MMA Ratings Podcast

October 15, 2010

Fight Picks and Predictions for UFC 120: Free Card, Can't Complain

By Nicholas Bailey

With respect to UFC 120: Bisping vs. Akiyama, there's much that could be said about the weakness of this card, the low level of talent especially reserved for UK cards in the UFC, and the deteriorating status of Michael Bisping as the standard-bearer for British MMA. Free fights on TV makes up for that. There are some really good fighters facing off here, and some of these fights could be really compelling to watch. What more is wanted or needed?

Yoshihiro Akiyama (+165) vs. Michael Bisping (-200)

Some fights come down to which fighter can force their own strength on the opponent first. This one will come down to each man needing to avoid his weakness and avoid losing. Both fighters are talented, high-level competitors, but they have glaring weaknesses that have hurt them in recent fights.

Yoshihiro Akiyama is extremely athletic, well-rounded, and dangerous with strikes as well as submissions, but he's very undersized for middleweight, and he's completely run out of gas whenever the fight has gone long. Bisping is someone that always comes to the cage in phenomenal shape and will abuse a fighter that isn't game for a hard third round.

Michael Bisping is similarly well-rounded, but there is a clear path to overcoming him on the feet. Bisping rarely plants his feet and really sits down into his punches, so he generally doesn't threaten with big power. Furthermore, he seems to get really flustered when someone can put big power on him, becoming much less effective offensively and giving up rounds while moving away. Akiyama is a hard hitter that can definitely put Bisping on the back foot early and often with his accurate hands. With Bispings inability to circle out to the right, he'll probably continue his bad habit of circling into the power of right-handed opponents, letting Akiyama land some choice shots to really put his mark on the fight.

Bisping is technically a pretty sound striker, aside from the inability to circle right, so he could land some good counter shots on Akiyama, but overall this should look similar to the Wanderlei Silva fight. Bisping doesn't have the chin or power to stand right in front of Akiyama like Chris Leben and throw down, and him circling away and getting tagged by power will not look good to the judges. Expect a close decision, but if Akiyama doesn't fall apart in the third and get finished, he should be able to get it on the scorecards. Yoshihiro Akiyama by decision.

Akiyama is good for a play here. Losing to Leben doesn't look good, but Leben was a uniquely bad matchup since he could walk through Akiyama's power. Bisping cannot.

Carlos Condit (+145) vs. Dan Hardy (-165)

This is going to be a wild scrap. Hardy is finally making his comeback after the utterly one-sided fight with GSP, and Condit is coming off a rough fight with the highly-touted Rory Macdonald. In fact, basically every fight Condit has had in the last couple years has been a rough-and-tumble dogfight. Eventually that will catch up to him.

On the feet, Condit is just too hittable. Hardy isn't a crushing puncher, but he has enough power and he's very good at protecting himself and landing when there's an opening. Condit's aggression will keep Hardy backing up, but he can still land effectively while he's on his bicycle. He'll mark up Condit, but Condit is very durable and isn't likely to be stopped unless Hardy really unloads on him.

The more interesting part of the fight will be the ground game. Neither man is a very good wrestler, although Condit does have some good throws and trips. Hardy managed to survive on the ground with GSP, but Georges repeatedly had him in bad positions and vulnerable to submissions. Condit can't hold a candle to the champ's wrestling, but his submission game is very nasty, and he is the kind of fighter that can snatch a finish when given a very small opening. If he can get Hardy down, he has a good chance of finding a way to submit him. Unfortunately, with his wrestling, he's only likely to get one or two opportunities over the course of fifteen minutes, meaning he probably won't find his finish.

Hardy will probably just put in a workmanlike performance of protecting himself from Condit's aggression and tuning him up with counter punches, while using his size and strength to avoid the ground as much as possible. This is a fight that is ripe for a bad decision, since Condit will probably be more aggressive but less effective, which is not always a distinction noticed by the judges. It's also a fight that's likely to just be settling into a groove at the fifteen minute mark, making the case yet again for elite fighters to fight for five rounds. Dan Hardy by decision.

John Hathaway (-455) vs. Mike Pyle (+355)

Pyle is going to get horsewhipped here. Hathaway isn't the best wrestler around, but he's good enough to stay on the feet. Pyle is not at all ready for Hathaway's striking chops, and basically his only hope is to grab something early and finish with it. Pyle is that kind of submission fighter, a man that can find ways to finish high-level opponents, so it wouldn't be shocking if Hathaway gives him an opportunity and he runs with it, but realistically he's in for a beating. John Hathaway by TKO round 2.

