With the home crowd cheering him on at the O2 Arena in London, England, Michael Bisping looked to send the UK fans home happy with a win over Yoshihiro Akiyama.
The first round was a tense but exciting stand-up battle. Bisping was tagged early by a powerful blow from Akiyama that clearly hurt him, but he remained composed and worked his way slowly into the fight. Mid-way through the round he secured a brief takedown which boosted his confidence further and by the end of the round he was giving the Japanese fighter a run for his money, even throwing a flying knee to finish with a flourish.
Now settled, Bisping started to find his range and rhythm in the second, and outpointed his opponent with strikes and landed some solid right hands. Akiyama was less busy, but he landed some powerful blows, and towards the closing stages of the round poured it on with an offensive blitz that had Bisping in all-out-defense mode.
The end of the round suggested the momentum was swinging back in Akiyama’s favor but in the third Bisping’s cardio came into play and he bounced back strongly with the Japanese fighter beginning to tire. Straight punches and head kicks looked to be finally wearing down Akiyama’s tough chin, but then an unintentional kick to the groin by Bisping produced an extended break while he recovered.
As they got back into the action Bisping again was looking the better fighter, producing a relentless pace and some sharp combinations. Akiyama went for another last minute flurry which again troubled the UK star but overall Bisping’s work-rate was superior.
In the end the judges were in no doubt and handed Bisping a unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
It was a tough, enjoyable fight and perhaps one of Bisping’s better outings in the octagon to date, and gives him something significant to build on for a potential title shot in the future.
As for Akiyama, he definitely has power and his cardio was a little better than his last fight, but he wasn’t able to push the pace the way he needed to and paid the price.
Bisping improves to 20-3 and regains some national pride after a tough night for some of Britain’s other big name stars. Akiyama on the other hand heads back to Japan contemplating a two fight losing streak which takes his career record to 13-3 (2nc).