Michael Bisping vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
Tomasz Marciniak: I expect something akin to the Bisping-Leben fight. Akiyama will be content to stand and trade, and Bisping will get on his bike and use his reach to outpoint the Japanese fighter. Bisping by decision.
Tim Leidecker: The Brit has the reach, recent form and home field advantage here. Even though he has become gunshy since being posterized by Dan Henderson last year, Bisping has enough tools, as well as the tactical discipline, to grind out another decision. Akiyama is definitely slick enough on the ground to submit him, but has lacked the right strategy and absolute desire in his UFC run so far. Bisping by decision.
Lutfi Sariahmed: As much as everyone hates Bisping, for whatever reason, he's a better fighter than we give him credit for. Akiyama, on the other hand, has been a shell of himself since he's been in the UFC. He looks like he'd be better suited for welterweight and will be on the wrong end of the strength battle with Bisping. I like the Brit to wear out and then knock out Akiyama in the 3rd. Bisping by KO.
Mike Whitman: I like Bisping to bounce around and use his jab. He'll probably be smart enough to avoid clinching with the judoka, and I think his bottom game is good enough to at least avoid getting pounded out if he does get thrown. That, coupled with the home field advantage, gives Bisping the edge in this one. Bisping by decision.
Tristen Critchfield: Bisping doesn't have the power to knock Akiyama out, but he will try to outpoint his opponent with his jabs. As long as the Dream veteran has fixed the conditioning issues that plagued him against Chris Leben, he should be able to finish Bisping. Akiyama by TKO.
Joseph Myers: I think Akiyama is better than what he showed at the end of the Leben fight, and remember, he was on his way to winning a decision before getting caught in that triangle. I'm sure Akiyama has worked on his cardio and will put forth a better effort against Bisping. Akiyama by decision.
Dan Hardy vs. Carlos Condit
Tomasz Marciniak: Condit has a tendency to let his opponents dictate the terms of the fight. He's rather fortunate here, as Hardy prefers to strike in close quarters, also a strong point of the American's game. I think Hardy is a bit more effective in the clinch and will take advantage of takedown opportunities to run away with the fight on the scorecards. Hardy by decision.
Tim Leidecker: This is a great and very even fight. Even though Hardy has the bigger name value with the mainstream fan, those who have followed the sport for a while know that Condit has just as much experience as “The Outlaw.” The x-factor in this fight is Greg Jackson: The Albuquerque coach has programmed most of his fighters to do one thing above all else – win. Hardy by decision.
Lutfi Sariahmed: If you think Condit is still the borderline top 10 fighter that we talked about during his welterweight title run in the WEC, you haven't been paying attention. Condit has struggled in the UFC, despite a 2-1 mark owing to a split decision win over Jake Ellenberger and a late flurry in his bout against Rory MacDonald to get the win. Hardy's ground game is still mediocre at best, so Condit could certainly take Hardy down and try to work from where he'd have an advantage. I just don't see him being able to do that often enough to get the win. I'll take Hardy by KO, round two.
Mike Whitman: Don't sleep on “The Natural Born Killer.” He hasn't had a single easy fight since he stepped up in competition and joined the shark tank that is the UFC welterweight talent pool. Styles make fights, and this clash favors Condit. He's the superior ground fighter if he needs to take it to the floor, but I think his standup will shock both Hardy and the partisan crowd in this one. The New Mexican owns a two-inch reach advantage, and his striking attack is more varied than Hardy's. More tools in the toolbox means Condit pulls off the upset. Condit by TKO, round three.
Tristen Critchfield: Hardy believes his striking is far superior to Condit's. It may be better, but whether it's enough to win the day is another question entirely. While he doesn't have the wrestling acumen of a Georges St. Pierre, Condit is lanky, dangerous off his back and more well-rounded than Hardy. Condit by decision.
Joseph Myers: No, Hardy didn't really come close to beating Georges St. Pierre in his shot at the UFC welterweight title, but Condit isn't St. Pierre. Condit will give Hardy some problems, but I think it’s Hardy by decision.
John Hathaway vs. Mike Pyle
Tomasz Marciniak: The key to this fight is Hathaway's wrestling. While Pyle can crack, I don't think he's better in that regard than Sanchez, who got completely shut down on the feet by Hathaway. I envision a similar gameplan for the Brit in this fight. Hathaway by TKO.
