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UFC 120: Bisping vs. Akiyama review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 20, 2011, 7:26 AM

UFC 120: Bisping vs. Akiyama

London, England

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Fabio Maldonado vs James McSweeney

McSweeney was dropping to 205lbs for the first time in the UFC here and was supposed to take on Wolfslair’s Tom Blackledge, but ended up being matched with Nogueira student Maldonado instead. Fun fact – I saw a Maldonado fight on the Bittetti Combat 4 card from 2009 (although it was at Heavyweight) and he would’ve been like the last guy who won on that card that I figured would end up in the UFC. Seriously, the fight was like sub-TUF 10 stuff in terms of sloppiness. I still picked him to beat McSweeney though just because.

Round One begins and McSweeney looks light on his feet and lands a pair of leg kicks early. Pair of lunging left hooks miss for the Brazilian and McSweeney comes back with a leg kick and a front kick to the body. Good leg kick from the TUF competitor. High kick follows and glances off Maldonado. Left from Maldonado but McSweeney counters with a right hand and a high kick before following with an attempt at a jumping front kick. Leg kick lands cleanly again but a spinning back kick misses. Maldonado presses forward, but walks into a counter right again. Superman punch and big left knee follow but Maldonado takes it. Clinch from Maldonado and he forces McSweeney into the fence, but McSweeney quickly reverses position and lands a right hand. Both men miss shots and McSweeney then grabs a standing guillotine, but rather than pull guard he uses it to land a pair of nasty knees. BIG right high kick follows but Maldonado smiles and punches his own chin, telling McSweeney to bring it on. McSweeney obliges with a leg kick and an overhand right but the Brazilian tells him to bring it again. Couple more kicks from McSweeney before Maldonado clinches. Takedown attempt from the Brit, but Maldonado stuffs it. Takedown attempt from Maldonado goes awry and McSweeney makes him pay with a BIG HEAD KICK and a right hand! Knee and a nice combo follow but Maldonado covers up. Right hand hurts him though and a front crescent kick (!) lands glancingly. Big chant for McSweeney as he continues to tee off, but Maldonado stalks forward to end the round. Big round for McSweeney, but he didn’t seem to hurt Maldonado and he looks tired between rounds.

2nd round and McSweeney opens with a leg kick, but this time Maldonado looks ready to counter and he throws punches to back McSweeney up. McSweeney is noticeably slower here. Left to the body glances for Maldonado and he follows with a right to the same spot, but this time it lands flush and McSweeney backs up in pain. Maldonado closes him down and throws another one to the body as McSweeney tries to fire back. Left hook has the Brit covering up and a short right to the body drops him. Maldonado gets on top in half-guard and quickly passes to side mount and it looks like McSweeney’s in deep trouble. Maldonado looks to set up a kimura, then randomly moves himself into McSweeney’s guard. That was odd. Good right hand from Maldonado and he begins to open up to the head and body. Easy pass into side mount from the Brazilian and McSweeney’s taking some massive breaths now. Keylock attempt from Maldonado doesn’t quite work, but he uses the opportunity to punish the body with some more shots. Nice elbows to the head from Maldonado too. McSweeney attempts to get to butterfly guard, but takes some HUGE shots before Maldonado gets back to side mount and smashes at the body again. Series of unanswered hammer fists to the head follow before McSweeney gives his back in a kneeling position and takes some more shots. Hammer fists to the body have McSweeney wincing and he looks done to me. Seconds to go and Maldonado decides to stand and forces McSweeney to join him, and the Brazilian opens up with combinations that have him reeling. McSweeney’s going to do well to survive the round. Seconds to go and Maldonado SMASHES him with punches, but the buzzer saves him. Wow, total turnaround from the opening round. 10-8 Fabio Maldonado.

Third round and McSweeney looks gassed and badly hurt. Maldonado comes out stalking and punching his own chin again, and McSweeney slips to his back off a front kick and gets waved to his feet. Big combo from Maldonado has him covering up and then the Brazilian traps him against the cage and opens up with a flurry that causes Marc Goddard to stop the fight.

Real fun opener as McSweeney came out like a house on fire with all sorts of wild kicks, but he was never able to really hurt Maldonado – who evidently has an iron chin – and he blew out a lot of gas in trying to put him away, so by the time the second round came he was already slower and that allowed Maldonado to land the punches that hurt him and lead to his downfall. I’m actually interested in seeing Maldonado in his next fight after that one as he showed toughness, a solid boxing game and a killer instinct. Good stuff.

