Browne is in his second UFC fight.
The odds are stacked against Browne, though he did look very impressive in his win over James McSweeney in June.
But Kongo is quite the leap in competition, and is one of the more versatile fighters in the division. Kongo has some of the best ground and pound the division has to offer, and Browne's guard game has yet to be tested, though he is fairly new to MMA competition, having began his career in early 2009.
He will have a height advantage of three inches as Browne stands tall at 6'7", but his strikes lack the speed of Kongo's strikes, and Browne has yet to show if he has the ability to stuff the kinds of takedowns that Kongo could bring into the fight.
If Kongo is able to get the fight to the ground, it could be a long night for Browne as Kongo could put together hard strikes from the top position.
This is a fight where a win moves Kongo back up into the Top 10 category as far as UFC heavyweights go, and a loss won't be a detriment to Browne at this stage in his career.
James Wilks Vs. Claude Patrick
Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Winner James Wilks looks for another victory in the UFC
James Wilks (7-3, 2-1 UFC) vs. Claude Patrick (12-1, 1-0 UFC)
James Wilks is the season 9 winner of The Ultimate Fighter. But life in the stacked 170-pound division in the UFC isn't easy, and every fight is proof of that.
Here, Wilks faces a little known yet very talented fighter in Claude Patrick, who comes into this fight riding an 11 fight win streak and an overall 12-1 record.
Both of these fighters hold brown belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Wilks adds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do to that.
Patrick is a much more superior wrestler than Wilks, but if Wilks can use the clinch to score a takedown on Patrick, he is one of those fighters that works for different positions in search of the submission.
Wilks also may be willing to take more risks on the ground, which could be dangerous for him as Patrick does have a more efficient grappling style and has a knack for trying to find the guillotine choke.
Expect this one to be ground work at his finest, and whoever finds the right submission may just walk away with the victory.
Cyrille Diabate Vs. Alexander Gustafsson
MMA veteran Cyrille Diabate looks to improve to 2-0 in the UFC
Cyrille Diabate (16-6-1, 1-0 UFC) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (9-1, 1-1 UFC)
This is an exciting match-up for the night's preliminary card. Cyrille Diabate comes into the fight off of a TKO victory over Luiz Cane at UFC 114, while Alexander Gustafsson comes in off a loss at UFC 112 to Phil Davis, but not many guys are going to be able to defeat Davis.
It's a battle of two guys who are tall guys in the light heavyweight division as Diabate stands at 6'6" and Gustafsson stands at 6'5".
Diabate is a Muay Thai kickboxer and a veteran of the sport having fought all over the world, including a fight against UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio Rua in PRIDE.
Gustafsson is a 23 year old who has shown good wrestling and takedown defense and has been working at the Alliance Training Center with Brandon Vera, Dominik Cruz and the aforementioned Davis.
Gustafsson has shown he has some heavy hands and the boxing skills to back it up, and he has the reach and timing that can give Diabate some fits.
Diabate has yet to show true ability to stop a fight, and if Gustafsson can stay out of the pocket for long stretches, it could be just enough to give Diabate some fits. This could be another potential fight of the night.
Rob Broughton Vs Vinicius Queiroz
UK Fighter Rob Broughton makes his UFC debut
Rob Broughton (14-5-1, 0-0 UFC) vs. Vinicius Queiroz (5-1, 0-0 UFC)
This is the UFC debut for both fights. Rob Broughton is a well-known fighter in England, and trains at the ever popular Wolfslair Academy with the likes of Quinton Jackson and Michael Bisping.
Vinicius Queiroz is a product of the Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil, which produced a who's-who of fighters including Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva and Mauricio Rua.
Queiroz is going to have a huge size advantage in the fight as he stands at 6'7" as compared to Broughton at 6'2", which also plays into a huge reach advantage for Queiroz.
Queiroz does get sloppy at times, but he does have huge power and great finishing skills, as all of his wins have come by KO or TKO.
Broughton does have some good freestyle wrestling and likes to remain in top control, and Queiroz's frame can make him an easy target for takedowns.
If Broughton can get the fight to the ground, he could have enough to ride out a victory, but if the fight remains standing, it could be a display for Queiroz's stand-up ability.
Steve Cantwell Vs. Stanislav Nedkov
Former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion Steve Cantwell returns after a year long layoff
Steve Cantwell (7-3, 1-2 UFC) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (11-0, 0-0 UFC)
Former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion Steve Cantwell returns to action after a year-long layoff due to illness, and he could find himself in a "do or die" position in this one.
Cantwell is coming off of two straight losses to Luiz Cane and Brian Stann, and he meets the debuting and undefeated Stanislav Nedkov, who holds a victory over Kevin Randleman.
Cantwell is a young fighter, only 23, and does have himself a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Nedkov is one of those fighters who searches for a takedown and often tries to ride the fight out to the bell, what many fans call the dreaded "lay and pray" style.