Tim Leidecker: The 28-bout veteran Pyle jumped at the chance to take on emerging prospect Hathaway as replacement for injured Korean Dong Hyun Kim. After beating Diego Sanchez in his last fight, Pyle could be seen as a step back for the young Brit. However, Pyle presents a much more dangerous guard and submission game than the original “Ultimate Fighter” winner. Hathaway by decision.
Lutfi Sariahmed: I love this bit of matchmaking. Pyle's jiu-jitsu game will test Hathaway on the ground, but I don't think it will be enough to really threaten the Brit at any point during the fight. Coming off the biggest win in his career against Diego Sanchez, Hathaway won't suffer any letdown here. He'll be 15-0 after another dominating win. Hathaway by decision.
Mike Whitman: Certainly, Pyle has the experience and the ring savvy to pull off an upset, but I think the young Brit will be too strong and too athletic for Pyle to do anything with him. Hathaway achieves dominant position on the floor and pounds Pyle out after a brief struggle. Hathaway by TKO, round two.
Tristen Critchfield: Hathaway announced his presence to the world in an upset of Diego Sanchez. The "Hitman" will show that he's no fluke against Pyle. Hathaway by decision.
Joseph Myers: Hathaway is one of the top up-and-comers at 170 pounds, and he put on a top-notch performance in decisioning Diego Sanchez. Hathaway continues his move up the UFC ladder here with a stoppage of Pyle. Hathaway by TKO, round two.
Cheick Kongo vs. Travis Browne
Tomasz Marciniak: Browne likes to take the fight to the opponent and that makes him likely to walk into Kongo's straight punches, a la Cain Velasquez. If not, then Kongo will clinch and muscle Browne to the ground, and tenderize him there with his ground and pound. Kongo by TKO.
Tim Leidecker: Even though he has eight knockouts on his record, don’t let that fool you: Travis Browne is as straight-up a grappler as they come in the heavyweight division. Although his record is very impressive and he did well in his debut against James McSweeney, there are some serious doubts about whether his game is advanced enough to go against a seasoned pro like Kongo. The Frenchman should be able to stop Browne on punches midway through the second round. Kongo by TKO, round two.
Lutfi Sariahmed: Cheick Kongo's career to this point: knock out a bunch of lower-level fighters in a row, get a shot against a bigger name opponent, find yourself on the wrong end of a beating. Lather, rinse and repeat for the Frenchman here. Kongo by KO, round one.
Mike Whitman: This one comes down to experience, and Kongo has more of it. As one-dimensional as the French kickboxer is, he's fighting an opponent that will play to his strengths. Browne probably won't be strong enough to take Kongo down, even if he's able to get inside of those long, strong punches and kicks. Kongo by KO, round two.
Tristen Critchfield: Browne has shown some impressive power in his victories, but Kongo has shown impressive power against better competition. Kongo by TKO.
Joseph Myers: Say what you will about Kongo, but his three losses since October 2006 have been to a trio of pretty good heavyweights (Frank Mir, Cain Velasquez and Heath Herring). Kongo has fared well against fighters that aren't at the level of those three, and I'm not sure Browne is, either. Kongo by KO, round three.
James Wilks vs. Claude Patrick
Tomasz Marciniak: As usual with two grapplers, don't be surprised if this ends up standing, Wilks doesn't mind the clinch, but he will be out-muscled in that position. Patrick also worked an effective top game on Ricardo Funch, and I like him on the ground as well. Patrick by submission.
Tim Leidecker: Two very seasoned grapplers will go at it in this one. Much will depend on who the “Ultimate Fighter” winner Wilks has prepared for, as Patrick has had an excellent camp with former ATT duo Marcus Aurelio and Luiz Arthur Cane, as well as world-class coaches Andre Benkei and Mohamed Ouali. Wilks, while having the reputation of being a great trainer, has lacked some real consistency in his career as active competitor. Patrick will choke out Wilks in the final round. Patrick by submission, round three.
Lutfi Sariahmed: The winner of the ninth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” hasn't exactly been handled with kid gloves to start his UFC career. He lost to Matt Brown at UFC 105, and now takes on Claude Patrick at UFC 120. Patrick is hardly a slouch, either, with a 12-1 mark and a strong BJJ game. I'll take Patrick in a bit of an upset pick. Patrick by submission, round one.