Lightweight Fight: Spencer Fisher vs Curt Warburton

British newcomer Warburton’s main claim to fame is a win over Ross Pearson, although Pearson did avenge the loss later on in a fight that’s not on Sherdog because it fell under amateur status or something like that. Who knows with obscure fights in Britain? This was about as low as Fisher’s got on a UFC card since he first debuted in 2005 I think, although coming off a disappointing loss to Dennis Siver it was understandable. Here though he looked in much better shape and I expected him to edge the debutant.

We begin and Fisher comes out aggressively as they trade leg kicks. Warburton gets the better of it though with some nice kicks landing. Exchange continues and Curt lands a heavy body kick. Warburton is using his reach advantage nicely here. Fisher clinches but Curt muscles him into the cage and they exchange knees. Beautiful trip from Warburton and he lands in side mount. Spencer scrambles, but Warburton catches him in a D’Arce, but he can’t quite lock it up and Fisher gets free. Fisher tries to get up again but Curt forces him down and grabs a guillotine from the top, but again Fisher works free and gets full guard. Couple of elbows from Warburton and he’s doing a good job of controlling from the top. Seconds to go and Warburton is in firm control. Buzzer sounds with Curt on top. 10-9 Warburton in a very impressive round for him.

2nd round and they trade leg kicks to open before Fisher closes the distance and clinches. Warburton quickly reverses and forces him into the fence, and they muscle for position and exchange knees. Trip attempt from Fisher is blocked but he does land some really nice knees to the legs. Ref breaks them up and Fisher comes in with a spinning back kick and then clinches again. They exchange knees but this time Curt lands one low, and the ref calls time. They quickly restart and go right back to the clinch, exchanging knees again. Hard right hook breaks for Fisher and he’s beginning to push the pace now as Curt looks a bit tired. Fisher clinches again and lands some knees, stuffing a takedown too. They break off and Warburton is definitely gassed. Kick from Warburton is caught and Fisher trips him down and looks for some ground-and-pound, but Curt suddenly rolls for a kneebar. Fisher looks calm and lands some clean punches to the head while Curt rolls, and he takes some really big shots before Fisher stands and delivers an ax kick to the body! Warburton attempts another leglock, but this time Fisher counters with a heel hook attempt of his own but neither man can finish before the buzzer. This is a really good fight. Fisher’s round then, 10-9.

3rd round and Fisher comes out pushing the action, but Warburton lands with a nice body kick. Fisher continues to push forward though and lands with a nice superman left into a right hand. Knee to the body follows before Spencer clinches. Good knees from Fisher inside again and Warburton isn’t really answering as he did earlier now. Referee calls the break and Fisher still looks fresh. Warburton clinches and looks for the takedown, but Fisher blocks and goes for a hip throw. Curt blocks and forces him into the cage, where they muscle for position and exchange knees again. Another break follows and Fisher lands a clean spinning back kick to the body and a right hand. Warburton clinches but eats a knee to the gut, and then the ref calls time for another low blow. Fisher recovers quickly and they restart with Fisher landing a flying knee and then taunting Warburton with a WHOO!~! Nice body kick from Spencer and Warburton’s tank seems empty. He drops for a single leg but Fisher stuffs it and then grabs a rear naked choke with no hooks! He manages to drag Curt to the ground and looks to finish, but the lack of body control makes it impossible so he releases and goes to mount instead. Curt gives his back and Fisher looks for the choke again, then ends the fight with punches. Fisher took that fight in the last minute or so of that round.

Judges all have it 29-28 for Spencer Fisher. You have to give a lot of credit to Warburton for his performance here though, as he was debuting against a real veteran in Fisher and took the fight to him in the first round before he ran out of steam late on. Good win for Fisher who was clearly in a must-win position, but I think Warburton has a lot of future potential based on this. Fun fight.

Lightweight Fight: Paul Sass vs Mark Holst

Another debuting Brit, the word on Sass coming in was that he had a pretty slick ground game, and well, how can you argue with seven triangle chokes and two heel hooks out of ten wins? Holst, let’s be honest, had looked awful in his UFC debut against John Gunderson who isn’t really all that himself, and so I figured this was a gimme for Sass.

Fight begins and they circle before Sass grabs hold of him and pulls guard. He goes for the triangle right away, but Holst manages to pull free and avoids an oma plata too. Back to the feet and Sass misses a wild flying knee. Takedown attempt from Sass and he pulls guard again, right away setting up for his triangle. Elbows from the bottom land for Sass as Holst doesn’t do much from the top. Leglock attempt from Sass but Holst spins out and tries to get to his feet, but the Brit pulls him back into his guard. Oma plata attempt is unsuccessful as Holst pulls out, and then he brings it to his feet. Sass looks very awkward standing, but he lands a glancing spinning kick. Kick to the body from Holst and they go down to the ground again with Holst in half-guard. Sass goes for a leglock again and almost gets a heel hook locked up, but Holst manages to spin free and winds up on top for a second before bringing the fight back up. Single leg from Sass and he pulls guard again. Holst is doing nothing from the top here. Sass goes for the triangle again and this time he gets it locked up, and Holst tries to stand free but gets pulled back down and has to tap there.

