The wait is almost over for UFC 120: "Bisping vs Akiyama" from the O2 Arena in London, England. The world's largest mixed martial arts promotion brings us the event free on Spike TV (via tape delay) tomorrow night (Oct. 16).
Another question brewing in my mind is, will "Sexyama's" gas tank serve him well past the first round?
Many critics and fans alike were impressed with how outspoken welterweight Dan Hardy stuck with current champion George St. Pierre for five rounds at UFC 111 last March.
Can Hardy keep those watching impressed?
And just how big would a win over "The Outlaw" be for Carlos Condit? Would it put the "Natural Born Killer" into immediate title contention?
It may not be the biggest event of the year, but the match-ups at UFC 120 are significant enough to have you talking about it on Sunday morning.
With all of that in mind, in the words of Mike Goldberg, "Here ... we ... go!"185 lbs.: Michael "The Count" Bisping (19-3) vs. Yoshihiro "Sexyama" Akiyama (13-2)
Let's see the advantages "The Count" has. Home-field advantage? Check. Experience against three former world champions? Check. Last bout was a victory? Check. Akiyama can't say he's competed against, let alone defeated, a former world champion unless you count Melvin Manhoef who's a former Cage Rage champion. He also can't say that his last bout was a win because he tapped out to Chris Leben's triangle choke with 20 seconds left in the fight back at UFC 116.
Don't get me wrong. "Sexyama" makes fights fun to watch, but it's hard to pick the former judo champion when his biggest accomplishment in the UFC is a controversial split decision win over Alan "The Talent" Belcher.
There was a lot of hype surrounding the Judoka's debut at UFC 100. Many expected him to showcase his amazing judo skills and he did just that. The problem was, after the first round he looked like he had been through three. By the final round he was breathing so hard you would think he was in a five round championship bout with Anderson Silva. This is not a slight to Belcher at all, but it is to Akiyama's cardio. He did the same thing in his fight with Leben, started off strong, but faded out in the second and third rounds. He hasn't proved he can be dangerous for the whole fight.
Does Akiyama have skills? Absolutely. Can he showcase those skills past the first round? That remains to be seen. Honestly, I think you can compare him to Sokoudjou. Both fighters are extremely talented, but those talents don't translate well as the fight gets deeper.
Besides his gas tank, the Japanese star hasn't exactly faced elite competition. This could be debatable, but I would argue that Bisping will be Akiyama's toughest competition. Manhoef has vicious stand-up, but his ground game is non-existent. Dennis Kang was a stud in PRIDE, but started losing more and more fights around the time Akiyama beat him. Chris Leben is probably the only fighter you can argue with me here, even so, Bisping neutralized him easily just two years ago at UFC 89.
It may seem like I'm ripping the International sensation, but I'm not. I'm actually a fan of his fighting style and he really makes fights exciting. I'm just trying to make a point. Michael Bisping is the favorite to win this fight because Akiyama's cardio hasn't allowed him to perform when his fights go into deep waters.
"The Count" may not be the best middleweight in the world, but he's making an effort to be just that. After losing to former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, Bisping went on a three fight-winning streak. He then suffered a brutal knockout at the hands of Dan Henderson at UFC 100. He bounced back by obliterating Dennis Kang in the second round of their bout at UFC 105. He suffered a close, but unanimous decision loss to Wanderlei Silva at UFC 110. Bisping once again bounced back by defeating Dan Miller at UFC 114.
Bisping was able to overcome adversity. He's only lost three fights, those defeats came at the hands of a former UFC champion and two former PRIDE champions. Not bad for The Ultimate Fighter Season 3 winner. We all know what happened in his bout with Matt Hamill. Yes I agree, Hamill was robbed, but the fact still remains that Bisping's only lost to three former world title holders.
Akiyama will give Bisping problems in the first round, but that's where the trouble will end. I see Akiyama mixing his stand-up with his judo skills to neutralize "The Count" in the opening frame, then Bisping will wear down "Sexyama" in the second round and finish it in the third.
Betting Lines (as of Oct. 15):
Bisping: -210 ((Bet Now))
Akiyama: +165 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Bisping via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy (23-7) vs. Carlos "Natural Born Killer" Condit (25-5)
Am I the only one who believes this fight will go all three rounds? I think so, but this has the potential be the fight of the night. Here we have two fighters who know how to finish opponents. There are 22 knockouts and 17 submissions between them. In total, Condit and Hardy have finished 39 fights. That's impressive. To make this prediction, you have to look at the level of competition each fighter has competed against and what game plans they are likely to bring.
"The Outlaw" is coming off a unanimous decision loss to welterweight champion George St. Pierre. Despite not winning a single round, many were impressed that Hardy hung in there with the champ and didn't succumb to a nasty looking armbar. Before the loss, Hardy was on a seven fight winning streak defeating the likes of Mike Swick and Marcus Davis.
The "Natural Born Killer" has faced a decent level of competition as well. His toughest opponent was Martin Kampmann. Condit lost that fight by split decision. He has been labeled an underdog countless times and has consistently proven critics wrong. Just ask Frank Trigg and Brock Larson, whose only loss at the time was to Jon Fitch.
The possibility of a knockout in this fight is probably slim. Neither man has been knocked out in their careers and a submission or decision is more likely. I see both men standing the entire fight.
Hardy has tons of power in his fists and has the potential to lay anybody out, but despite his amazing power he only has one knockout victory inside the Octagon. That win was over a year ago at UFC 95 against Rory Markham who was released from the organization after his recent bout.