Mike Whitman: Patrick out-wrestles Wilks en route to a three-round UD. Patrick by decision.
Tristen Critchfield: Former TUF champion Wilks will be able to survive on the ground against Patrick. Wilks by submission.
Joseph Myers: Wilks is a former champion from "The Ultimate Fighter" who has five victories in his last six starts, and Patrick has won 11 straight fights, making this a good opener for the Spike TV telecast. Wilks has faced the more recognizable opposition and is fighting at home, so I think he earns a close - possibly split - decision. Wilks by decision.
Cyrille Diabate vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Tomasz Marciniak: I see this fight as a test of how much Diabate's wrestling has improved. “The Snake” is much better standing, but if the Swede can get him to the ground, Gustafsson will have a conversely big advantage on top. I do like the latter as the more probable outcome. Gustafsson by decision.
Tim Leidecker: Two generations will clash in this inter-European duel. Gustafsson is a big kid who has used his powerful punching and decent wrestling to wreck opponents on the Euro circuit. In Diabate, however, he faces an opponent who is both the superior striker and grappler. His groundwork is the area the young Swede definitely has to improve, while the “Snake” is more accomplished on the mat that most people give him credit for. Diabate with the win by choke in the first stanza. Diabate by submission, round one.
Lutfi Sariahmed: In a battle between two standup artists, I’ll take the experience. Diabate over Gustafsson in a “Fight of the Night” winner. Diabate by decision.
Mike Whitman: “The Snake” keeps his distance and uses his lanky kickboxing to pepper Gustafsson into submission. He's a handful for anyone standing, and I think that's where the Frenchman keeps it. Diabate by KO, round three.
Tristen Critchfield: Diabate did a good job creating distance in his one-sided victory over Luis Cane. Expect him to continue that trend against Gustafsson. Diabate by TKO.
Joseph Myers: Diabate has won six straight and is coming off a whipping of Luis Arthur Cane which caught most people off-guard, while Gustafsson was submitted by Phil Davis in his last outing. Diabate's striking gives him an advantage that he should be able to parlay into a second-round knockout. Diabate by KO, round two.
Rob Broughton vs. Vinicius Kappke de Quieroz
Tomasz Marciniak: The Brazilian has blown out absolutely abysmal competition so far in his career. Broughton is big and skilled enough to fight back, and that might be all it takes. Broughton by TKO.
Tim Leidecker: With all due respect to the Neil Groves and Mostapha Al-Turks of the world, Rob Broughton is the only UK heavyweight with legit all-around skills. The massive Liverpudlian can wrestle, grapple and hold his own in the standup as well. His opponent is more or less a straight-up kickboxer from the once-famous Chute Boxe camp. At six-foot-seven, “Spartan” stands out like a green hat with an orange bill. Broughton will take Quieroz down and have his way with him on the ground en route to a decision win. Broughton by decision.
Lutfi Sariahmed: I flipped a coin and it landed on Broughton. Broughton by decision.
Mike Whitman: The Brazilian delivers some serious pain standing up and finishes the Brit in the second. Quieroz by KO, round two.
Tristen Critchfield: The six-foot-seven, 240-pound Chute Boxe product will be too quick for Broughton. Quieroz by TKO.
Joseph Myers: Broughton helps fill the British quota on this card, but has a pretty decent record. However, you have to question the cardio of anyone whose weight on the Sherdog Fight Finder is listed as 280 lbs. "Spartan" is a Chute Boxe product who is largely unknown (at least to me), but he has four KOs in his five wins. I think "Spartan" is able to take Broughton into the deep waters -- Broughton has just one three-round decision win in his last eight fights -- and grind out a victory. Quieroz by decision.
Paul Sass vs. Mark Holst
Jordan Breen: Though it might have been nice to see Paul Sass continue to develop on the U.K. circuit, the UFC always want British fighters and it would be hard for Sass to turn them down. Fortunately, there are many fighters he's already equipped to deal with in the Octagon. Holst is one of them. Sass has the fluid grapping skill to rock up a solid "Sassangle" victory, and might also have the striking chops to best Holst on the feet.
Tomasz Marciniak: Sass is by far the most promising of the new faces on the London card. I tend to think he has an easy task in Mark Holst, who looked hapless on the ground against Gunderson. Sass goes for submissions more often, which may lead to scrambles, but I think he ends up as the first fighter to submit the American. Sass by submission.
