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UFC 120: England’s MMA Fever

Michael Bisping is England's most popular fighter. Michael Bisping is England's most popular fighter.
When UFC president Dana White predicted that MMA would some day be more popular than soccer, the notion seemed laughable. But now that the UFC, which he and his partners bought for $2 million less than a decade ago, is thought to be worth around a billion dollars, the skeptics are fewer than ever. This weekend’s UFC 120 event in London, England, set European attendance records and proved that the MMA craze has swept the soccer-mad nation. Bigger than soccer? Not quite, but British fighters like Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy have proven to be superstars in their own right.

Bisping, easily the most popular fighter in the U.K., battled his way to a unanimous decision over another country’s MMA icon, Japanese judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama. The two spent the fight on their feet, where Bisping showed off his continually increasing striking skills. Akiyama showed a ton of heart by pressing the fight, but his continual head-hunting became predictable and Bisping picked him apart.

In one of the most surprising results of the night, Carlos Condit defeated Dan Hardy by first round KO. Condit is a talented striker, but isn’t known for his heavy hands. Meanwhile, Hardy is regarded as having a strong chin, but suffered the first knockout of his 32-fight career.

The two looked evenly matched during the striking exchanges, with Hardy looking stronger perhaps a tad crisper. But when the two stepped in, each delivering left hooks, only one fighter hit the canvas. Condit quickly finished Hardy with a right hand to the chin, earning a convincing win that sends him up the welterweight ladder.

For Hardy, it was a tough loss, leaving him winless in 2010. Hardy, one of MMA’s smartest and most likeably characters will be champing at the bit for a crack at redemption in 2011.

Also on the main card, Mike Pyle dominated John Hathaway, earning a unanimous decision in his most impressive performance to date. Heavyweights Cheick Kongo and Travis Browne fought to a draw after Kongo had a point deducted in the third round for continually grabbing Browne’s shorts. Canadian fighter Claude Patrick also earned a victory with a decision win over James Wilks.

With Michael Bisping back on the winning trail after UFC 120, UK fight fans can look forward to some more high profile fights from their favorite native son. Meanwhile, England’s other MMA superstar, Dan Hardy, must come up with a strong performance in his next fight. MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in Europe, just as it is in North America. Soccer still holds a nearly religious status in Britain, but London’s jam-packed crowd showed last weekend showed MMA isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

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Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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