In the main event of the evening, The Ultimate Fighter season three winner and one of Britain's most successful mixed martial arts fighters, Michael Bisping (19-3, 9-3 UFC), will step into the Octagon to face Japanese judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-2-0-2, 1-1 UFC) in middleweight action. Bisping enters the contest following a decision victory over Dan Miller at UFC 114 back in May. He previously lost an unanimous decision to Wanderlei Silva at UFC 110 in February, a fight in which Silva landed a booming overhand with only 10 seconds left to secure the round and win the fight.
While Bisping has sat on the divisional roller coaster for quite some time, Akiyama has only begun to take his first steps onto the tracks. He lost his first fight in over 5 years at UFC 116 as he was submitted by the always tough Chris Leben in the third round, and he previously edged out Alan Belcher via split decision at UFC 100. While Akiyama has had limited exposure in the UFC with only two fights, many fans are wondering whether the 35-year-old can actually compete with the better talent in the division. His previous performances were far from awe-inspiring, but we're classically sucked into our nostalgic PRIDE mindset from time to time. Just look at my prediction.
Unfortunately, my prediction is about as wishful as it gets, and I won't bore you with excessive details to my thinking in how this fight should go down. Akiyama has some major flaws, but he's always swept those weaknesses to the side by having creative, yet humbling strengths. Akiyama is incredibly strong, inventive in how he gains takedowns, and has one punch knockout power in his hands, an incredible feat for a guy who transitioned from Judo. Those are huge advantages when you're involved in a sport that has the ultimate equalizer, the knockout.
Sounds great, right? Let's drop $200 bucks on Akiyama, tag it onto a meaty parlay, and start cruising for vacation deals. Too risky. While Akiyama has those positives, the negatives in conjunction with the experience and style that Michael Bisping possesses make me believe Akiyama is in for a rough night. Conditioning is the most frustrating failure in Akiyama's skill-set, and it's been a concern in both of his bouts in the UFC. Okay, maybe only one of the bouts... after all, everyone looks out of shape next to zombified Chris Leben.
There are other weaknesses as well, and those play right into the hands of Bisping. Instead of going over every little detail however, let's just lay it out right now and make this short and sweet. While I'm going to be rooting for Akiyama to Judo toss Bisping through the cage on Saturday night in a monumental MMA first, it isn't going to happen. Bisping's footwork, boxing, and general conditioning are on a higher level, and while he doesn't have the knockout power that Akiyama does -- he isn't going to be there to receive that punch. Queue the Dan Henderson jokes.
Instead, Bisping is going to move in and out of range, pepper Akiyama constantly, take him down after he tires out in the second round, and beat on him till he quits. Normally, this wouldn't be my line of thinking, but Akiyama will need to work far too hard to put Bisping on his back, a bad proposition for a guy who has proven his gas tank is quite average. I hate to say it, but Michael Bisping via TKO.