Put down that Playboy magazine with Arianny Celeste on the cover and get ready for some free MMA this weekend courtesy of the UFC. It might not be the best card ever but there are a couple of interesting match ups and did I mention that it’s free?

I do have one complaint though. When UFC airs these tape delay event on SpikeTV, why can’t they air the live PPV and charge $10 or 15 to idiots like me who would pay to see the live version instead of waiting hours to see a taped version filled with a million commercials? Make it happen Dana.

Middleweight Fight: Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Michael Bisping

Michael Bisping is the biggest British star in the UFC, he’s undefeated on his home turf, and he’s coming off the best performance of his career against Dan Miller. Yoshihiro Akiyama is the biggest Korean star in the UFC, he’s never fought in England, and he’s coming off the first Middleweight loss of his career against Chris Leben.

In his last fight against Leben, Akiyama displayed his well-rounded skill set before getting caught in a triangle choke in the final thirty seconds of the fight. He’s good on the feet although has a tendency to be a little too flashy at times, his Judo skills are some of the best in MMA, and he has a good top game. The biggest question about Akiyama is his conditioning but under the newfound guidance of Greg Jackson, one would think that it will be improved for this fight. Akiyama will likely keep things standing because of his power and Bisping’s questionable chin while also looking for judo throws anytime they clinch. He can’t just plod forward though because Bisping will counter him all night. He’ll have to use a controlled aggression, a lot like we saw from Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva.

Despite his record, Bisping hasn’t seemed to fully gain the confidence of fans. His striking his very basic, he throws a lot of one-two combinations, and he doesn’t have much power behind his punches. For a Brit, he has good wrestling but that won’t help him against a Judo black belt. He has a very good defensive guard that should be good enough to thwart the submission game of Akiyama. Bisping will likely fight this fight like he’s fought almost every fight in recent memory. Stick and move, use his footwork, throw basic combos, counter with the left hook, and possibly look for end of round takedowns. He’ll have a tough time knocking out Akiyama given his lack of power and Akiyama’s excellent chin.

This is a tough fight to call because Bisping is underrated by a lot of people (including myself) and Akiyama might be a bit overrated. Akiyama acquiring the services of Jackson is what swayed me. If nothing else, Jackson always comes up with an excellent gameplan and as long as Akiyama follows that gameplan, he should win.

Prediction: Yoshihiro Akiyama to defeat Michael Bisping by TKO in Round 2

Welterweight Fight: Carlos Condit vs. Dan Hardy

Dan Hardy is back after failing to capture the UFC welterweight title from Georges St. Pierre in his last outing. In that fight, Hardy showed tremendous heart but was out-classed by the superior fighter. Carlos Condit is fresh off a comeback victory over Rory MacDonald, stopping the previously unbeaten MacDonald in the final seconds.

Condit is one of the most exciting and toughest fighters in the sport. He’s a good striker who mixes things up well and he’s extremely active on the ground. His biggest weakness is his wrestling but his active jiu-jitsu allows him to give up takedowns but still be comfortable with submissions and sweeps. Condit will likely keep things standing early and use a lot of kicks, which could get him in trouble due to his tendency to drop his hands. Given his muay-thai skills, expect him to clinch, batter Hardy with knee, and also look for trip takedowns. He’s vastly superior to Hardy on the ground so he should look to exploit that weakness in Hardy’s game.

Although he got dominated for 25 minutes and scored no significant offense of note, for some reason people think Hardy did well against GSP simply because he survived a couple of tight submissions. I’m not trying to downplay the skills of Hardy but I do think he’s being overrated by a lot of people at the moment. He’s a very good boxer with a nasty counter left hook, good power, and an excellent chin. He’s British so his wrestling isn’t very good but his ground game is better than given credit for. Hardy will have to keep things standing if he wants to win. Condit has a durable chin and he’s never been finished by strikes but he has been dropped before and Hardy has the power to drop him. Look for Hardy to counter every time Condit throws a kick and take advantage of Condit’s aggressiveness. He’ll have to avoid the ground, which will be easier against Condit than GSP given Condit’s lack of wrestling but it still won’t be easy.

Expect this fight to be a war. They both have a tremendous amount of heart and neither man has ever been stopped via strikes. Condit will likely be very aggressive and that will either be to his benefit or his eventual downfall. I’ll say it’ll be to his benefit, he’ll look to take the fight to the ground, and he’ll be a lot more active than GSP was. Hardy is survivor and will be very tough to finish but Condit’s activity and conditioning will win him this fight.

Prediction: Carlos Condit to defeat Dan Hardy by Decision

Welterweight Fight: John Hathaway vs. Mike Pyle

While Dan Hardy and Michael Bisping might be the current UK UFC stars, John Hathaway is on his way to being the future of the UK for the UFC. He’s undefeated and is coming off a big victory over Diego Sanchez. Hathaway was originally scheduled to face Dong Hyun Kim but Kim pulled out with an injury. In his place will be veteran Mike Pyle, who has been up and down in his last five fights but coming off a submission victory over Jesse Lennox.

To give you an idea of how much hype is behind Hathaway right now, I’ve actually heard people who I believe are very credible compare him to a young Georges St. Pierre. I’m not willing to go that far but the kid is only 23 years old, he’s a very good striker who uses his reach very well, he’s well ahead of the British wrestling curve, and he has a solid ground game. Against Pyle, he just needs to fight his fight. Use his reach, batter Pyle with strikes, and avoid the ground. Even though he has a solid ground game, Pyle’s main strength is on the mat and it’s better to just avoid the area all together.

