Michael Bisping file photo: Sherdog.com
The most brutal part of Saturday’s UFC broadcast on Spike? Unless your television had a TiVo filter, you were in for nearly an hour of commercials during a three-hour timeslot. Thirty-three percent of the time, your brain was being beaten into oatmeal and under duress from advertisements. I got two nosebleeds just from “Blue Mountain State” spots alone.
The filler -- that pesky actual ring footage -- was ostensibly an ad for UK fight talent, but not everyone wanted to follow the script: Mike Pyle had a terrific night as the foreign interloper, stopping the momentum of 14-0 John Hathaway and pulling off the neat trick of choking and punching someone at the same time. (Hint: it takes all four limbs to pull off.) Following Pyle’s embarrassing loss to Andrei Arlovski in “Universal Soldier 4,” this is a nice return to form.
Hathaway is a burgeoning British talent, and since an undefeated record is virtually impossible to pull off, he should probably enjoy the depressurized environment. Intentionally or not, his presence was one of three distinct stages in foreign-favored talent: the middle man, Dan Hardy, got his first stern test against Georges St. Pierre but didn’t get obliterated until he met Carlos Condit, who put him to sleep; the highest-level -- and highest-paid -- platform belongs to Michael Bisping, who did what most expected in defeating a gassed and undisciplined Yoshihiro Akiyama.
That the UK scene hasn’t grown to the point where we can see a waning fighter is both good and bad: good in that no one likes to see a favorite get beat up, bad in that the country might still be playing catch-up when it comes to skills across the board. (Condit, the night’s biggest American villain, isn’t known as a KO artist). Hathaway needs more wrestling time; Hardy needs to get opponents thinking about takedowns; Bisping needs a big win over a top-ten middleweight to prove his actions have caught up with his words.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a strong urge to purchase tickets for “Saw 3-D” on a night that won’t conflict with the Spike Scream Awards or purchasing a new flavor of Mountain Dew. Or a TiVo.
Next for Bisping: Demian Maia, if Maia beats Kendall Grove Dec. 4 at “The Ultimate Fighter 12” finale.
Next for Akiyama: An Aerodyne on every floor of his house, taking the stairs every time he thinks of taking the elevator, and lots of vacations in Colorado.
Next for Condit: The winner of November’s B.J. Penn/Matt Hughes bout.
Next for Hardy: Anthony Johnson or the loser of next weekend’s Jake Shields/Martin Kampmann fight.
Strikeforcing It Award EA Sports, for grabbing some of the UFC’s ad space to push their “EA Sports MMA” video game that features mythical creatures like Fedor Emelianenko and Nick Diaz.
Splitting Semantics Award The UFC, for describing Cheick Kongo as “unbeaten in the UK as a UFC fighter”; in case you’re curious, Hardy remains unbeaten in London on Tuesdays following rain of more than three inches -- and never, ever following the rerun of a “Doctor Who” Christmas Special. Except on even days.
Missed Opportunity Award The UFC, for never once mentioning Octagon girl Arianny Celeste being November’s Playboy cover subject…yet bothering to plug a month-old UFC Magazine.
Building a Better Catchphrase Award Mike Goldberg, for working in “slip and rip” twice to describe a fighter dodging a strike and then countering. His verbal precision remains precise.
Is there such a thing as a perfect body type for MMA?
Watching the built-for-basketball Cyrille Diabate get thrown around by Alexander Gustafsson Saturday -- eventually tapping to a choke -- doesn’t encourage long, lanky fighters to pursue careers involving wrestling. It’s a common problem among athletes with stretched-out builds, who don’t possess a center of gravity friendly to defending tackles and instead offer long legs that collapse easily; fireplug fighters (Sean Sherk) might overcome that, but don’t possess the reach or physical real estate to tie fighters up on the ground.
Brock Lesnar got a genetic gift by being built like a brick wall with mobility and a sizable reach. He’s also a one in a million type. The prototype build might belong to St. Pierre, who isn’t weighed down by muscle, has functional mass, a powerful lower body, and enough fast-twitch fibers to switch levels before other fighters can react. If he’s one of the best fighters in the world, his parents are partially responsible.
Should more fighters emulate Akiyama?
Akiyama had the presence of mind to realize he was down two rounds to Bisping entering the third. And instead of doing what so many fighters do -- behave as though it were a competitive contest and act conservatively -- he used what little energy he had left to try and drop an anvil on Bisping’s head. At the bell, he more or less collapsed from fatigue and effort. Why more athletes don’t turn on the pressure when it’s clear they’re far behind is one of MMA’s bigger mysteries. At least Akiyama wasn’t ready to settle.
Do Saturday’s results hurt the UK MMA industry?
If three or four American fighters dropped bouts to international talent, few fans would fret over the “death” of US MMA. But because two of Britain’s more promising fighters lost Saturday, some are wondering whether the UK scene will ever be at parity with the rest of the world.
It’s a fair question -- the UK lacks any real interest in wrestling at the educational level, which means fewer dominant grapplers -- but one night doesn’t mean much over the long haul. Bisping is an impressive 20-3 in his career, with only one KO loss; Hardy went five hard rounds with GSP in a fight most expected him to get devoured in. Both men may benefit from a greater variety of training, but the UK is still one of the richer sources of talent available.
• Bisping told press following his bout Saturday that he considered himself only one victory away from a title shot, which would put him on a three-fight win streak. He’s due a lot of credit for an impressive career, but the only way I see him challenging for a title is as a fill-in for an injured contender. He has yet to put away a single top-ten opponent.
• 17,133 fans set a new attendance record at the 02 in London, swayed in part by the long wait between events in the UK -- it’s been nearly a year -- and the presence of both Bisping and Dan Hardy.
• Bisping and Yoshihiro Akiyama split $120,000 in Fight of the Night bonus money, which was Akiyama’s third in as many fights. You have to figure a guy with that many wars to his credit isn’t going to be a poster boy for longevity.
• Lost in the UFC weekend coverage: Ken Shamrock, who picked up a win over Johnathan Ivey in Louisiana. The untelevised win puts him at 2-6 in his last eight, a record I’m not sure even Shannon Ritch would want any part of.
• During a Q&A session, Zuffa co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta indicated his company had plans to put on a big show in Toronto in the spring of 2011, with an aim on setting a new UFC attendance record of 40,000-plus. If you think that would be the perfect time to settle the pound-for-pound debate by having St. Pierre face Anderson Silva, you’d be on to something.