But Nedkov does lack the ability in top control to be truly effective at this level, and he has the tendency to make some mistakes, and Cantwell does have the ability to grapple.
Cantwell would likely like to keep the fight standing, but if it finds it's way to the ground, he is quite comfortable there, and all of Cantwell's wins have come by way of TKO or submission.
Nedkov could be in for a long night in his debut, and Cantwell is eager to get back on the winning track, as his last victory came in December 2008.
EDIT ON 10/15: This fight was cancelled as Cantwell suffered a knee injury late Thursday night and was forced to pull out of the fight. It is being targeted for reschedule at UFC 124 in December.
Paul Sass Vs. Mark Holst
10-0 Paul Sass makes his UFC debut in his home country
Paul Sass (10-0, 0-0 UFC) vs. Mark Holst (8-2, 0-1 UFC)
Paul Sass is making his UFC debut here and is one of England's most hyped young fighters. Sass is a perfect 10-0, with 9 of those wins coming by submission, including the first 7 wins of his career by triangle choke.
He faces Mark Holst, who is coming off of a loss to John Gunderson in his UFC debut in June, and is likely fighting for survival in the UFC.
Sass has shown one weakness, which is a common theme among many, but not all, of the British fighters: his wrestling.
But Holst isn't exactly much of a strength for Holst, who couldn't get much done in the guard in the fight with Gunderson.
Holst does hold a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a black belt in Shotokan Karate, and he does train with a top camp in Greg Jackson's camp, and spends time at Renzo Gracie's academy as well as Ricardo Almeida's academy.
This could be a ground war that would favor lots of position changes, and the first man to find a submission could be the man who walks away victorious.
Sass is a finisher, while Holst has yet to show the same finishing abilities in his fights. It should be an entertaining battle, and is also a candidate for potential fight of the night.
Spencer Fisher Vs. Kurt Warburton
Spencer Fisher (right) looks to stop a recent 2 fight losing skid
Spencer Fisher (23-6, 8-5 UFC) vs. Kurt Warburton (6-1, 0-0 UFC)
Spencer Fisher is a long-time mainstay to UFC fans, and his love for Ric Flair is well-known, as he often struts and woooo's after victories.
But Fisher is coming into this fight off of two straight losses to Joe Stevenson and Dennis Siver, and next up on his plate is the debuting British fighter Kurt Warburton.
Warburton trains out of the Wolfslair MMA Academy in the UK, and holds a victory over Ultimate Fighter winner Ross Pearson. Fisher is well known for his striking, and his hands are faster than Warburton's, and Fisher maintains a much stronger grasp of striking ability.
Warburton is a quality fighter in the British MMA community, but this is a huge leap in competition for him.
A win for Fisher might shoot some new life into him, and his recent training at Team Sityodtong with Mark Dellagrote is meant for him to improve on his striking ability.
Warburton could attempt to take the fight to the ground, but Fisher does hold an active guard. This could be another exciting fight for the fans, and is another potential fight of the night.
James McSweeney Vs. Fabio Maldonado
James McSweeney is looking to improve his UFC record to 2-1
James McSweeney (4-5, 1-1 UFC) vs. Fabio Maldonado (17-3, 0-0 UFC)
Don't let James McSweeney's record fool you: he is a quality fighter, and he comes from a great camp. However, Fabio Maldonado is a late replacement for Tom Blackledge, and the change in opponents could swing the fight in his favor.
Maldonado is a veteran of the sport who is making his UFC debut after 10 years in MMA, and he trains with the Nogueira camp.
This opening bout should get the fans into a frenzy early as this should be a heck of a slugfest. Neither fighter has an advantage in technique that would make one a favorite over the other.
McSweeney likes to mix in his kicks with his punches, and often hits a few combos and backs off. If Maldonado keeps attempting to close the pocket on McSweeney, he could be in for a long night.
This fight could very well boil down to which fighter is able to impose his brand of brawling.
McSweeney making the long overdue cut to light heavyweight should also work well in his advantage, as he will be fighting a similar-sized fighter. This fight could end quickly, and with a knockout.
The O2 Arena should be jam-packed with some rabid fans
Last, but not least, it is time for my predictions:
Bisping vs. Akiyama- Akiyama by decision
Hardy vs. Condit- Condit by decision
Hathaway vs. Pyle- Hathaway by decision
Kongo vs. Browne- Kongo by TKO in Round 2
Wilks vs. Patrick- Wilks by submission in Round 3
Diabate vs. Gustafsson- Diabate by TKO in Round 2
Broughton vs. Queiroz- Queiroz by KO in Round 1
Cantwell vs. Nedkov- Cantwell by submission in Round 2
Sass vs. Holst- Sass by submission in Round 2
Fisher vs. Warburton- Fisher by decision
McSweeney vs. Maldonado- McSweeney by KO in Round 1
This is shaping up to be quite the fun night for the fans. The O2 Arena is expected to be jam-packed, and the fans will be treated to a quality show. Enjoy the fights, everyone.