Tomorrow night the O2 arena in London, England plays host to UFC 120, with a host of British stars like Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy and John Hathaway sure to fire up the home crowd and make for a lively atmosphere.
See below for a full rundown of our predictions for the event.
Michael Bisping (185) Vs Yoshihiro Akiyama (185)
Not the big name main event we’re used to seeing from the UFC, but like much of the card this is a well matched fight that should provide solid entertainment on the night.
Though not a devastating striker, Bisping does display sound technique and aside from the Dan Henderson KO, he’s managed to hang with a succession of heavy-hitters like Wanderlei Silva, Chris Leben and Denis Kang. With good takedown defense and under-rated jiu-jitsu he’s a difficult opponent for most mid-upper level middleweights.
Akiyama fits into a similar mold as many of the aforementioned opponents, with good power in his hands and a willingness to press forward and trade heavy leather at close range. He also has a battle tested chin and mixes in high level judo and a submission threat on the floor.
One clear advantage Bisping has is endurance. Cardio wise he’s up with the best the division has to offer, which can’t be said of Akiyama who is well known for running low on gas in the later rounds of a fight. I also expect Bisping to be the bigger man on the night after making a concerted effort to gain size and strength in his recent training camps.
Prediction: Bisping is well versed fighting this style of fighter and I think if he sticks to his usual gameplan of outstriking his opponent on a technical level while avoiding getting into a toe-to-toe battle then he can drag Akiyama into deep waters in the later rounds and pick him apart to emerge with a solid decision win.
Michael Bisping to win by decision.
Dan Hardy (171) Vs Carlos Condit (170)
With both fighters relishing exciting fights and having a willingness to go for the finish this has strong potential to be the ‘Fight Of The Night’.
Hardy’s gameplan is no secret. He wants to keep this fight standing and demonstrate his boxing prowess. Not a bad strategy considering he possesses good boxing technique, excellent counter-striking in the pocket and has a powerful left hook that can end the fight. As was shown in the GSP fight he’s also got excellent submission defense, but his wrestling is a significant weakness.
Condit is a well rounded fighter who fights at a relentless pace and has the gas tank to back it up. Though he’s no slouch on the feet he can find himself in trouble at times and he’d do well to avoid trying to outstrike Hardy who has never been stopped in that fashion and would outgun him.
Condit is however very well versed on the mat and that would seem to be his best route to victory here. On the evidence of his last fight that’s where Hardy is most vulnerable, but he’s been working non-stop since March to shore up those weaknesses and how successful he’s been in that regard could have a significant impact on the outcome of this fight.
Prediction: Condit is a finisher – just one of his 25 wins came inside the distance, but I don’t see him stopping Hardy either on the ground or on the feet here. If he puts on another all-action performance and can get him down though then a points decision could be on the cards. Condit is no GSP in the takedown department though and I think an improved Hardy can keep this standing for extended periods and land the kind of meaningful blows which will catch the judges eyes.
Dan Hardy to win by decision.
John Hathaway (171) vs. Mike Pyle (170)
Coming off a dominant win over Diego Sanchez and holding an unbeaten 14-0 record, John Hathaway is now being touted as the UK’s next big thing.
While it would be wise not to get too carried away at this stage Hathaway certainly brings solid skills to the table with a surprisingly well rounded game for a fighter who’s not yet reached his 24th birthday. Significantly for a UK fighter he actually possesses sound wrestling and is big for a welterweight, with there already being suggestions that middleweight could become his new home in future years. These are attributes that will certainly come in handy against Pyle.
Aside from being over a decade older, In many ways Pyle is similar to the man he’s facing in that he has no glaring weaknesses, meaning this fight should be competitive wherever it ends up. Despite his skills Pyle has had trouble in putting it altogether in the cage when it counts and his 20-7-1 career is punctuated with losses to mid to upper-level fighters.
Prediction: This will be a good test to see exactly where Hathaway stands at this moment in time in the welterweight division. I think he’s at least in that mid-level range that Pyle has had trouble with in the past, and with the crowd roaring him on I like Hathway to get the better of him on the feet and work in some ground and pound to earn a win inside the distance.
John Hathaway to win by TKO in Rd3
Travis Browne (251) vs. Cheick Kongo (228)
On Saturday night heavyweight contender Travis Browne will hold significant physical advantages over Cheick Kongo, enjoying a 23lb weight and 3 inch height difference over his opponent. Despite that it should also be noted that Kongo actually has a 2 inch reach advantage.
A relative newcomer to the octagon, Browne has shown so far in his 10-0 career that he wields heavy hands, with eight of his fights ending by knockout. There’s no doubt he’ll be looking to add to that number on Saturday night, but this is a very significant step up in competition.
If Browne wants to strike then Kongo is certainly well equipped to deal with that, with his multi-faceted stand-up game making full use of all eight limbs, often with deadly results.
An added trick up his sleeve that could come in handy tomorrow night though is his vicious ground and pound. It’s worked well for him in the past, and putting Browne on his back could open up a clear route to victory.
Prediction: Browne’s still a little bit of an unknown quantity and it’ll be interesting to see how his size and power fair against Kongo, with an upset certainly not out of the question. The Frenchman is far more experienced however and is unlikely to be outclassed in the striking department. I think ground and pound will be his key to victory though.
Cheick Kongo to win by TKO in Rd2
Claude Patrick (171) vs. James Wilks (170)
At this stage in his career TUF season 9 winner James Wilks seems to be settling into a middling role in the 170lb division. With decent striking, useful in the clinch and holding a respectable ground game he appears to be the type of fighter that will win a few, lose a few and overall struggle to break his way into the upper reaches of the division.
On the other hand it remains to be seen just where Claude Patrick is going to fit into the picture. With just one loss in 13 pro fights the Canadian has so far notched up a string of submission victories, showing a particular penchant for chokes, with 9 of his 12 wins coming by way of either rear-naked or guillotine choke.
Prediction: We’ve yet to see Patrick take a step up in class opponent wise which makes me slightly hesitant here, but my overall feeling is that he is the better fighter. I think it’ll be tough to submit Wilks, but I can see him getting the job done with ground and pound instead later in the fight.
Claude Patrick to win by TKO in Rd3
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Cyrille Diabate (204) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (204)
Rob Broughton (257) vs. Vinicius Kappke de Quieroz (239)
Mark Holst (155) vs. Paul Sass (155)
Spencer Fisher (155) vs. Kurt Warburton (154)
Fabio Maldonado (204) vs. James McSweeney (205)