English fans are excited as the UFC will hold its only 2010 UK event this Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. Even more excited are North American fans who are delighted at the fact that this will be a Spike TV presentation instead of the usual $44.95 pay-per-view event-meaning, fans will have more money to buy COORS LIGHT… that’s right, COORS LIGHT, because Bud Light won’t pay us nothing! Let’s take a look at how the BREAKDOWN is scored.
As there are eleven fights on this card, I will make a prediction on who will win and how, and then give the prediction an absolute rating of between 1 (least confident) and 11 (most confident) without repeating ratings.
JAMES MCSWEENEY vs FABIO MALDONADO
James McSweeney (4-5), who’s best known as Rashad Evan’s training partner and number one pick on “The Ultimate Fighter 10,” enters this fight losing the last three out of his four fights. In his last fight, he was finished via punches in the first round by Travis Browne. Fabio Maldonado (20-3), however, is on a 10-fight win streak, and although most of them are against unknown opponents, they are all finishes in early rounds except for one unanimous decision.
PREDICTION: Fabio Maldonado by KO in Round 1
SPENCER FISHER vs KURT WARBURTON
Although Spencer Fisher (24-6) has lost his last two fights, his level of competition has consistently been high. He is 6-4 in his last ten fights, but his losses have come to names like current UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, top 10 Joe Stevenson, Dennis Siver, and former contender Hermes Franca. His wins have come against names like Caol Uno, Jeremy Stephens, and Sam Stout. Kurt Warburton (6-1), however, has fought only on the English regional scene thus far, mostly against unknown fighters where he’s chalked up a 6-1 record. I expect Fisher’s experience, his level of competition, and his quality of training (with Team Sityodtong) to capture him a victory in this fight.
PREDICTION: Spencer Fisher by Decision in Round 3
PAUL SASS vs MARK HOLST
Paul Sass (10-0), like Kurt Warburton, has fought exclusively on the English regional scene thus far where he has amounted an impressive 10-0 record. Mark Holst (10-2), on the other hand, has had one fight in the UFC-a decision loss against John Gunderson, prior to which, he only had one other loss (by KO) on his 8-2 record. All of his wins were finishes in the first or second rounds. Something interesting to note is that Sass’ first seven wins are by way of triangle choke, and two out of his remaining three wins are by heel hook, which moreover demonstrates the lack of grappling progression on the English MMA scene.
PREDICTION: Mark Holst by KO in Round 3
STEVE CANTWELL vs STANISLAV NEDKOV
Former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion Steve Cantwell (7-3) makes his return to the octagon after medical issues that led UFC President, Dana White, to speculate that “he may never fight again” (a favourite catchphrase of White’s). Medically cleared, Cantwell, who had dropped his last two fights via decision to Brian Stann and Luiz Cane prior to the medical leave, takes on undefeated Stanislov Nedkov (11-0), who began his career on the Bulgarian MMA scene, but is better known from his success in Japan where he finished MMA veteran Travis Wiuff via punches in the third round and took a split decision over former UFC Heavyweight Champion Kevin Randleman. I expect his success to continue over Cantwell, who’s unknown medical issues and extended absence may play a part in this fight.
PREDICTION: Stanislov Nedkov by KO in Round 1
ROB BROUGHTON vs VINICIUS QUEIROZ
Rob Broughton (14-5-1) has had an interesting career. Two KO wins over James Thompson, a submission loss to former UFC Heavyweight Champion Ricco Rodriguez, and a submission via strikes win over Eric “Butterbean” Esch top off a record that conveys a great fighter in the UK scene, but not one who’s ready for the elite level of competition that the UFC has to offer. Vinicius Kappke de Quieroz (5-1) is making his UFC debut. All five of his wins are early KOs, however, his combined opponent record is 6-18. His only loss is a decision against 17-9 Danilo Pereira, the only game fighter he’s faced. He is from the Chute Boxe team in Praia do Rosa, Brazil, and with his 6’7″ frame, exhibits a defensive style of muay thai striking-which could pose problems for the 6’2″ Broughton.
PREDICTION: Vinicius Queiroz by KO in Round 2
CYRILLE DIABATE vs ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON
Cyrille Diabate (23-6) is on a 6-fight win streak, just coming off a successful debut with an impressive TKO win over Luiz Cane. Alexander Gustaffson (9-1) is coming off a submission loss against impressive wrestler Phil Davis. Seven out of Gustaffson’s nine wins are via punches, whereas Diabate, a kickboxer, has a diverse range of finishes, including three out of his last six wins coming by way of submission.
PREDICTION: Cyril Diabate by Submission in Round 3
JAMES WILKS vs CLAUDE PATRICK
James Wilkes (7-3) is 1-1 in his last two fights with his loss coming to Matt Brown via punches. His other two losses are by decision and submission. Claude Patrick (12-1) is currently riding an 11-fight win streak with a VERY impressive submission win over grappling champion Ricardo Funch. Nine out of Patrick’s twelve wins are via submission. His only loss is a decision to Drew McFedries in his second fight.