Travis Browne (+165) vs. Cheick Kongo (-185)

Travis Browne is a very big boy and a big hitter, but that's about it. Those advantages are going to count for nothing because Kongo, although he doesn't tip the scale at just under “light truck” category like some heavyweights, is strong like a cyborg and virtually bulletproof in toughness. Browne has never really dealt with serious resistance inside the cage, steamrolling most opponents. When he is matched up with someone that can hit him back and won't wilt under the pressure, he'll probably fall apart. Unless Kongo gets ridiculously sloppy and takes a bunch of big punches from Browne, he should beat up the big man and then beat him down. Cheick Kongo by TKO round 1.

Claude Patrick (-165) vs. James Wilks (+155)

The UFC is a big step up in competition for Claude Patrick. He's absolutely run roughshod on lower-level opposition, and he certainly has a couple tools (namely his Guillotine choke) which can threaten everyone in the division, but it remains to be seen if he can consistently do well against the best in the world. Wilks isn't exactly top ten material, but he is a high-level well-rounded fighter that can take advantage of a greener fighter's weaknesses. If Patrick is the real deal, he'll probably use his physicality to overwhelm Wilks en route to finding a submission. If not, Wilks will shut him down and rough him up.

Patrick being able to take Funch down at will and eventually handing him the first submission loss of his career bodes well for him in this fight. It will be interesting to see how well he can threaten a skilled grappler like Wilks and what he does if things turn into a back-and-forth dogfight. Claude Patrick by submission, round 1.


Cyrille Diabate (EVEN) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (-110)

Someone is going to get knocked out. Gustafsson is a physical tank that has primarily won his fights simply by moving forward and punching really hard, leaving a long list of lesser opponents knocked out. Diabate is a much more refined striker, but doesn't have the raw physicality of Gustafsson, who is nearly as tall as Diabate but much thicker, an absolutely enormous light heavyweight.

This is anyone's fight. Diabate should have a technical and reach advantage, and if the fight stays standing, he should be able to pick apart Gustafsson with his more precise counter shots, just like he did to Luis Cane. However, if Gustafsson can land some of his big punches, he could quickly turn the tide against Diabate and finish him before he gets a chance to recover.

If the fight goes to the ground, Gustaffsson looked helpless underneath an elite wrestler in Phil Davis, but it's not clear what he can do on the top. Diabate has shown a submission game against lesser opposition, but things could get ugly if he has to contend with a beast like Alexander in his guard. Gustaffsson going for a takedown would be pretty out-of-character for him, though, since his preferred method of getting an opponent to the ground is knocking them down with a punch. Since it's likely to remain a striking exchange, Diabate must be favored. Cyrille Diabate by TKO round 2.

Rob Broughton (+150) vs. Vinicius Kappke de Quieroz (-170)

It's unlikely that either of these men is really UFC-ready, but it's the heavyweight division, so anything goes. Broughton is a really big guy that is basically just a brawler, and that's about it. Vinicius “Spartan” has a much cleaner, more technical striking style, but he'll be giving up a big size advantage to Broughton and has really not faced any kind of international-level competition. Spartan should be able to take Broughton apart on the feet and finish him off once the big guy slows down, but he's very untested. If Broughton realizes early that he shouldn't be playing kickboxer and clinches up to get physical, he could wear down the smaller man and test Spartan's unknown ground skills. Spartan might have the physical tools to develop into a real UFC-level competitor, something Broughton cannot do, but it's not clear that he's ready at this point. Vinicius “Spartan” by TKO round 2.

Mark Holst (+165) vs. Paul Sass (-180)

Both of these guys have a chance to really make a splash, and it's really anyone's fight to win. Sass has some real ground skills, although he hasn't really beaten anyone at the top level. Holst is not at the top level and not particularly better than those that Sass has already choked. Paul Sass by submission, round 1.

Spencer Fisher (-210) vs. Kurt Warburton (+175)

Spencer Fisher was on a decline. It's not clear if he has been able to halt it yet, but his offensive firepower will just be too much for someone as green as Warburton unless he has really physically depreciated. Spencer Fisher by submission round 1.

Fabio Maldonado (-245) vs. James McSweeney (+200)

James McSweeney doesn't belong at heavyweight or in the UFC. Unfortunately for him, he's making his 205 pound debut in the UFC against a fighter that is going to boot him out of the promotion. Fabio Maldonado has real potential to go far, and the first step there is going to be putting a medium-grade stomping on McSweeney. Fabio Maldonado by TKO round 1.

My plays:
1u at (+165) to win 1.65u on Yoshihiro Akiyama


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