The View from the Cheap Seats 10.12.10: Must Win?
Posted by Scott Kuczkowski on 10.12.2010
How important is it for Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy to win this weekend? Do they really represent the key to UFC expansion into Europe and will it put a dent in the UFC’s plans if they lose? 411's Scott Kuczkowski examines...
UFC 120: Bisping vs. Akiyama will be coming to us from the O2 Arena in London, England, this weekend, and although the marketing and hype for the event isn't at the level of previous cards, you can bet the UFC is hoping the event goes smoothly and perpetuates Zuffa's expansion into Europe and the rest of the world. The card is headlined by Ultimate Fighter Season 3 winner Michael ‘The Count' Bisping facing the dangerous judoka Yoshihiro ‘Sexyama' Akiyama. The co-headliner is Dan ‘The Outlaw' Hardy against Carlos ‘The Natural Born Killer' Condit. Both Bisping and Hardy are sort of at crossroads in their young careers, and both need impressive wins to stay relevant in their weight classes.
Michael Bisping is 2-2 in his last four fights. His last bout was a fairly forgettable decision victory over Dan Miller at UFC 114. Previous to that, he lost a unanimous decision to Wanderlei Silva at UFC 110, in a bout that Bisping still believes he won and was screwed by the judges. Prior to that Bisping scored a TKO victory over an extremely overrated Denis Kang at UFC 105. It was actually a good win for Bisping, who was rocked in the first round but came back and stopped Kang with strikes in round 2. His bout before saw him get knocked unconscious by Dan Henderson at UFC 100. This win some/lose some record as of late is troubling for a man once talked about as a potential contender for the 185 pound title. The Count hasn't fared well against any of the fighters at the upper levels of the UFC Middleweight Division; in fact he's never even tangled with the likes of Chael Sonnen, Nate Marquardt, or Demian Maia. A loss this weekend to Akiyama could knock the cocky Brit further down the Middleweight ladder, and might even make him unworthy of a spot on the main card, much less as a headliner.
Dan Hardy faces a strangely similar situation despite only having one UFC loss, which was his last fight against Welterweight Champion, Georges St. Pierre. GSP repeatedly took Hardy to the canvas, and although Hardy was able to fight off the submission attempts, it was clear he was out of his element on the ground. While being outgrappled by GSP isn't something to be ashamed of, the fact is Hardy managed to get his title shot without facing any of the wrestling and grappling powerhouses who reside at the top of the UFC's Welterweight ladder. If Condit manages to submit Hardy or even outgrapple him, Hardy will find himself back at the bottom of the heap of 170 pounders, and the blueprint to beat him will have been written from those two losses. If Hardy ends up being exposed as a puncher with no ground game similar to Paul Daley, his time as a title contender will probably be over and his spot in the rankings will plummet.
For the UFC, it's important these two fighters win, and do so in an exciting manner. Zuffa's expansion into Europe hinges upon being able to showcase local fighters the hometown crowds will get behind and pay to watch. The crowds might pay to see guys like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, but nothing draws better than the hometown favorites. In the past three and a half years, the UFC has put on 6 cards in Great Britain; UFC 70, UFC 75, UFC 80, UFC 89, UFC 95, and UFC 105. Of all those cards, the only one that didn't feature either Dan Hardy or Michael Bisping was UFC 80, which was headlined by a Lightweight Championship bout between BJ Penn and Joe Stevenson.
Fans love hometown fighters and enjoy cheering for "their" guys. This is why smart booking places GSP as the headliner for events in Canada. Heck, Matt Mitrione is only marginally famous and he received a tremendous ovation from the Indiana crowd mostly due to his attendance at Purdue University. Failing to connect to these audiences can ruin an entire card and at worst, hurt future business.
The fact is that using English fighters on these cards makes sense for the UFC. If Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy aren't suitable due to their win/loss records to headline these cards, the UFC finds themselves in a difficult situation. The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Welterweight winner James Wilks fell to Matt Brown in his second UFC bout, which ruined any luster his name might have had on a marquee. The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Lightweight winner Ross Pearson enjoyed a nice UFC run of three victories until being stopped by Cole Miller. The only other fighter with the name value to draw both hometown fans and American fans is John Hathaway, but he's not even a co-headliner yet at this point in his young career.
Being able to showcase hometown fighters, especially overseas, is a winning gameplan for the UFC that has worked well in the past. I'm sure this weekend that Dana White and Company will be hoping they don't lose their ability to do that.
In the News
For those of you who watched Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons II and were wondering how Compustrike could report that KJ Noons out struck Nick Diaz, but still lost the fight, well it turns out the judges didn't get it wrong after all. During the broadcast, the Compustrike stats showed KJ Noons 310/611 for 51% (strikes thrown/landed) out-striking Nick Diaz 194/443 for 44%. Well, Compustrike has since issued a correction that there was apparently some sort of glitch in their system that inaccurately scored the punches. The actual totals for KJ Noons were 155/611 for 25%, which seems to make more sense given how many times he appeared to be hitting nothing but air during that bout.
Overall, I enjoyed the event. My one suggestion to Strikeforce would be to get rid of Mauro Ranallo and bring in someone a little less talkative. Pat Miletich and Frank Shamrock both sounded O.K. for this card and seemed to play off each other pretty well. I thought Mauro talked too much and sounded like he knew next to nothing about MMA. If Strikeforce really wanted to be cool, they'd hire Jens Pulver for their announce team and give him something to do. I wouldn't mind seeing them get Bas Rutten in there to color commentate while Pat and Frank do the play by play.
Josh Thomson ran his mouth in his pre-fight interviews where he accused MMA columnists and other internet writers of doing a poor job of ranking fighters. Of note, he called out Ben Henderson, saying he thought it was a joke someone like Ben was ranked over JZ Cavalcante. Now, Josh is more than entitled to his own opinion, and I'm fine with that, but why call out Ben Henderson? Is he really that bitter that a young and exciting fighter like Henderson is ranked higher than JZ? Does it really matter to Thomson? Get over yourself Josh; my money would be on Henderson if you ever faced him anyways.
On the 1 October 2010 edition of Inside MMA, Karo Parisyan refuted claims he was addicted to pain killers and claims his problems leading up to his UFC dismissal were all mental (such as an addiction to pain killers?). Karo claimed his post-fight drug test failure after UFC 94 was due to pain killers he took for a nagging injury, but that he had a prescription for those pain pills. Whatever the case, Karo predicted he would be back better than ever and was planning to put together a long string of decision wins.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said his promotion is going to stop teasing fans and start pulling the trigger on some of the fights fans want to see in the Heavyweight Division. He didn't mention anything particular or what matchups they are planning, but said all the fighters will be active in 2011. Additionally, Coker has mentioned he doesn't expect to see Strikeforce on CBS until next year. Apparently CBS has been less than enthusiastic to air more MMA since the Strikeforce: Nashville brawl, but Coker said they would work on getting back on CBS in 2011. On one last Strikeforce note, Coker mentioned they wouldn't be running anymore shows at the Playboy Mansion, simply stating those types of shows were behind them.
Vitor Belfort has confirmed he will face UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva on Superbowl Weekend. While the date is still pretty far away, Belfort was pretty confident things would work out. Here's hoping neither of them gets injured between now and then.