LONDON - One man craved a stoppage, the other craved a victory. In the
end, Michael 'The Count' Bisping had to rely on the judges' scorecards
to determine his fate, as he schooled Yoshihiro Akiyama in a stand-up
war in the UFC 120 main event at the O2 Arena Saturday night. The heroic
Englishman, buoyed by a rapturous home crowd, put together a kickboxing
clinic to claim victory by scores of 30-27 across the board.
Bisping vs. Akiyama
Widnes warrior Bisping was desperate for a stoppage victory – having traveled the full-route twice in recent fights – but he couldn't be faulted for settling for it this time round. He did everything within his power to halt Akiyama, but was prevented from doing so by a granite jaw and unbreakable will. Even in defeat – his second in succession – Akiyama comes out with much credit, having made a fight of it for every second of the three rounds.
Indeed, Akiyama started the bout the quicker and more explosive, jumping on a shell-shocked Bisping immediately. He landed a heavy right swing in the opening seconds, a shot which spurred Bisping into life, rather than shook him.
From there, the Clitheroe favourite took over and began to reap the benefits of his quicker hands, better technique and use of lateral movement. While Akiyama appeared content to steam forward in straight lines, bowling over an occasional right hand, it was Bisping who showed variation and thought behind his work. The Englishman chopped away with niggling kicks and straight, stringing right hands, most of which landed flush on Akiyama's head.
Bisping's dominance only heightened in the second round, as he switched up punches and takedown attempts to trick and confuse Akiyama. By scrambling and rushing the composed Japanese star, Bisping was able to take Akiyama out of his game and dominate the rounds. Then, as the pace dropped and both fighters settled, Bisping was able to time Akiyama's rushes with stinging jabs and right hands.
Occasionally, Akiyama's agricultural right swings, thrown when in the pocket, would land on Bisping and shake the Brit hope up. The ensuing rush to finish momentarily hushed the home crowd, but Bisping remained upright and pitching shots back of his own.
There was a sense of desperation on everything Akiyama threw in the final round, as his face was now marked up and swollen and his work-rate had dropped significantly. Comparatively fresh, Bisping bounced on his toes, fired well-picked jabs and right hands and continued to chop down on a static Akiyama.
An unfortunate low blow in the final round sent Akiyama to the deck in round three, where the Japan star remained for a couple of minutes. Utilising every second of the allotted five-minute recovery time, Akiyama kept everyone, including Bisping, waiting for the anticipated finale.
Once the pair restarted, the action was every bit as intense as advertised. Bisping picked, prodded and poked with painful right hands and left hooks, while Akiyama stumbled forward with arching right hands. The trade-offs were ferocious, but both men were too tough to render them decisive. Akiyama remained upright and Bisping's arm was lifted. He's never looked better.
Hardy vs. Condit
Split-second timing separated victory and defeat and Dan 'The Outlaw' Hardy from his senses in tonight's co-main event, as Carlos Condit landed his left hook before his opponent and walked away with a first round knockout victory. The American visitor, booed heavily going into the Octagon, knocked out Hardy with a left hook, and two follow up shots, at 4:23 of the opening session.
The two welterweights put on a striking exhibition in the early going, trading punches and kicks with startling speed and accuracy. Hardy began the bout on the front foot, spearing Condit with heavy leg-kicks and attempted head-kicks. Condit appeared wary of Hardy's noted power and seemed content to size up his English foe before launching a response of his own.
That response arrived midway through the round, as Condit grew in confidence and began taking the fight to Hardy. Now operating more on his front foot, Condit stepped to Hardy and traded punches. While both enjoyed success in the trade-off, it was Condit who exited the cleaner and crisper the first time they bit down. 'The Outlaw' found success with counter left hooks as Condit marched forward, but both men were, for the most part, competing on an even playing field.
There would be no warning sign for what lied ahead, however. As both fiery welterweights stepped to one another and unloaded, Hardy and Condit cocked parallel left-hooks and hit the trigger. Condit's landed first and Hardy hit the ground, administering a hush from the stunned home crowd. With his opponent stricken and hurt, Condit, now 26-5, wasted no time in sealing the deal with further blows, laying Hardy flat out and the bout over. With the victory, and, more importantly, nature of it, Condit now becomes a major player in the shake-up at 170-pounds.
Hathaway vs. Pyle
He was reluctant to let go of it, but, eventually, John 'The Hitman' Hathaway conceded his zero to American Mike 'Quicksand' Pyle this evening in London. Entering to the strains of the Bruce Springsteen classic 'Born in the USA', Pyle used every ounce of his American wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu to control a helpless Hathaway on the ground for much of the three rounds. All three judges declared Pyle the winner by scores of 30-27, thus sinking Hathaway's unbeaten record in the sand.
Keen to get the fight to the ground whenever possible, Pyle also showed adept stand-up in the early going, as he clubbed Hathaway with wild right hands from in close. Hathaway looked to pick Pyle apart with straighter and more direct punches, but was unable to shake, concern or put Pyle in a negative frame of mind.