Lutfi Sariahmed: To nickname yourself "Sassangle" with your last name already being Sass is just an abuse of the word. Holst went with "Boots," and though I don't understand it on first glance, I'll go with him. Why not? Holst by decision.
Mike Whitman: Holst evens his UFC career record to 1-1, earning a decision over the favorite Sass. Holst by decision.
Tristen Critchfield: Sass makes the home crowd happy and maintains his unblemished record. Sass by submission.
Joseph Myers: Sass is an unbeaten British prospect, while Holst is coming off a unanimous decision loss to John Gunderson as a last-minute substitute. Holst is dangerous, as he has finishes in all eight of his wins (four submissions, four KOs), but Sass has seven triangle chokes and two heel hooks among his 10 wins, so a submission battle might not be in Holst's best interests. I think Sass controls where the fight takes place and earns a decision victory. Holst by decision.
Spencer Fisher vs. Curt Warburton
Jordan Breen: Spencer Fisher has looked physically dreadful as late. However, even a slow, sluggish Fisher should still have enough of his boxing acumen left to land shots on the less-than-impressive Warburton. Furthermore, Fisher remains a very underrated grappler. The submission game provides Fisher another avenue for victory, even though if his star in the lightweight division is fading.
Tomasz Marciniak: Barring another horrid training camp by Fisher, he should have his way here. Warburton looks to clinch and take down and while that part may work on Fisher I don't think he has the skills to escape submissions from the bottom. Fisher by submission.
Lutfi Sariahmed: Fisher talked about the importance of this fight on radio with us. He's in a spot where he needs a win, or he could be out of a job. He'll have every opportunity to earn his keep with a win over the newcomer in Warburton. The key is going to be how much Fisher tries to put on a show, as opposed to just getting the win. This is a spot where he needs to focus on the latter and not so much the former. Fisher by KO, round one.
Mike Whitman: Too much seasoning, too much experience. Fisher takes Warburton into deep waters and finds his jaw in the third period. Fisher by KO, round three.
Tristen Critchfield: Fisher draws upon a wealth of experience to avoid receiving his UFC pink slip against newcomer Warburton. Fisher by decision.
Joseph Myers: It speaks to the depth of the UFC's 155-pound division that someone like Fisher is both fighting this low on the card, and fighting for his UFC job, having lost two straight to Joe Stevenson and Dennis Siver. Warburton is a Wolfslair Academy prospect who does hold a win over Ross Pearson, but Warburton hasn't faced anybody with anything close to Fisher’s experience. Fisher gets back on the winning track with a decision victory over the homestanding Warburton. Fisher by decision.
James McSweeney vs. Fabio Maldonado
Jordan Breen: McSweeney is a good athlete and has tried diligently to improve his game, working with Greg Jackson. However, he's extremely limited as a fighter and not particularly durable. Maldonado won't wow you with a well-rounded game or his flabby physique, but he's a frequent training partner of Anderson Silva, Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante and the Nogueira brothers for a reason. He's a damn good boxer, and can work a double and triple jab like few guys in MMA. After McSweeney tires out, Maldonado's boxing will take over and lead him to a late stop or decision.
Tomasz Marciniak: In the case of Maldonado, who has a rep for not going into fights in great shape, short notice shouldn't be much of a change. What's important is that the Brazilian's boxing skills will be very effective against the very hittable McSweeney. Maldonado by TKO.
Mike Whitman: The Brazilian proves that training with the Nogueiras has its benefits. Maldonado beats up on McSweeney standing and then drops bombs on the grounded Brit Maldonado by TKO, round one.
Tristen Critchfield: In a showdown of boxing vs. kickboxing, TUF alum McSweeney can't stop his recent skid against Maldonado, who has won his last 10 MMA bouts. Maldonado by TKO.
Joseph Myers: McSweeney is a sub-.500 fighter, and you don't see many of those in the UFC. To be honest, I'm not sure if he'd be on this card if it were anywhere other than Great Britain. Maldonado is a late substitute, but he's a Team Nogueira member who's 17-3 and hasn't lost since November 2007, a run of 10 straight victories. Throw in 14 finishes (11 KOs, 3 submissions) among his 17 wins and I'm going with the Brazilian. Maldonado by KO, round two.