With UFC 120 in the books, the UFC has once again proven itself to be the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world with a night of exciting bouts that left very little to complain about. There were no spiritless fights and even those that made it to the judges were true crowd pleasers. Of course, in the fight game not everyone gets to come out ahead. As usual, there were some winners, some losers, and some people who did potentially irreparable damage to themselves and their respective career. That’s what brings us here today, to explore whose night was good, whose night was bad, and whose night was so bad, it’s ugly.
“The Count” Michael Bisping (20-3): “The Count” faced not only a very dangerous opponent in “Sexyama” Yoshihiro Akiyama (14-4), but the end of his career as a top middleweight in the UFC. If Bisping felt any added pressure from staring a future of gatekeeper mediocrity in the face, he didn’t show it at all. The British superstar out-landed and out-maneuvered the Olympic Judo-kai in all three rounds despite taking a staggering blow right off the opening bell. “The Count” needed a stellar performance to revive his ailing UFC career and that’s exactly what he gave.
“The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (26-5): Carlos went into this fight an underdog against hometown hero “The Outlaw” Dan Hardy (23-8) in front of a very hostile crowd. He left four minutes and twenty-seven seconds later with his hand raised and few more fans following a devastating KO of the British gunslinger. Hardy got the better of Condit for most of the round. Then they traded a pair of hooks. Condit’s hooks connected, Hardy’s didn’t. Condit then made the best of his KO victory by remaining very humble during the post-fight interview, winning over a small portion of the London crowd. The win sets the stage for “The Natural Born Killer” to return to the top ten of the welterweight division.
Dan Hardy: It is very hard to end up listed under “The Good” following a one-and-done first round KO but Dan Hardy is a man we’ve come to know as the exception to every rule. The charismatic Brit came into the fight on the hype of his WWE-grade trash talk and spent four minutes and twenty-five seconds backing it up. Then he missed. The second hook in his combo was slowed down by the lead hook missing Condit and Hardy paid the price when he ate the counter punch. He did, however, show tremendous class in his loss, making no excuses for the failure. In fact, when asked what went wrong he nattily replied “I got punched in the face.” Hardy’s attitude and good grace all but erased the image damage done by the loss and allowed him to come out ahead with his bosses and the fans.
“Quicksand” Mike Pyle (20-6-1): Tennessee born Mike Pyle came into his bout with “The Hitman” John Hathaway (14-1) a heavy underdog. The young British man was undefeated and had fought stiffer competition than Pyle. But, as was stated in MMA Gospel’s pre-fight breakdown of this bout, fortune favors the bold. Pyle ignored the hype surrounding his opponent and went straight for the kill. In the first, Pyle took control. In the second, Pyle locked Hathaway in a side-mount triangle and pounds his way to a clear 10-8 round. The third round saw more of the same with Mike Pyle running every aspect to the fight until the judges had no choice but to raise his hand.
“The Assassin” Paul Sass (7-0): Almost every UFC card sees a prelim fight between a pair of game newcomers on the unmentioned, let alone aired, preliminary card. Many of these fighters the fans may never see as they come in, win one, lose a few, and disappear without ever seeing a main card. Paul Sass, however, made the most of his debut. Given a shot at a UFC career, the young Brit wasn’t content to waste his debut winning in a pedestrian fashion. With 15 seconds left in the first round, Sass finished a beautiful triangle choke he’d worked for the entire second half of the round and earned himself a spot on the televised card and a $50,000 Submission of the Night bonus.
Cheick Kongo (15-6-2): Kongo was robbed of a win by poor refereeing, of that there is no doubt, but the lanky Frenchman carried Travis Browne (6-0-1) to a draw due mainly to a lack of an ability to use his natural advantages effectively. It was obvious to the most amateur observer that Kongo clearly outclassed his opponent from the opening bell. Kongo, however, showed no killer instinct and failed to capitalize on any of the opportunities created by his crisp counter punching. In the end he had a point deducted for holding Browne’s shorts. The call was clearly unwarranted and cost Kongo a win, but the point is he was grabbing the shorts for no reason. Its bad Kongo was cheating, its worse he was doing it for no gain.