Instead, Pyle circled the young Brit, waited for his chance and then shot for the takedown. He landed the first midway through the opening round, although Hathaway used his underrated defence to climb his way back up via the cage. Within seconds, he was on top of Pyle.
They continued to strike for the remainder of the round, Hathaway staying crisp and sharp, while Pyle looked for right-handed haymakers. The veteran American found minor success with that shot in the dying embers, and then attempted to repeat the dose three times over, spotting a hole in Hathaway's striking defence.
While the stand-up battle suggested a stalemate, Pyle's ability to summon takedowns from thin air swung the round in his favour. He punctuated the session with a final trip at the klaxon.
The first round was a sign of things to come for Hathaway, as Pyle once again chased the takedown and, on more than one occasion, got it in the second round. Then, from the second takedown of the round, Pyle managed to impressively slap on a triangle choke from the side position. He trapped the Englishman's head and left arm between his own legs and then proceeded to rain down blows from on top. Hathaway was prone, unable to move and barely able to breathe. He received countless shots to the top of his head, yet waved for more and survived the round. The home fans hailed a moral victory at the round's conclusion. Despite being nearly choked out, Hathaway walked away upright and still very much in the bout.
It was now clear to everyone inside London's O2 Arena, that their young hotshot needed a knockout in order to keep his unblemished resume intact. Alas, through a combination of fatigue and impressive jiu-jitsu, it never came.
Pyle used all his experience to once again dump Hathaway on the deck and eventually worked his way to half-guard, where he controlled and threatened Hathaway throughout the round. Just as was the case in round one, there was no answer or escape for Hathaway.
The underrated Pyle, now 20-7-1, antagonised the British faithful going into the bout, but clearly won their respect by the time the judges' decisions were read out. The 23-year-old Hathaway, still learning and improving, drops to 14-1, but loses little in defeat.
Kongo vs. Browne
What started out as a potential war eventually dissolved into something resembling a peace treaty, as heavyweight juggernauts Travis Browne and Cheick Kongo stood and traded for five minutes before settling down and looking for takedowns. In the end, neither man was able to secure a takedown or the preferred finish, and after Kongo received a point deduction for holding his opponent’s shorts, both men settled for a frustrating draw, via three identical scores of 28-28.
A decision verdict seemed unlikely in the early running, as the undefeated Browne started fast and connected with sharp strikes on the front foot. Uncharacteristically tentative, Kongo circled the Octagon, wary of his opponent's heavy hands and run of four straight first round stoppage victories. Browne appeared intent on adding Kongo to that list of victims, as he threw head-kicks and leg-kicks at a rate of knots. Kongo, for his part, was happy to fire back in the trade-off, and was finding minor successes of his own in between Browne's assaults.
However, it was Californian Browne that countered better and appeared more accurate whenever the two threw hands. Parisian Kongo rushed him mid-way through the round, only to walk straight into a well-picked right uppercut, a shot which brought the crowd to its feet. Kongo shook off the impact of the shot, but was being beaten to the punch at range and in close.
This success dramatically teetered off for Browne in the second round, though, as Kongo began fast and diluted any potential striking battle. The pair spent large segments of the round and, indeed, the following round in body-lock positions up against the cage, neither willing to strike the way they did in the opening stanza.
Though both are renowned for their heavy hands, the mutual game plan seemed to be to get in close, work knees and look for a possible takedown. Browne secured a takedown on the klaxon to end round two, and then sought to repeat his success in the final five minutes. Browne nor Kongo could claim much success by the time the round and fight closed, as both seemed content to let the judges make up their own mind – which they did, handing neither fighter the victory they so desperately craved.
Wilks vs. Patrick
Canada's Claude Patrick did little to win over the fans in London, England, but did enough to win a fight, as he controlled native James Wilks over three rounds at UFC 120. Patrick's diligence and wrestling saw him sweep all three rounds and travel back to Toronto with a 30-27 points win across the board.
The real losers were Wilks and the fans. The welterweight pair were subjected to a chorus of boos and slow hand claps in the dying embers of the bout, as neither man was able to initiate anything resembling a meaningful attack.
Leicestershire's Wilks spent much of the bout against the fence or with his back on the canvas, as Patrick relentlessly pursued the takedown by any means necessary. However, once the takedown was snared, Patrick did little to endear himself to the fans inside the arena. Unable to find significant blows or a submission attempt, Patrick appeared content to smother and control Wilks for the duration.
Noted for his jiu-jitsu and submission skills, Wilks was unable to bring either into action, as he fruitlessly sought wild arm-bars and omoplatas from off his back.
Ultimately, neither man, on top or bottom, got close to the finish, and both settled for fate by way of the judges' scorecards. There could be no doubt as to who would be the victor, as the dominant Patrick continued his recent run of form and bagged a clear-cut decision.