Exciting stuff and a good debut win for Sass who fought exactly as advertised, but I do worry that he’ll turn into a one-trick pony ala Cody McKenzie as there’s no way he’d be able to pull guard and hit a triangle like that on the upper echelon of the division. That’s why he’s called a prospect, though.
Heavyweight Fight: Rob Broughton vs Vinicius Queiroz

I was actually pretty pumped for this one going in, as despite being on record as hating fat guys like Roy Nelson, I’m a fan of Broughton’s due to his Cage Rage run in 2006 that saw him upset James Thompson and then show some surprising boxing skill to take out Butterbean. Queiroz meanwhile was coming out of the Chute Boxe camp and physically, he’s one of the most imposing guys I’ve ever seen in MMA. Dude has a neck like Batista.

We get underway and both men come out swinging, but it’s Queiroz who lands with a hard right hand and a leg kick that wobbles Broughton a little. Nice leg kick from Queiroz but Broughton clinches and forces him into the cage. Queiroz stuffs the takedown attempt and gets a trip of his own down into Broughton’s guard, then passes to half-guard. Broughton does a good job of tying him up, but he takes a solid shot from the top. Broughton works his way back into full guard and they exchange from there, with Queiroz’s shots obviously coming with more force. Big shots to the body from Queiroz but Broughton keeps full guard. Scramble from Broughton but he gives his back, and Queiroz gets one hook in and lands a big shot to the side of the head. Two hooks in now from Queiroz and Broughton tries to shake him off, and surprisingly Queiroz decides to stand. Big right hand from Queiroz and he lands a glancing head kick too. They exchange jabs and Broughton looks the fresher of the two, landing with an uppercut and a stiff left hook. Queiroz looks wobbled by another left hook but he ducks a third one and trips Broughton down. Broughton looks to tie up an arm, but Queiroz is in half-guard now and the Brit gives it up. Heel hook attempt from Broughton and he lands some decent shots from the bottom as Queiroz escapes, but Broughton lands a sweep on the buzzer. 10-9 Queiroz but he looks out of gas going to his corner while Broughton doesn’t look at all tired, not even sitting during the break.

Second round and Broughton looks in much better cardio shape, which you’d never guess looking at the two as Broughton’s the one with the flabby gut while Queiroz is shredded. Good punches from Broughton to open but he walks into a big right that stuns him for a second and allows Queiroz to hop onto his back! Broughton shrugs him off though and lands a pair of power hooks that back the Brazilian up and have him hurt. Good left hook from Broughton but Queiroz answers with a knee. Clinch is shrugged off by Broughton and he continues to land with winging hooks. Broughton is owning the stand-up now. Takedown from Queiroz though and he lands on top in guard. Little action from there as Broughton does a good job of avoiding the ground-and-pound, and Marc Goddard decides to stand them up. Stiff jab from Broughton and he doesn’t seem to be affected by Queiroz’s punches now. Left hand from Broughton has the Brazilian rocked and he follows with more shots, but then decides to clinch and that allows Queiroz to trip him down again. Queiroz does nothing from the top though and Broughton uses a good butterfly guard to control things. Ref stands them up again and Queiroz looks exhausted. Good shots from Broughton again but Queiroz again manages to trip him down. Looks like his left eye is badly swollen though. Little action on the ground and the round ends there. 10-9 Broughton and sure enough Queiroz’s left eye is almost closed.

Third round and inexplicably Broughton’s cardio is SICK for a big dude as he’s barely breathing heavily. Beautiful combo from Broughton right away and he’s back into DANCING BEAR territory as he was in his Cage Rage days. Queiroz looks for the takedown but this time Broughton stuffs it and grabs a standing guillotine and looks to close it out, but Queiroz defends and so Broughton takes top position instead. Queiroz gets half-guard and Broughton looks for a kimura, then postures up and grabs a headlock before flattening the Brazilian again. He looks for the kimura once more and slips into side mount, but Queiroz escapes and gives his back. Good shots from Broughton and he SLAPS ON THE CHOKE!~! Crowd EXPLODE as Broughton locks it on and Queiroz taps!