Yoshihiro Akiyama: “Sexyama” took Fight of the Night honors in his bout with Michael Bisping and showed much improved conditioning over his previous UFC fights. He didn’t, however, display any of his vaunted fight IQ. Akiyama was clearly losing the numbers game on the feet. He hit harder than “The Count” but far, far less often. Throughout the fight, he never clinched and attempted only one throw from his world class Judo arsenal. Falling to 1-2 in the UFC, Akiyama seriously needs to start using his brain for something other than determining what styles will be “in” next season.
Travis Browne: Browne faced a far superior opponent. A win would have set the stage for a career building his talents in the lower reaches of the UFC heavyweight division, but he needed Kongo to make some big mistakes to do it. Cheick Kongo made those big mistakes, several of them in fact. Browne was even handed a free point by the referee who deducted a point from Kongo without warning for grabbing Browne’s shorts of all things. The stars and planets aligned to give Travis Browne all he could ask for and he decided not to take advantage of it. Someone needs to tell Browne they are called once in a lifetime opportunities for a reason.
John Hathaway: Hathaway was on a silver-bullet hype train bound straight for a welterweight title shot. He was undefeated and had just completely dominated “Nightmare” Diego Sanchez (21-4); all John Hathaway needed to do was beat this Mike Pyle fellow, a man who had mixed success against the gatekeepers of the UFC, and a title shot, or at least a contendership fight, was in his near future. Hathaway didn’t win. Not even close. Mike Pyle steamrolled him from bell to bell logging in at least one 10-8 round and neatly derailed the John Hathaway hype train. Usually a decision loss doesn’t do this much damage to a fighter’s image, but Hathaway lost more than convincingly.
Marc Goddard: Goddard is possibly the worst MMA referee since Steve Mazagatti. In the main card bout between Kongo and Browne, Goddard started by splitting the fighters from a clinch only a second or so after Browne managed to reverse the position and get Kongo against the cage. In the second, he ignored two separate instances where a fighter motioned that he had received an inadvertent illegal strike, one an eye poke and one a low blow. Apparently since he didn’t see the eye poke, the fighter didn’t need to recover from it, as it never happened despite both fighters giving signs of confirmation. Later in the bout, he quickly deducts a point for a minor infraction, Kongo grabbing Browne’s shorts, with no reset or prior official warning. It wasn’t a head stomp, or throat punch, or a blatant low-blow, it was shorts grabbing in the standing clinch. There was absolutely no reason to dock a point. Later in the night, during the Bisping/Akiyama fight, he ignores two back-to-back low blows, one to each fighter in the first round. Then, in the second, an eye poke occurred and Goddard actually chastised Akiyama for stopping to allow Bisping to recover! In a final display of his total lack of regard for fighter safety, Marc Goddard attempts to force Akiyama to continue in the third after taking a kick to the cup so hard it was clearly audible on the broadcast. Of course since Akiyama was left in the fetal position on the mat by the low blow, the doctor had to be called in AND GODDARD RUSHED HIM TOO! Absolutely no regard for the fighter’s safety whatsoever. Goddard should have his license pulled immediately.
UFC 120: Bisping vs. Akiyama Quick Results
Michael Bisping vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama: Bisping via unanimous decision, Round 3, 5:00
Dan Hardy vs. Carlos Condit: Condit via KO (Punch), Round 1, 4:27
John Hathaway vs. Mike Pyle: Pyle via unanimous decision, Round 3, 5:00
Cheick Kongo vs. Travis Browne: DRAW, Round 3, 5:00
Claude Patrick vs. James Wilks: Patrick via unanimous decision, Round 3, 5:00
James McSweeney vs. Fabio Maldonado: Maldonado via TKO (Punches), Round 3, 0:48
Spencer Fisher vs. Kurt Warburton: Fisher via unanimous decision, Round 3, 5:00
Paul Sass vs. Mark Holst: Sass via submission (Triangle Choke), Round 1, 4:45
Rob Broughton vs. Vinicius Kappke de Quieroz: Broughton via submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 3, 1:43
Cyrille Diabate vs. Alexander Gustafsson: Gustafsson via submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2, 2:41