This, along with the fact that in 30 fights Condit hasn't been knocked out, I don't see a Hardy win by KO. I see the fight being similar to Swick vs. Hardy because the Brit will catch and stagger the Greg Jackson fighter a few times, but won't finish him. Condit may be the more well rounded fighter, but I see Hardy with the advantage standing.
Condit's best bet would be to utilize leg kicks and keep his distance from Hardy. Trading punches with the English welterweight is not the best idea. I would say it's smart to do takedowns, but with a nickname like the "Natural Born Killer" do you expect that to be Condit's game plan? Unless Greg Jackson has switched things up in camp, I don't see a takedown in this fight.
Betting Lines (as of Oct. 15):
Hardy: -175 ((Bet Now))
Condit: +145 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Hardy via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: John "The Hitman" Hathaway (14-0) vs. Mike "Quicksand" Pyle (20-7-1)
If you're an MMA fan from the UK, then you have plenty to smile about. John Hathaway made a serious statement with his dominating win over Diego Sanchez. You can say "The Nightmare" was overweight and unmotivated, but the fact still remains that Hathaway crushed Sanchez for three rounds.
A win alone over a former top contender is impressive, but the way "The Hitman" was able to stuff takedowns, dominate the stand-up and control the ground game spoke volumes.
In six of his seven losses, "Quicksand" has either been submitted or knocked out. The last loss where Pyle wasn't finished was in 1999. His opponent was Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. I'm going to go with history here and say if Hathaway defeats Pyle this Saturday, it'll be by knockout or submission.
There won't be too many windows of opportunity for the Xtreme Couture fighter to capitalize. With only two knockouts in his career, Pyle is going to have to look for a way to submit the up and coming welterweight. Hathaway's ability to defend takedowns makes it hard to believe that Pyle will get a submission by taking his opponent down and submitting him.
"The Hitman" will probably look to keep this one standing for a while. He may be too quick and too explosive for Pyle to deal with. Hathaway's wrestling ability may give him the confidence to keep this one standing all night and if that's the case then it could be a long night for the nine year veteran. You could say the same if the welterweight prospect uses his wrestling as he has the advantage in both areas. I believe Hathaway will be able to avoid any submission attempts thrown his way.
I see Hathaway keeping his UK fans happy by outstriking Pyle and eventually finishing him off on the ground. He's younger, quicker and more explosive than his opponent.
Betting Lines (as of Oct. 15):
Hathaway: -500 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Hathaway via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Cheick Kongo (15-6-1) vs. Travis "Hapa" Browne (10-0)
These fights are tough to call. It's hard to decide when you have an experienced fighter who doesn't have the best record, but is always a threat going against an undefeated fighter who hasn't proven himself against tougher competition.
Who do you go with in a fight like this?
We don't know too much about "Hapa," other then he has 10 wins, zero losses and eight knockouts. We first saw Browne at The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale when he TKO'd James McSweeney. The win was a bit controversial because of blows McSweeney received to the back of the head. Nevertheless, it was an impressive debut for the rising heavyweight.
If numbers told the whole story then Browne would be an easy pick over Kongo, but this is not the case.
Kongo has massive power in those fists of his. With nine knockouts in his career, standing with the French fighter is still a dangerous thing to do. After losing to Frank Mir at UFC 107, Kongo decided to use his wrestling to eventually finish Paul Buentello when he tapped due to strikes.
He may need to continue to put his wrestling to use, because if Browne gets him on his back then he'll be in serious trouble. In his bouts on the regional circuit, Browne often looked for a way to get his opponents down and pound them out.
For the most part, he succeeded.
Browne has never competed with someone who has the power of Kongo, so if he can't get a takedown then he may be staring into the lights after the fight asking the referee what happened. I think this is exactly how this fight will play out Saturday night. If not, then Kongo would go 1-3 in his last four bouts and possibly find himself looking for fights outside the promotion.
Betting Lines (as of Oct. 15):
Kongo: -200 ((Bet Now))
Browne: +160 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Kongo via knockout
170 lbs.: James "Lightning" Wilks (7-3) vs. Claude "The Prince" Patrick (12-1)
This is an interesting fight and a great way to kick off UFC 120. There were a lot of questions surrounding the 30 year old Canadian prospect after his successful Octagon debut at UFC 115. Is he legit? How will he do outside of Canada? Can he defeat tougher opposition? Why does he call himself a prince? All of those questions (minus the last one) could be answered based on his performance against James Wilks.
Patrick is on an 11 fight winning streak and hasn't tasted defeat since he dropped a 2002 decision to former UFC fighter Drew McFedries. The game plan "The Prince" employs is to setup a takedown and go for a sub. Don't let that strategy fool you, the crafty welterweight has a few tricks up his sleeve standing up as well. His goal, however is probably to avoid standing with Wilks and getting him to the ground.
UK fans were disappointed in Wilks' last bout as he was TKO'd by Matt Brown in England. Despite having home-field advantage, "Lightning" was not able to withstand the barrage of punches from "The Immortal."
Wilks will be looking to right the wrong this Saturday.
To succeed, Wilks needs to keep this fight standing up. His kickboxing ability and clinch game could be enough to earn him a decision victory. I don't expect him to KO Patrick standing. He needs to avoid the takedowns and keep the fight upright where he has the advantage.
If you think Patrick will win this fight, don't expect him to submit Wilks easily. The majority of the fight could be a struggle on the ground, much like Wilks' last bout with Peter Sobotta. The difference is, Patrick should eventually be able to get a hold of a leg or an arm and force his opponent to tap.
Betting Lines (as of Oct. 15):
Patrick: -180 ((Bet Now))
Wilks: +150 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: "Prince" Patrick via submission
There you have it.
Be sure to hit us up after the event for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 120: "Bisping vs Akiyama."
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