Pyle is a well-traveled and well-respected veteran fighter with an excellent ground game. He has the reputation of being a “gym warrior” meaning that he dominates in the gym but when the bright lights are on, he tends to falter. He’s a decent striker and he trains at Xtreme Couture with top notch wrestlers but wrestling is by far the weakest part of his game. Pyle will need to get the fight to the ground at all costs. He’s not going to out-strike the quicker and smoother Hathaway so his only chance is to get him on the ground where they’ll be in his world. Don’t be shocked if Pyle pulls guard because he’s going to have a tough time getting Hathaway on his back given the difference in their wrestling game.

This is Hathaway’s fight to lose. No disrespect to Pyle, who is a good fighter and a solid hand, but Hathaway is on his way up while Pyle is likely to be a mid-level fighter for the rest of his career. Hathaway will likely keep the fight standing the majority of the time and possibly look for late takedowns if the rounds are close. In the end though, Hathaway will end up overwhelming Pyle with his power.

Prediction: John Hathaway to defeat Mike Pyle by TKO in Round 2

Heavyweight Fight: Cheick Kongo vs. Travis Browne

While this might be the only main card fight not to feature a fighter of British decent, it does feature a fighter who trains in England at the famous Wolfslair gym. That man is Cheick Kongo, fresh off his victory over Paul Buentello and trying to once again move his way up the heavyweight ladder. His opponent is the undefeated Travis Browne, who made his UFC debut in his last fight, stopping James McSweeney in the first round with strikes.

Kongo has been UFC heavyweight mainstay for years now but he’s never really broken through to the top. He loses to top guys who anyone with good wrestling and he beats every mid-level fighter thrown his way, usually in impressive fashion. He’s a powerful striker who seems afraid to get hit, he throws fighters off balance by going for takedowns even though he lacks a ground game, and he has some brutal ground and pound. Kongo will probably fight the same way he did against Buentello, which was go for early takedowns and beat up Browne on the ground. He has the advantage on the feet because he is a better technical striker and should the fight stay standing, he’ll probably use a lot of leg kicks to take some power out of Browne’s punches.

Browne is a good boxer with power and has a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. His wrestling has never been tested but if he can get Kongo down and on his back, he stands a good chance at winning this fight. Really he doesn’t need to get a takedown, he’ll just need survive on the ground when Kongo goes for a takedown and then use a sweep to end up on top. Kongo has a solid base on top though and you don’t want him on top of you too long raining down punches. Browne will need to look for the big punch on the feet, get Kongo uncomfortable standing, and stuff the takedowns. If he’s not winning the stand up battle, he’ll need to take things to the ground himself but given his lack of a wrestling background, that may not be so easy.

Right now Browne is simply a mid-level fighter. A win here would move him past that but Kongo always handles his business against guys trying to make their name against him. I like Kongo to go for a lot of takedowns early, because he feels like he needs to prove he’s a good wrestler, and go nuts on Browne with punches.

Prediction: Cheick Kongo to defeat Travis Browne by TKO in Round 1

Welterweight Fight: James Wilks vs. Claude Patrick

For those that may not remember, James Wilks won The Ultimate Fighter 9. Since then he’s gone 1-1 in the UFC with a dominating loss to Matt Brown and a lackluster decision win over Peter Sobotta. Claude Patrick made his UFC debut at UFC 115 and scored an impressive submission victory over Ricardo Funch.

Wilks showed a lot of promise on TUF 9 and even more promise in victory over DaMarques Johnson but he’s yet to live up to expectations. He’s a relatively well-rounded fighter with the usual British wrestling weakness. He has a black belt in tae kwon do and he has a big striking advantage in this fight. Even though most of his wins are by submission and he’s also a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, Wilks will likely keep things on the feet and look to pick apart Patrick.

Coming from Canada, there is a good amount of hype behind Patrick and with good reason. He’s a jiu-jitsu wizard who has gone on record in saying that he doesn’t mind being on his back. He’s a decent striker but his main strength is clinching, looking for takedowns, and either getting the fight on the ground or forcing his opponent into a scramble mistake, where he can latch on a guillotine choke. Expect a lot of clinching from Patrick in this fight in his efforts to get the fight to the ground whether it be from a trip takedown or pulling guard. If he gets things to the ground, he should be able to control Wilks and possibly submit him.

This fight is only on TV because Wilks is a TUF winner and SpikeTV likes having TUF winners on their shows. I’m not saying it’s going to be a bad fight but it’s just not all that interesting. I’m not sold on Wilks while I do like Patrick’s ground game. Look for Patrick to get things to the ground by any means necessary and take over from there.

Prediction: Claude Patrick to defeat James Wilks by Submission in Round 2

Preliminary Predictions:

*Cyrille Diabate to defeat Alexander Gustafsson by TKO in Round 1
*Rob Broughton to defeat Vinicius Queiroz by Decision
*Steve Cantwell to defeat Stanislav Nedkov by TKO in Round 3
*Paul Sass to defeat Mark Holst by Submission in Round 1
*Spencer Fisher to defeat Kurt Warburton by Decision
*Fabio Maldonado to defeat James McSweeney by Submission in Round 1