UFC 120: A Night of Fun Fights
There has been a lot of big name, big rivalry, big implication fights that have taken place in the UFC over the last six months.
Dating back to the organization’s debut in Abu Dhabi at UFC 112, six title bouts have been contested, along with two title eliminator bouts, and one meeting between heated rivals, all of which garnered reasonable levels of interest and pay-per-view purchases from the MMA Community.
With all the efforts that go into marketing and promoting events made up of those kinds of high-profile pairings, every so often you need to have an old fashioned, nothing at stake, “fun fight,” and UFC 120 is poised to deliver an evening full of them on Saturday.
Not a single bout on the eleven-fight schedule has title implications or any legitimate heat tied to it. Instead, the UFC’s return to England delivers a collection of pairings that could deliver a night of exciting fights – and there is nothing wrong with that.
There are going to be some who spend this week lamenting the matchup atop the marquee, offering that a tape-delayed airing on Spike TV is the only way they would accept an event headlined by Michael Bisping and Yoshihiro Akiyama, and even then many won’t be all that interested because there is really nothing at stake. That is both true and part of the reason why this fight actually holds some appeal and serves as the perfect main event for this “implication-free” event.
Neither of these fighters is a legitimate contender in the middleweight division right now.
While Bisping will tell you that he thinks he’s close to a title shot and ranks amongst the top talents in the 185-pound division, the former TUF winner and coach is at best in the bottom third of the Top 10 and two solid performances away from even being considered a contender.
His last two wins have come against Dan Miller and Denis Kang; the former ran his losing streak to four by dropping a decision to Bisping, while the latter was handing his walking papers following the loss. Though there has been a couple of high-profile fights mixed in between, Bisping came up short in both.
After arriving in the UFC amidst much fanfare and promise, Akiyama has split his two outings inside the Octagon, earning a split decision win over Alan Belcher in his debut and coming up short against Chris Leben in one of the most entertaining bouts of the summer at UFC 116.
With both men more than a single win away from being labeled as “in the mix” by Dana White, it behooves them both to come out with nothing to lose and something to prove in this one, and sometimes that is the best recipe for a great fight.
Think about it: there was absolutely nothing on the line other than a victory when Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung went balls-out back in April at WEC 48.
Sometimes fights with heavy implications produce fighters with tentative approaches and measured attacks. Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with fighting a smart fight and not putting yourself in unnecessary danger, every so often you need a good, nothing at stake fun fight to sit back and enjoy.
Where many fighters have the worry of being cut after a loss tucked away in the back of the mind, neither of these two has any concerns in that area.
Bisping is arguably the biggest British star in the company, a bankable commodity on shows across the United Kingdom and a notch below Brock Lesnar and Josh Koscheck on the “Polarizing Fighter” scale; just as many people tune in to watch Bisping win as do hoping to see a repeat of his UFC 100 knockout loss.
A fighter with that kind of cache isn’t going to get dropped after a single loss, and the same goes for Akiyama should he lose a second-straight here.
For starters, the bout with Leben has been one of the best fights of the year in both the UFC and the sport, and with his insane popularity in the Pacific Rim, the Korean judoka is a valuable part of the organization’s push to expand into that region.
With neither man having to worry about the prospects of being cut or fighting safe to secure a shot at the middleweight title, the only thing they have to do is step in the cage and fight, and that’s all the reason I need to tune in.
After a summer filled with pumped-up rivalries and an abundance of big name bouts, UFC 120 is a welcome departure; an event without implications and loaded with “Fun Fights” that just might end up being one of the more exciting events of the year.