by Trevor Fik (Staff Writer)
In what proved to be a disappointing night for English fighters in front of a 17,000 strong crowd in London’s O2 arena, Manchester native Michael “The Count” Bisping proved to be Britain’s saving grace in a night of upsets and knockouts that is sure to put the memory of the lackluster UFC 119 out of the minds of UFC fans.
The main event of the evening started off looking as daunting for Bisping as it had for other British fighters earlier in the night, with Akiyama landing a huge right hook early in the round. Bisping, who was momentarily stunned, was able to shake off the hit and come back strong to finish with a decisive win for the fight.
Although Japanese-born Akiyama came out looking every bit as in control of the fight as was expected, his failure to capitalize on a good early shot was indicative of his fighting style. The former K-1 veteran has previously emerged with wins from his contests through devastating strikes and submissions, but was content to throw out any game plan he once had the moment he hurt Bisping. Instead of taking control of the fight, Akiyama spent the better part of the second and third round trying to land another big right hand to finish the fight.
This victory marks the second in a row for “The Count,” who, in dominating Akiyama with a series of combos throughout the fight, has assured himself a title shot in the middleweight division once he gets one or two more victories. With Akiyama’s third UFC appearance, “Sexiyama” has had three consecutive ‘Fight of the Night’ honours.
Knockout of the night at UFC 120 came during the co-main event when American fighter Carlos Condit pummeled ‘The Outlaw’ Dan Hardy, knocking him out at 4:27 of the first round. Hardy, who is normally most comfortable on his feet, appeared sluggish and unable to cope with Condit’s well placed strikes.
The upset win of the night goes to American fighter Mike Pyle in his win over formerly undefeated British sensation John Hathaway. Hathaway, who was nursing a 14-fight-win-streak entering the fight, was coming off a notable knock-out victory against Diego Sanchez. Whether it was the overconfidence that comes with being undefeated, or underestimating his 35-year-old opponent, Hathaway was dominated by strikes and the relentless takedown attempts of the Randy Couture prodigy. Speaking of his underdog status after the fight, Pyle noted “I’m 35 years old. I’m not going to let some over-hyped London kid just out of high school beat me, hell no.”
With UFC’s most recent European excursion in the books, we look to UFC 121. We do not have to look very far, as Saturday October 23 will be the date that Brock Lesnar defends his Heavyweight Championship belt against undefeated Brazilian Cain Velasquez.
Velasquez goes into the fight vastly undersized compared to the gargantuan Lesnar. If he is to have a shot at stripping the title from the champ, it will be have to come in the ground game. Having proven his tough chin against Shane Carwin in their last battle, any attempt at stand-up from the Brazilian will be met with ham-sized fists and a quick beat down.
Other notable fights marking the UFC’s return to Anaheim at UFC 121 are the Ortiz versus Hamill fight, as well as the welterweight bout between Jake Shields and Martin Kampmann. The Huntingdon Beach Bad Boy, Tito Ortiz, will attempt to come away with his first victory since October 10, 2006, when he defeated Ken Shamrock.
Matt Hamill, who is coming off victories against former UFC fighter Keith Jardine, as well as a disqualification win over Jon “Bones” Jones, trained under Ortiz on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter television series.
If Ortiz is to have any hope of remaining relevant within the UFC, he has to come out with a huge victory here. If he fails, it could be just another case of a fighter battling far past his prime and UFC president Dana White showing the door to another one of its hall of fame fighters.