Well, that was fun as hell. Very good showing from Broughton as he weathered the early storm – not that he was ever badly hurt, mind you – and came roaring back once the Brazilian had gassed out to take over and win the fight. Broughton is actually like a lite version of Roy Nelson – solid in all areas and inexplicably good cardio – and I think he could do well in the UFC’s Heavyweight division as outside of the very top guys it isn’t all that strong. As for Queiroz, he tested positive for steroids post-fight which might explain that freakish neck, and was subsequently released from his UFC contract.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Alexander Gustafsson vs Cyrille Diabate

On paper this was an interesting fight simply because you could probably argue for the winner being UFC’s top European LHW, off the top of my head. Yeah, I’ve probably missed someone absolutely glaring there. With his better kickboxing pedigree I was picking Diabate though, as Gustafsson’s shown a tendency to trade before.

Round One and they exchange some low kicks, with Gustafsson also throwing some pretty wild punches. Diabate is so nonchalant on his feet that it’s a bit worrying even if he is a really good striker. Good left from the Snake but Gustafsson fires right back and then comes forward with a right hand that wobbles Diabate and sends him to the ground! Diabate quickly goes for half-guard but Gustafsson uses sheer force to pass into side mount. Diabate almost gives his back, and takes some hard punches before Gustafsson forces him onto his back in half-guard. Good job from Diabate to scramble to his feet, but he eats a knee on the way up. He still looks hurt and Gustafsson comes pushing forward and shoots for a single leg. Diabate defends, but Gustafsson opens up with a hard left hook and a BIG RIGHT UPPERCUT that drops the Frenchman again! The Swede pounces and gets side mount, but Diabate scrambles up again. Big shot from Gustafsson knocks Diabate’s mouthpiece out, but ref Leon Roberts calls time to replace it before Gustafsson can follow up. They restart and Gustafsson continues to press the action, but Diabate lands a body kick and a right hand in an exchange and backs him up. Diabate clinches and forces him into the cage, but a wild scramble ends with Gustafsson on top in side mount. Big shots from the top land for Gustafsson and he defends a sweep attempt to end the round. 10-9 Gustafsson.

Into the 2nd and they circle where Diabate tags him with a right. They clinch though and Gustafsson hits a nice takedown to side mount. Knees to the body from Gustafsson but Diabate manages to get back to half-guard. He tries to escape from there but Gustafsson shows a lot of strength to stay on top and he hops into full mount. Diabate gives his back and he’s in a lot of trouble now. Rear naked choke from the Swede and it looks locked up, but Diabate manages to survive and takes some heavy punches for his troubles. Second attempt at the choke ends in the same way, but as Diabate escapes he eats some more punches. A third attempt at the choke is more successful though and this time the Snake has to tap out.

Fantastic performance from Alexander Gustafsson and loss to fellow prospect Phil Davis aside, he’s a red-hot prospect in my opinion as he showed some great striking skills here, looked very fast and explosive, and also showed some solid ground skills too. Throw that in with the decent takedown defence he showed for a while against Davis (who’s arguably the best wrestler at 205lbs) and the fact that he’s only 22 and you have a difficult opponent for anyone in that division and a possible future title contender too in my opinion. Very good fight.

Welterweight Fight: Claude Patrick vs James Wilks

TUF winner Wilks was still looking to revive his UFC career after a bit of an unconvincing win against Peter Sobotta, but I thought he was given a very tough match here in Canada’s Patrick, who looked fantastic in submitting Ricardo Funch in his UFC debut. With Patrick’s considerable skill I was taking him to win and potentially send Wilks packing from the UFC.

We get underway and Wilks pushes forward looking to strike. They trade a couple of low kicks before Patrick closes the distance and drives Wilks into the cage with a bodylock. Wilks tries to muscle out, but the Canadian keeps hold of him and drags him to the ground. Full guard for Wilks but Patrick quickly passes to half-guard. Wilks manages to get back to full guard and looks for a triangle, but Patrick stands free and eats an upkick. Back down to guard for Patrick and he drops a nice elbow. Wilks keeps active from his back, but Patrick decides to stand free and kicks at the legs for a moment before dropping back down into side mount. Dan Henderson shoulder strikes follow before he steps into full mount. Nice short elbows from Patrick but Wilks escapes the mount. Patrick gets back to side mount though and drops some more elbows before standing over the guard and delivering some really hard shots. Wilks tries to kick him away and Patrick stands over him before dropping to a knee to avoid the upkicks. He goes down into half-guard and tries to pass, landing a vicious elbow that bloodies Wilks up for good measure. Full mount for Patrick and he tees off to end the round. 10-9 Claude Patrick in a very good round for him.

