After nearly two years, the UFC makes its return to The O2 Arena in London, England this Saturday.  UFC 120, headlined by the Posterboy for UK MMA, Michael Bisping, is expected to be the largest selling UFC event in the UK. Bisping is joined by fellow Brit, Dan Hardy, in the co-main event, and one of their countrymen in just about every fight before them. Although this is a free event on Spike TV, many people are overlooking it with the huge card at 121 happening next weekend.


The first fight of the night features London’s own, James “The Hammer” McSweeney (4-5), in his Light Heavyweight debut as he takes on Fabio Maldonado (17-3). McSweeney has a background as a kick boxer, and dedicated his life to training and fighting at the age of 15. Maldonado is a former pro boxer with a record of 22-0, with twenty-one knockouts. When these two fighters step in the cage, expect bombs to be dropped. Maldonado stepped in on a month’s notice after McSweeney’s original opponent, Tom Blackledge, pulled out due to an injury.

Up next, Spencer “The King” Fisher (23-6) is set to take on Kurt Warburton (6-1) in the Lightweight division. Fisher is coming in off a 2-fight losing streak and desperately needs a win if he wants to avoid the hammer by the UFC brass. Warburton, on the other hand, is working with a 2-fight win streak.  Fisher is a well-rounded fighter who is comfortable just about wherever Warburton may want to take it. Warburton holds a TKO victory over former TUF winner, Ross Person.

In the next bout, undefeated newcomer Paul “Sassangle” Sass (10-0) faces off against Mark “Boots” Holst (8-2). Sass has won nine of ten fights by way of submission, seven of those submissions via triangle choke. Holst lost his UFC debut this summer when he fell to John Gunderson by decision. Holst is a Black Belt in Shotokan Karate and will need to use his striking to keep Sass out of his comfort zone.

In the fourth fight of the night, Steve “The Robot” Cantwell (7-3) makes his return, after a yearlong absence, to take on undefeated Bulgarian Stanislav “Staki” Nedkov (11-0). Cantwell is coming off back-to-back decision losses, and an undisclosed medical issue that kept him out of UFC 108 and 116. Newcomer Nedkov holds notable victories over MMA veterans Travis Wiuff and Kevin Randleman, he is a well-rounded fighter who is comfortable standing and on the ground. The former WEC champion, Cantwell, is going to have his hands full in this bout and needs to be prepared for a fight. Both fighters are going to have to mix up their strikes and kicks if they want to gain the advantage and take home a victory. (This fight has been scrapped due to injury)

Up next we have a battle of newcomers as Rob “The Bear” Broughton (14-5-1) takes on Vinicius “The Spartan” Queiroz (5-1). Broughton, a former Cage Rage British Champion, has picked up the majority of his victories via knockout. He is currently known as Britain’s number one Heavyweight fighter. Queiroz comes out of the famed Chute Boxe camp. He has pretty good stand up and is decent with his jui-jitsu. On some of the forums, it is being said that Queiroz is like a cross between Anderson Silva and Stefan Struve, but being the best Heavyweight fighter in Britain doesn’t sound too bad either.

The final preliminary bout is between Cyrille “The Snake” Diabate (16-6-1) and Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (9-1). Diabate’s last loss came just over four years ago in PRIDE, at the hands of current Light Heavyweight champion, Shogun Rua.  Since then, he has picked up six straight victories with his most recent being the TKO of Luiz Cane at UFC 114.  Gustafsson is coming off his first career loss to rising prospect, Phil Davis via Anaconda Choke. In preparation for this fight, Gustafsson went to San Diego to work with Davis on his grappling, strength and speed and also spent time training with Brandon Vera and Joey Beltran.  Diabate is a great striker so Gustafsson is going to need to use those new skills to earn a victory.

Main Card

The first bout on the main card is between TUF 9 winner, James “Lightning” Wilks (7-3), and Claude “The Prince” Patrick (12-1). Wilks is looking to build on his last win and continue on the path towards the top of the Welterweight Division. Patrick won his UFC debut against Ricardo Funch, and has been training with fellow Canadian, Mark Bocek, in preparation for this fight. Both men are BJJ Brown Belts, who are comfortable with their striking also. This is a pretty even match-up and could go either way.

Next up is a heavyweight battle between Cheick Kongo (15-6-1) and Travis “Hapa” Browne (10-0). Kongo is coming off a decision victory over Paul Buentello, following back-to-back losses to Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir. He had to pull out of a scheduled bout at 116 due to a back injury, but now that he is healthy, he meets the undefeated Browne. In his last fight, Browne defeated TUF alum James McSweeney. After the fight, McSweeney claimed he was struck illegally in the back of the head, and had the cut to prove it. In his short, 10-fight career, Browne has not yet faced anyone with the striking power of Cheick Kongo. This fight will more than likely be contested on the feet, with someone being knocked out.

The next fight is between rising star, John “The Hitman” Hathaway (14-0) and Mike “Quicksand” Pyle (20-7-1).  Hathaway, coming off his notable beating of Diego Sanchez, has quietly built a name for himself since his debut last January. One man who has taken notice, though, is Mike Pyle. Pyle jumped at the chance to fight Hathaway after Dong Hyun Kim was forced to pull out of the fight. Hathaway is a very well-rounded fighter and is going to have to mix things up if he wants to get passed submission expert Pyle, the only man to ever submit Jon Fitch.

The co-main event of the evening features Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy (23-7-1) as he takes on “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (25-5). Hardy’s only loss in the UFC came in March against GSP, but wasn’t legitimately beaten since 2006.  In his last fight, Condit avoided what was sure to be a decision loss by knocking out Rory MacDonald with just seven seconds left in the fight. Hardy has been very vocal about his dislike for the way some fighters don’t look to finish a fight, which makes Condit perfect for him as he’s only been to the judges’ cards three times in thirty fights. In recent interview, both men have claimed they are going to finish this fight before the fifteen minutes is up.

Finally, time for the main event of the night: Michael “The Count” Bisping (19-3) vs. “Sexyama” Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-2-2). Bisping has recently stated that he “is one big fight away from a title shot”, and will definitely need an impressive victory here if he wants to prove his point. However, Sexyama has no intentions of being a pushover in this fight. In both his UFC fights, Sexyama has walked away with a “Fight of the Night” bonus, but based on the rest of this card, it could be tough to finish up the three-peat. It seems as though Bisping is looking beyond Sexyama, which could be a big mistake for him if he doesn’t stay focused. With twelve knockout victories to his name, one more could definitely project him to “one big fight away from a title shot”, like he says he is.

With seven of eleven scheduled bouts containing an English fighter, this card is making big steps towards cementing MMA in the UK. Two of the country’s most well-known UFC fighters being featured on the fight poster definitely helps as well. The best thing about this card, aside from all the potentially great fights, is the fact that it is being broadcast free on Spike TV.

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