Cheick Kongo file photo: Sherdog.com
For an event which boasted eight British fighters on the card, UFC 120 somehow proved a mild setback for UK MMA athletes. While UK talent on the undercard went a respectable 2-2, “Ultimate Fighter” season three winner Michael Bisping was the only Brit to come through on the Spike TV portion of the card.
Two Americans were the culprits who caused major upsets against British fighters, with seasoned veteran Mike Pyle outwrestling and out-grappling the previously unbeaten John Hathaway, and former WEC champion Carlos Condit scoring the first one-punch knockout of his career against former title contender Dan Hardy.
Read on for a closer look at the five main card bouts, as well as what the future could have in store for the ten participants.
Claude Patrick def. James Wilks -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: If you watched one round of this fight, you saw all three, as they each followed the exact same pattern. Patrick clinched with Wilks and pressed him up against the cage. From there, he repeatedly took the lanky Leicestershire native down and scored from top position. Even though Wilks looked the bigger fighter, Patrick had zero trouble controlling him on the ground and passing his guard on multiple occasions.
Wilks had all but two offensive moves all fight long: a triangle omoplata attempt in the first round, and an attempted leg lock in the final stanza. Patrick did well to punish Wilks’ legs as he stood up from his guard and passed to side control. Midway through the first round, Patrick even had Wilks mounted, but couldn’t crank up the work rate enough to finish “Lightning.”
Forecast for Patrick: The Canadian “Prince” has looked very good since joining the organization in summer of this year. If the promotion wants to continue building him, they will match him up with Greg Soto, Kenny Robertson, or the winner of next week’s Michael Guymon-Daniel Roberts match. If they want to test him, Paulo Thiago, Diego Sanchez or Mike Pierce could be next.
Forecast for Wilks: Dropping to .500 over his UFC career, Wilks will be battling elimination from the promotion during his next trip to the Octagon. He could be facing Amilcar Alves, Brian Foster or countryman John Hathaway there.
Cheick Kongo vs. Travis Browne -- Draw
What happened: Coming out of the gates dashing and sporting an unorthodox striking technique, grappler-turned-boxer Travis Browne landed the more significant strikes of the first round in the shape of a couple of knees from the clinch and some huge haymakers. Kongo got his counterstriking game going in the second stanza, and crushed Browne’s legs with short knee strikes.
With the scores tied on the judges’ cards going into the third round, Kongo was either very stupid or very desperate, as he had a point taken away for repeatedly holding his opponent’s shorts -- a foul which ultimately cost him the win. Browne landed two takedowns at the end of rounds two and three, but had too little time to get any sort of offense going on the mat.
Forecast for Kongo: Although there’s probably little interest in seeing these guys fight one another again right away, a draw is always the most unsatisfactory result, so both men could be paired against one another again, sooner or later. If not, Kongo will fight whoever is healthy and available, someone like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or Stefan Struve.
Forecast for Browne: Still undefeated after his eleventh match, Browne did much better than expected against Kongo, especially during the standup portions of the fight. Still, with ground work being his strong suit, one would like to see him matched up against another strong grappler, like the winner of Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Brendan Schaub.
Mike Pyle def. John Hathaway -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: Many critics were labeling Hathaway as overrated after he skyrocketed into the welterweight top ten rankings courtesy of his smashing of an unmotivated Diego Sanchez. Pyle utilized the “Hitman’s” hype to motivate himself, and delivered a flawless tactical and technical performance which featured excellent close-quarters grappling.
Instead of reacting to Hathaway’s attacks, Pyle forced his style of fighting onto the young Brit from the opening bell. He dominated the stiff-looking Brighton native on the feet and took him down almost at will. Pyle’s ground work master stroke was a second-round mounted triangle/crucifix position, which he used to land some heavy punches to the unprotected frace of Hathaway.
Forecast for Pyle: This was the best Pyle has looked since submitting Dan Hornbuckle two years ago. A winner in three of his last four, Pyle has earned his way onto a UFC pay-per-view for his next fight.
Ricardo Almeida or the winner of Dennis Hallman vs. Karo Parisyan would each be good opponents for him. The most exciting fight out there would be against Chris Lytle, however, a fighter with a very similar style to Pyle’s.
Forecast for Hathaway: A seasoned vet like Pyle came too early for Hathaway at this point in his career. Still a great prospect at only 23 years old, the UFC would do well to continue grooming him by matching him up with opponents of similar age and experience. Possible future bouts could come against the likes of Matt Riddle, or the winners of Amir Sadollah-Peter Sobotta and Matt Brown-Brian Foster.
Carlos Condit def. Dan Hardy – KO (Punch) 4:27 R1
What happened: Did Hardy believe his own hype after surviving five rounds with champion Georges St. Pierre, or did Greg Jackson’s game-planning perfection make the difference? The fact of the matter is that the “Outlaw” had a lot of trouble finding the right range, and was unable to unload his punches and kicks as he was tagged by the long limbs of the “Natural Born Killer” all through round one.
Just as Hardy began to get more aggressive and started taking the fight to his opponent, both men threw hard left hooks at the same time. Hardy went down, while Condit was left standing. Condit went for the kill with another two hard shots to the dome of the floored Brit before referee Dan Miragliotta rescued Hardy from any further unnecessary damage.
Forecast for Condit: The win, a legit knockout over a former title contender, must put the young New Mexican into the extended title picture as well. With Josh Koscheck and the winner of Jake Shields-Martin Kampmann ahead of him in line, Condit will have to face and beat somebody like Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves or Mike Swick to earn himself a shot at the title.
Forecast for Hardy: He has asked for the fight before, and chances are quite good it will be made now: Dan Hardy vs. Thiago Alves. Both fighters are coming off of tough losses, and both come to bang. Other interesting opponents for the Brit, who splits time between Nottingham and Los Angeles, are Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann.
Michael Bisping def. Yoshihiro Akiyama -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: The “Ultimate Fighter” season three winner Michael Bisping looked as good as ever inside the Octagon in a fight against former Hero’s light heavyweight tournament winner Yoshihiro Akiyama which was more one-sided than it might appear on paper. While he at least grappled a little in his fights with Alan Belcher and Chris Leben, the black belt judoka Akiyama made zero effort to take this fight to his realm, instead opting to stand and trade with the natural kickboxer Bisping for fifteen minutes.
The 31-year-old Liverpudlian used his jab effectively, stringing together a couple of nice combinations as the fight progressed and Akiyama became more stationary. Avoiding the slugfest which the Korean was looking for, Bisping turned the match into a point-fighting contest. Akiyama managed to finish both rounds strong, but any energy left in his body was zapped when Bisping drilled his foot into Akiyama’s cup midway through the final round.
Forecast for Bisping: It will be interesting to see if the “Count” will keep on gunning for a rematch against Wanderlei Silva, a big-name opponent whom he feels he can beat at this stage of his career. To finally get a title shot, after almost five years and thirteen fights with the promotion, Bisping will need to face and beat the likes of Nate Marquardt or Demian Maia.
Forecast for Akiyama: With three fights in the UFC, and all three of them nearly going the distance, it’s pretty obvious that middleweight is not the right weight class for “Sexyama.” If he wants to live up to the earlier success he enjoyed in Hero’s and Dream, he will need to drop down to welterweight. Akiyama against his compatriot Dong Hyun Kim, against fellow judoka Karo Parisyan, or against Ricardo Almeida would be a trio of very compelling fights to make.
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