2nd round and Wilks stalks forward throwing kicks, but Patrick answers with a nice leg kick of his own. They clinch and Patrick muscles him into the cage before Wilks reverses position. Wilks looks for a trip, but the Canadian defends it and they jockey for double underhooks along the fence. Wilks breaks off but Patrick comes in with a nice left hand back into the clinch. Trip from Patrick puts Wilks down in guard where he looks to tie the Canadian up. Bit of a stalemate follows as Wilks prevents any damage this time before Patrick stands over him and then drops back into the guard. Crowd begin to boo with a minute remaining and then Wilks tries an oma plata and throws some wild upkicks, but Patrick flips him over and gets on top in side mount. Patrick’s ground-and-pound is nonexistent though. Wilks gets half-guard and with thirty seconds to go Patrick looks content to ride it out in top position. 10-9 Patrick but a dull round this time.

Third and final round and they exchange some strikes into the clinch to begin. Again they jockey for position with both men looking for double underhooks, and again Patrick gets the best of it and trips him down. Wilks gets a tight guard and like before, Patrick doesn’t really open up with any punches. Wilks looks for a sweep from butterfly guard, but Patrick’s having none of it. He stands over him for a moment and avoids the upkicks, but Wilks goes for a heel hook. Patrick comfortably slips free and remains on top, this time in half-guard. Into side mount for Patrick with two minutes remaining, but he does nothing from there and Wilks scrambles back to guard. Yawn. Wilks just can’t deal with Patrick’s top game, but Patrick hasn’t really been aggressive with it since the first round ended. With a minute to go he lands a couple of elbows, but then...nothing. Round ends with Patrick firmly in control. Crowd boo, unsurprisingly.

I’ve got this 30-27 for Claude Patrick and it’s the obvious decision for the judges. This was a horrendous way to open the televised portion of this card; one of the worst televised fights all year in fact. Patrick can be sort-of excused as apparently he jacked up his hand in the opening round and couldn’t really use it for the rest of the fight, but Wilks didn’t show much at all here and you have to wonder how much longer he can survive in the shark tank that is the UFC’s 170lbs division. I wonder if the UFC are regretting not taking Tyron Woodley onto TUF 9 now?

Heavyweight Fight: Cheick Kongo vs Travis Browne

Unbeaten prospect Browne had debuted in the UFC in June with a win over an overmatched James McSweeney, but really the jury was still out on how he’d do against proper Heavyweight opposition. Kongo has developed into a pretty solid gatekeeper at this point so this was pretty much the perfect fight for us to find out where Browne stood.

Round One and a big right hand misses for Browne early. He’s coming in wildly here. Browne slows down a little as Kongo lands a couple of leg kicks. They circle some more and Browne comes charging in a couple of times, but misses with his wild shots. Kongo’s hardly done a thing outside of the kicks thus far. Good leg kick from Browne. Kongo finally comes forward a bit more, but Browne catches him with a left hand that wobbles the Frenchman. He closes in and connects again, but Kongo clinches to slow him down. Browne breaks off and keeps on swinging, but Kongo looks recovered now. They exchange some knees from inside the clinch briefly before Kongo breaks. Action slows down before Browne closes Kongo down with punches again. This is the worst Kongo has looked in a long time. Wild overhand right from Browne puts Kongo firmly on the defensive but another two miss. Clinch from Kongo and he forces Browne into the cage and looks for a takedown, but Browne blocks it and breaks off. Superman punch misses for Browne and Kongo ends the round with a right hand. 10-9 Browne but it was a shoddy round.

Round Two and Kongo pushes forward for a second, but he slows down pretty quickly as they exchange some low kicks. Good right hand from Kongo as Browne steps forward and he follows with a sharp one-two. Into the clinch and Kongo cracks him with an elbow, but apparently he caught Browne low and referee Marc Goddard calls time. Man, Kongo is like the king of the groin strike in the UFC. They restart and Browne comes in swinging, but this time Kongo clips him with a right hand counter. Kongo comes forward now and gets a clinch, forcing Browne to the fence again before Browne uses brute strength to throw him off. Kongo tries to claim a poke to the eye but the ref waves that off. Good combination from Kongo and he backs Browne up and forces him to clinch. Knees to the legs and body from Kongo but he gets warned for grabbing Browne’s shorts. More knees to the legs from Kongo, hitting the same spot over and over. Kongo’s blatantly grabbing the shorts again but Goddard hasn’t noticed. They get separated but Browne swings his way right back into the clinch and eats a knee to the gut. Back to the knees to the legs from Kongo before they get broken up again. Browne inexplicably clinches again, and the round ends with a takedown from him. 10-9 Kongo in that round.

