UFC 120 Results: Michael Bisping's Win Salvages Near Disaster for MMA in the UK
Saturday night in London was supposed to be another leap forward for mixed martial arts and the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the Great Britain.
Ideally, UFC 120: Bisping Vs. Akiyama would've given the local fans a chance to roar in live approval as favorites Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy, and John Hathaway each put on dominant displays of some magnitude or another. Even if all didn't go according to plan, the organization was probably contemplating a lackluster victory or two, maybe one loss in three at worst.
Instead, the sport's popularity will continue to grow in the United Kingdom because it appears there's no stopping this particular train and it certainly won't be derailed in one four-hour span—no matter how catastrophic. But the anticipated leap became more of a tiptoe.
The Count managed to forge on in his quest for a middleweight title shot (chuckle), but he was the lone winner. The Outlaw was on the receiving end of punishment he's accustomed to dispatching while the Hitman got dominated from Minute 1 to Minute 15 in his bout.
Two Americans ruined part of the festivities when Carlos Condit clocked Hardy into oblivion after the latter spent most of the first round making the Natural Born Killer's game plan—stand and trade—look questionable at best. Only minutes earlier, the young Hathaway got severely outclassed veteran Mike Pyle.
Luckily for England and the UFC's promotional efforts across the Atlantic, the company's most bankable Brit—the abrasive Bisping—managed to pepper out a unanimous decision over a wilting Yoshihiro Akiyama in the main event.
The 31-year-old ended the evening on an triumphant note for his native land, but the rest of the card was a bit of a, ahem, howler...
Fabio Maldonado Catches James McSweeney
McSweeney—a veteran of the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter—opened UFC 120 against the older Maldonado and set the wrong kind of tone in front of his countrymen inside the O2 Arena.
The Brazilian, who was making his UFC debut, weathered a jittery first round and took control in the second round against the overmatched Hammer. Fabio alternated between taunting the Brit with an open chin and punishing him once he engaged, only to stop McSweeney with a fierce salvo of punches less than a minute into the third round.
Unfortunately for James, the technical knockout makes two consecutive losses to less than scintillating opposition. Tough, but Greg Jackson should have him back in the gym and ironing out the wrinkles in his approach.
Spencer Fisher Outpoints Patrick...I Mean, Curt Warburton
By all accounts, this scrap could have gone either way, but that's why you're not supposed to leave it to the judges.
Once the points settled, it was the King who got the unanimous decision over the War, making it two losses to open the fireworks and the first (but not last) at the hands of an American. Nevertheless, it was progress as Warburton put on a much better performance in his debut.
Though he'll have to wear the loss, many observers will tell you the Wolfslair Academy product really won the back-and-forth affair.
Claude Patrick Upends James Wilks
If you don't like superlative ground-fighting displays, you probably made your way to the kitchen or hit the fast forward button on the TiVo at some point during this clash.
No, it wasn't the most enthralling action, as the Canadian dominated Lightning without ever putting him in real danger. Wilks did just enough to keep the Prince's most perilous advances at bay, but he couldn't muster...well...anything to get the London crowd riled up.
With the loss, yet another British TUF alumnus is stuck behind the eight ball, though Wilks was the champion of the 10th season so he should get a bit more leash.
Contrarily, Patrick might be a man to watch at welterweight—his only professional loss came in the second of his 14 career contests and the UD over Wilks was his first non-stoppage victory (nine submissions, three knockouts).
Mike Pyle Clears a Couple Seats from the John Hathaway Bandwagon
This is the one that really hurts.
Sure, Bisping is the most established name and Hardy is a more colorful personality than the Hitman, but some would say the Count's prospects at 185 pounds are laughable—I mean, Bisping toppling UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva?
Meanwhile the Outlaw just gave us a never-had-a-chance effort against UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre in March. In other words, the Brit with the most legitimate title aspirations might just be the 23-year-old Hathaway.
He'd also have to get through GSP, but the youngster was undefeated and beginning to add some notable names to his resume—authentic contenders like Diego Sanchez, Paul Taylor (obviously the weakest of the bunch), and Rick Story.
And nothing sells like a champ.
Given the context of the other two big UK tickets, the Hitman's still got the most realistic shot at the hardware, but Quicksand gave him a laundry list of to-do items as far as his fight game is concerned. The American had his way both standing and rolling, at one point putting his opponent in a mounted crucifix/leg triangle hybrid that probably would've ended matters had there been a few more ticks in the round.
The Hitman will be back, rest assured, but he'll have to go back to the drawing board in the interim.
Carlos Condit Beats Dan Hardy to the Punch
When Condit sprawled Hardy out on the floor inside the Octagon, it only added insult to the Hathaway injury.
Though nothing sells like the top dog, a colorful No. 2 is always a decent cash cow and the Outlaw is nothing if not colorful (he's the guy with the mohawk). Since losing to St-Pierre is hardly a mark of disgrace on the MMA landscape, Hardy was still every bit the genuine article inside the cage while being a genuine character outside of it.
With a win over the Natural Born Killer and Bisping's UD over Sexiyama, the UFC could've spun two tales of British insurgency into the upper echelons of their respective weight divisions. Any actual merit be damned because the paper would've backed the hype.
But the cruel left hook from the American cut the lights on any such notions along with those belonging to the flamboyant man from Nottingham.
Conclusion: The Redcoats Are Still Coming, They Just Won't Get Here for a While
As I said on the introductory slide, the popularity of MMA (and the UFC with it) is growing so fast and has already reached such proportions that no single event could ever reverse or even stop the progress. Make no mistake, though, UFC 120 did not unfold according to best laid plans.
Regardless of what the public stance might be.
However, UFC's business is apparently booming across the Pond even faster than it is State-side if Joe Rogan can be trusted. Admittedly, that's becoming a dicier proposition by the day as the comedian gives himself over to the hype machine, but I think Joe's probably in the clear on this one.
Consequently, one gray cloud with a significant silver lining won't do permanent damage to the sport's popularity or growth in the UK.
But it should temporarily dampen some enthusiasm as a pair of Britain's biggest stars take their medicine.
And that passes for bad news in the increasingly sunny world of the UFC.