PREDICTION: Claude Patrick by Submission in Round 3
CHEICK KONGO vs TRAVIS BROWNE
Travis Browne (10-0) enters this fight undefeated with eight out of his ten fights by way of KO. Cheick Kongo (15-6-1), also a striker, has lost two out of his last three fights, albeit against top five heavyweights in Cain Valasquez and Frank Mir. Although both of these fighters are primarily strikers, Kongo showed a preference to take Paul Buentello, also a striker, to the ground so he could gain an advantage. I expect a similar strategy here.
PREDICTION: Cheick Kongo by Decision in Round 3
JOHN HATHAWAY vs MIKE PYLE
John Hathaway (14-0) is coming off of an enormous upset over Diego Sanchez, which was his fourth consecutive win in the UFC. Mike Pyle (20-7) is 2-2 in his UFC record. His two losses came to Jake Ellenberger via punches and Brock Larson via submission. Although Pyle trains with a top camp in Xtreme Couture, Hathaway’s recent performances over top competition should push him as the favourite in this fight.
PREDICTION: John Hathaway by Decision in Round 3
DAN HARDY vs CARLOS CONDIT
Coming off a title shot against Georges St. Pierre, Dan Hardy (23-7) was on a 7-fight win streak before he lost the decision to St. Pierre. His streak included wins over Mike Swick, Marcus Davis, and Akihiro Gono. Carlos Condit (24-5) has won ten out of his last eleven fights-his only loss a split decision to Martin Kampmann. Although this is one of the more evenly matched fights on the card, Hardy is favoured due to his higher level of competition in recent fights.
PREDICTION: Dan Hardy by Decision in Round 3
MICHAEL BISPING vs YOSHIHIRO AKIYAMA
Headlining this event is the face of UFC UK, Michael Bisping (19-3), taking on the face of Japanese/Korean MMA in the UFC, Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-2). Bisping was on an undefeated 14-0 streak until he lost a controversial split decision to Rashad Evans in his first main event. Despite that, he won his next three fights and was on his way to a UFC Middleweight Title shot against Anderson Silva if he could defeat Dan Henderson at UFC 100. Unfortunately for Bisping, Henderson knocked him out in the second round and set him back. Since then, Bisping finished Denis Kang, lost a decision to former Pride Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva, and won a decision over Dan Miller. He needs to win this fight against Akiyama to stay relevant in the UFC middleweight division.
Akiyama is in a similar position. As a top middleweight fighter from Japan’s K-1 Hero’s/DREAM promotions, he was brought into the UFC to represent Japanese MMA; unfortunately, Akiyama has yet to achieve the success he came looking for. He won a VERY controversial split decision over Alan Belcher at UFC 100 in his deb. After an extended absence of over a year, Akiyama was shockingly submitted by Chris Leben in round three of UFC 116’s Fight of the Night-his first loss in over five years. Another loss could possibly set Akiyama up to be released from his UFC contract.
If Akiyama is to win this fight, he will need to use his judo to crack Michael Bisping’s takedown defense, and use his superior grappling to try and submit the Englishman. Bisping, however, has good takedown defense and a strong preference for striking. He trains at the Wolfslair MMA Academy with top level strikers such as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Cheick Kongo. Although Akiyama was winning his fight against Chris Leben, he showed a weakness in his cardiovascular conditioning, which is a fundamental problem in a fighter’s overall game, and unless that problem has been rectified, Bisping will have an advantage in the later two rounds. It all depends on what Akiyama shows up.
PREDICTION: Michael Bisping by Decision in Round 3
11. Spencer Fisher by Decision in Round 3
10. Fabio Maldonado by KO in Round 1
9. John Hathaway by Decision in Round 3
8. Stanislov Nedkov by KO in Round 1
7. Mark Holst by KO in Round 3
6. Claude Patrick by Submission in Round 3
5. Cheick Kongo by Decision in Round 3
4. Cyrille Diabate by Submission in Round 3
3. Vinicius Queiroz by KO in Round 2
2. Michael Bisping by Decision in Round 3
1. Dan Hardy by Decision in Round 3
Evidently, the most favourable fights are on the undercard where there’s more of a discrepancy between skillsets and records. Although, it should be stressed that this is MMA, and it’s often that the underdog pulls off the upset. As former ECW owner and current writer of Brock Lesnar’s autobiography, Paul Heyman, said, “it’s a matter of moments in this sport.” When Fedor Emelianenko played around in Fabricio Wedum’s guard and was caught by a triangle/armbar, that was a mistake made in a matter of a moment. When Cung Le completely dominated Scott Smith and got caught with a punch that knocked him out in the final round, it was a momentary lapse of judgment. It’s all about executing the right move at the right time using the right technique.
If Yoshihiro Akiyama has worked on rectifying his mistakes from his last fight against Chris Leben, he could very will win this fight despite presently being the underdog at all notable sportsbooks. The same could be said for a fighter like Mike Pyle, who’s universally the biggest underdog on the card. He comes from a great camp and has good wins against name opponents on his record. It’s entirely possible he can pull the upset.
“It’s a matter of moments in this sport.”
R. T. Leone