Round Three begins and Browne grabs him right away and forces him to the cage. Kongo grabs the shorts again and gets another warning as Browne yells at Goddard that he’s still holding them. Looks like Browne’s holding Kongo’s shorts too actually. Ref calls the break and then decides to take a point from Kongo for the foul. Interesting. Kongo looks to close in, eating a right hand en route to looking for the takedown. Foot stomps from Kongo now. This fight sucks. And Kongo grabs the shorts AGAIN! They separate with about three minutes to go before Kongo lands a body kick and clinches again, looking for the takedown. Browne manages to stay on his feet but he’s breathing heavily now. Ref calls the break after a while and Kongo lands a couple of punches, keeping Browne on the defensive. Good shots from the Frenchman as Browne covers up. One minute to go and Kongo is the aggressor. Big right hand from Browne though, but Kongo quickly ties him up with a knee to the belly. Less than a minute to go and it looks like it might peter out. Kongo gets busted for grabbing the shorts again and then Browne takes him down on the buzzer. Close round to call but I’d probably lean towards Kongo, meaning 9-9 and a draw overall.

Judges indeed have it as a draw, 28-28 all around. Right decision but the crowd naturally boo as they tend to for any draw. This was a pretty sub-par fight from both men, as Browne did well early but then gassed out, while Kongo just seemed off from the start, meaning it ended up almost as bad as Patrick-Wilks beforehand, incredibly.

Welterweight Fight: John Hathaway vs Mike Pyle

Originally set to face Dong Hyun Kim in a really tough fight, Britain’s top 170lbs prospect Hathaway was faced with a much lower ranked opponent in Mike Pyle to follow up his impressive win over Diego Sanchez. Despite the word on Pyle being that he’s a fantastic fighter who doesn’t necessarily show it every time he’s in the cage, I was picking Hathaway to put in another dominant showing. Entrances aren’t shown on the DVD but Pyle really played the role of the heel, coming out to Born In The USA to a chorus of boos.

Fight gets started and they circle pretty tentatively for a while at first. Takedown from Pyle with a minute gone but Hathaway quickly gets his back to the cage and works to stand. Pyle tries to keep him down, but Hathaway manages to muscle up and then turns the tables and gets Pyle down against the fence. Pyle works back up and they separate. Hathaway pushes forward and blocks another takedown, but Pyle catches him with a glancing knee. Left hook lands for Pyle. Little action thus far. Good overhand right lands for Pyle and seems to wobble Hathaway’s legs, but he looks okay. Another right lands and Hathaway clinches and forces him into the cage, but an elbow breaks for Pyle. Takedown attempt from Hathaway is easily stuffed and Pyle lands a right hand. One minute to go and Pyle is winning the stand-up exchanges here. Looks like Hathaway’s uncomfortable against a guy with a similar reach. Takedown from Pyle and he ends the round in Hathaway’s guard. Got to be 10-9 for Mike Pyle.

Second round and Hathaway comes out looking to jab, but Pyle smartly stays out of range. Takedown attempt from Pyle and they spin towards the cage, but Hathaway shows some strength to block it. Now Hathaway grabs a clinch and looks to secure double underhooks, but Pyle breaks. Good left hand from Hathaway on the way out. Pyle is constantly changing levels looking for the right hand here. Pair of good knees inside land for the American. Good knee and a right hand answer for Hathaway but Pyle gets on his bike. Right hand lands for Pyle and he looks for a trip, but Hathaway blocks, only for Pyle to shift his weight and hit a hip throw down to side mount. Hard elbow from Pyle and he locks up a mounted triangle from the top. Hathaway looks in serious trouble now as Pyle synches in the triangle while also getting free punches at the Brit’s face. 1:25 to go too so he has a long time to finish. To his credit Hathaway does a good job of covering his face to block the punches, showing that he’s still intelligently defending. Big elbows from Pyle but Hathaway manages to survive the round. Easy round for Mike Pyle, 10-9 and close to a 10-8 really due to that ending.

Third round and Hathaway comes out aggressively, probably knowing he needs a finish. Body kick lands for Hathaway but Pyle blocks a takedown attempt. Right hand lands for the Brit and he grabs a clinch. Pyle reverses on him though and looks for a takedown of his own. He gets Hathaway down and manages to move to mount, but Hathaway has his back to the fence and he uses it to get to his feet. Takedown from a whizzer for Pyle now and he manages to keep Hathaway down this time. Hathaway ends up seated against the cage and works up again, but Pyle pulls him back down and this time he’s got him flat on his back in guard. Nice pass from Pyle into side mount but Hathaway quickly brings it back to half-guard. Hathaway gets back to full guard and makes a desperate move towards the fence, but Pyle remains on top in control. Good ground-and-pound from Pyle and this is looking like his fight for sure. Pyle works into north/south and continues to control the Brit, and the fight ends there.

We’re going to the judges and all three score it 30-27 for Mike Quicksand Pyle. Really surprising that Pyle would be able to handle Hathaway like that after seeing the Brit deal with the likes of Diego Sanchez and Rick Story in the past, but then again Pyle’s always had this massive reputation from the gym so maybe he’s finally started to be able to put it together in the cage, or perhaps Hathaway just wilted under the pressure, who knows? Big win for Pyle but it wasn’t the most entertaining fight even if there was technically nothing wrong with it. Big time crowd killer too as Hathaway was a big favourite with the London fans.

Welterweight Fight: Carlos Condit vs Dan Hardy

To me this was the true main event of this card – two of the Welterweight division’s most exciting fighters going at it. For me Condit is the overlooked guy in the division – with different judges he would’ve beaten Martin Kampmann and had it not been for injuries he may well have found himself in a main event spot had he fought Paul Daley last January – while Hardy was looking to bounce back from his loss to GSP in their March title fight. As Condit’s pretty much my favourite non-GSP fighter I was taking him to beat Hardy and upset the crowd.

Entrances are pretty wild here as Condit enters to Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner and gets booed out of the arena, massive heat, while Hardy gets a ridiculous pop coming out to his usual England Belongs To Me track complete with Land of Hope and Glory-sampling guitar solo! Hardy is FIRED UP during the introductions too, eyes bugging out like crazy.

Round One begins and both men pres with Condit landing two leg kicks but missing with a head kick. Good leg kick from Hardy. Another leg kick lands for the Outlaw but Condit blocks a high kick. Good switch kick from Condit. Left hook from Hardy. Punching exchange sees both men narrowly miss and Hardy give a grin. Good leg kick from Hardy. These guys are pretty much going strike-for-strike. Spinning back elbow glances off the edge of Hardy’s head. Nice left hand from Hardy gets Condit backing up for a second. Body kick from Condit and both men miss with lefts. Good left hand from Condit though and he follows with another body kick. Front kick is caught by Condit but he can’t capitalize. They trade off again and Hardy lands with a glancing left hook. Hardy lands again in another exchange and seems to be finding his range a bit. Less than a minute to go now. Flurry from Condit is blocked by the Brit. Counter left narrowly misses as Condit lands a body kick. Front kick to the knee from Condit. Suddenly they trade and both men throw left hooks...but CONDIT GETS THERE FIRST AND HARDY GOES DOWN LIKE A TON OF BRICKS!~! Jesus Christ.

Crowd are absolutely stunned into silence as Condit celebrates while Hardy is STIFF. That was one of the best knockouts of 2010, easy. Replay shows they literally threw at the same time and actually came close to a double KO, but Condit landed slightly first and obviously harder and well, there you go. Massive win for Condit who hadn’t really shown one-hit KO power before, especially not against a guy like Hardy who usually shows a good chin. Pretty much shoots him right up into title contention which is great because he’s the most exciting guy in the world at 170lbs. As for Hardy I hope he bounces back from this because he’s a great character and makes for an exciting fight with anyone in the Welterweight division pretty much.

Middleweight Fight: Michael Bisping vs Yoshihiro Akiyama

This one was slightly odd matchmaking when you consider Akiyama just lost to Chris Leben, who Bisping beat a couple of years back. Still, Akiyama is a big name and this was Bisping’s chance to gain a pretty major scalp for his collection after failing the last time he stepped up a level against Wanderlei Silva. With Akiyama’s punching power the Japanese fighter was a dangerous match for Bisping, but I figured the Count’s quicker footwork and pressing style would prove too much for him eventually.

First round and Bisping throws out a couple of jabs before Akiyama catches him with a BIG RIGHT HAND that wobbles the Brit’s legs! Akiyama chases him down, but Bisping backs off and manages to recover, then lands a stiff jab. Good counter right from Bisping and he looks alright again now. Jab from Bisping but Akiyama counters with a left hook and puts him on his back foot. They exchange some jabs and Bisping goes for the takedown and when Akiyama blocks he lands some nice body shots. Single leg from Bisping and he gets the Japanese fighter down for a second, but Akiyama pops back up only to eat a glancing high kick. Body kick from Bisping is caught and Akiyama goes for a takedown of his own, but Bisping backs out and takes a body kick on the way. Kick from Bisping apparently catches Akiyama in the groin, but referee Marc Goddard disagrees and says continue. Combo from Bisping has Akiyama covering up but he seems fine. Good combo again from Bisping though and he looks settled into his groove now. Hard leg kick lands for the Brit. One-two snaps Akiyama’s head back. Bisping is beginning to take over now. Big right hand just misses from Akiyama. Faked single leg into a right hand lands for Bisping and he follows with a good leg kick. Akiyama comes back with a couple of leg kicks of his own and a glancing body kick. Spinning backfist just misses for Akiyama. Good combo from Bisping and he has Akiyama on his back foot now. Flying knee and right hand to end the round for the Count. Close round actually but I’d go for Bisping as I think he landed more shots while Akiyama just had the big right early.

Second round and Akiyama appears to be breathing heavily. Jabs and a big right hand open for Akiyama but Bisping comes back with a leg kick into a one-two. Body kick lands for the Brit. Akiyama is just winging the big right hand now. Bisping looks to counter and throws out some combos. Right hook from Bisping but a counter ends up poking him in the eye and they stop for a moment. Bisping recovers fast and they continue with Akiyama blocking a head kick but eating a one-two. Nice jabs from Bisping and he follows with the right hand. One-two from Bisping but a takedown attempt is stuffed. Beautiful combo lands flush for the Count. Big chant for Bisping from the crowd. Overhand right lands for him. And another. Bisping is taking over this fight now. Body kick into a glancing right from Akiyama. Spinning backfist from Bisping catches the top of Akiyama’s head. Couple of good combos land for Bisping. Akiyama’s punches are getting wilder now and he’s struggling to land. Right hand finally connects for him. Pair of clean rights land for Bisping though. Combo from Bisping but he takes an overhand right that puts him on his back foot, and Akiyama ends the round with a flurry. 10-9 Bisping though and I have him ahead going into the final round.

Third round and Bisping opens with some jabs. Both men land right hands and then Akiyama closes in with a wild flurry, but Bisping sends him back with a right hand and a BIG HEAD KICK! Akiyama can take a shot, good lord. Overhand right and another head kick connects for Bisping and then two right hands look to have Akiyama hurt! Somehow he keeps pressing forward though. Clean combination wobbles Akiyama badly and Bisping is beginning to swarm now. Akiyama swings back to slow him up a little but eats another right hand. Kick lands low though and Akiyama collapses in pain. Replay looks brutal. Akiyama’s in pain and he’s down for some time, and this being England and not Japan he doesn’t have some guy to fan his crotch with a flag! Finally he recovers and they restart. They exchange right away and Bisping lands a kick to the body and avoids the flurry from Akiyama. Takedown is stuffed by Bisping and he avoids some more wild swings. Nice right hand counter from Bisping and he follows with a glancing head kick. Akiyama continues to push forward but he’s eating a lot of counters now. Two minutes to go and a heavy one-two lands for Bisping. Akiyama has a chin of granite. Beautiful four-punch combo lands for Bisping. Another right hand follows and snaps Akiyama’s head back. Akiyama pushes forward but eats a counter and another combo. He’s taken a tremendous amount of punches in this round. Seconds to go and Akiyama comes in swinging, but he can’t catch Bisping who continues to counter right until the buzzer. Great fight.

I’ve got this 30-27 for Bisping but I could see 29-28 based on Akiyama taking the first too. Either way it’s Bisping’s fight. Judges have it 30-27, 30-27, 30-27, unanimous decision for Michael Bisping. This was an excellent performance from him, particularly when you take into account that he was able to recover from the big right in the first round, and once again he showed some excellent combinations, good footwork and very impressive cardio. He still seems to garner a lot of online hate but I don’t think there’s any denying that he’s a proper top ten guy at this point. Whether he can go any higher I don’t know, but he’s done very well to get this far I think. As for Akiyama, he’s seemingly ran out of gas horribly in the majority of his UFC fights thus far, and I think a drop to 170lbs would be the best thing for him as he doesn’t exactly look big for 185lbs anyway. I’d guess though even with another loss (he’s got Nate Marquardt next in a fight I can’t see him winning) his job is safe as he’s got such a big profile in Japan. At any rate this was an excellent fight, non-stop action from beginning to end and with Bisping winning it did a lot to salvage the show for the crowd after Hardy was knocked out.

-Highlight reel closes the night.

Final Thoughts....

UFC 120 is a bit of a hard one to rate, as all of the prelims were a lot of fun and the two main events delivered in a big way, but outside of Condit’s knockout of Hardy nothing is truly memorable and everything good is sort of off-set by the pair of awful fights in Patrick-Wilks and Kongo-Browne as well as the dull Hathaway-Pyle match. Overall though I guess seven decent-good fights out of ten is nothing to complain about, so it’s a mild thumbs up overall.

Best Fight: Bisping-Akiyama
Worst Fight: Patrick-Wilks

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Coming Soon....

UFC: 121-126, Fight Night 23
Strike Force: Fedor vs. Silva
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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