This Saturday the UFC returns to Japan with a night of fights headlined by heavyweights, Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson. The event marks the first step in what will be a very busy few months for the UFC. The night will also feature fights from middleweights Gegard Mousasi versus Uriah Hall, and Kryoji Horiguchi versus Chico Camus in a flyweight bout.
The event will feature some of Japan’s finest fighters competing in front of their own faithful. Japan has been known for its’ mixed martial arts tradition, culminating in what was known as the Pride Fighting Championships, which was essentially Japan’s professional mixed martial arts league. It lasted from 1997 to 2007, when the UFC bought them out and ended professional MMA in Japan.
Since the end of Pride, the Japanese have been eager for the glory and spectacle that is pro combat sports. The UFC has hosted several events in Japan since the end of Pride, and on September 26, 2015, Japan will once again get to witness live mixed martial artist competing at the highest level of their sport.
What makes Saturday’s event special is the headlining match, which will feature ‘Big Country’ Roy Nelson against Josh Barnett. The Japanese crowd should be well aware of these two men as Barnett was a long time participant in Pride, and Nelson was the headliner for the last time that the UFC came to Japan. The match is one of the most highly anticipated of the year within the heavyweight division, with Barnett being the eighth ranked heavyweight, while Nelson is the eleventh ranked.
Nelson, however, is coming off of a rough patch in his career. In his last five fights he is only one and four. He is currently coming in on a two loss skid. His most recent fight saw him lose by a decision to Alistar Overeem.
Barnett is also coming off of a loss in his latest fight. Barnett was knocked out in the first round by Travis Browne at UFC 168. After suffering tough losses, both fighters have something to prove and that is what excites me the most about this matchup.
Now both these men have been around for a long time, but surprisingly this is the first time that these two have met inside the octagon. Each has put together fantastic careers in their own right, yet their styles could not be more different.
Nelson is known as a knockout artist, finishing 65% of his wins with his hands. He carries devastating power in his fists, and often catches his opponents off guard with how hard he is able to connect. As UFC fight commentator Joe Rogan stated, “there’s a lot of people that look like Roy Nelson, there’s not lot of people that fight like Roy Nelson”.
Barnett, on the other hand, is a bit of a submission specialist. While he is a well-rounded fighter, 61% of his wins have come from submissions. For the most part, he enjoys taking the fight to the mat, and trying to finish his opponents there.
Barnett has opened as the favorite at -260, but this really is a difficult fight to pick. Both men have a plethora of experience in the mixed martial arts world, and both have proven that they can win fights in a number of ways. However, at this stage in their careers I would have to lean towards Nelson. Nelson has never been submitted in his career, and while Josh Barnett is tough, he is coming off of a KO loss one minute into the first round. That type of loss can mess with a fighter’s psyche, and for that reason I am going with Nelson, with a first round knockout.
The other fight of notice is between middleweights Uriah Hall and Gegard Mousasi. This should be an exciting bout to watch as both men tend to finish their fights, rather than go to decision. Hall tends to go the route of KO/TKO, while Mousasi prefers to use submissions. Mousasi is fresh off of an impressive pair of wins which has earned him a number six ranking among UFC middleweights. Hall, on the other hand, is a bit of a different story.
While most know Hall for his sensational spinning back kick on the Ultimate Fighter, his career has been that of many ups and downs. His current record is 11-5, and he is coming off a win against Oluwale Bamgbose, but I just do not see him winning this fight.
Mousasi is an extremely well-rounded martial artist who should get the W, and at a -450 favorite, it seems as though Vegas odds makers feel the same.
The main card is finished off with fights from Kyoji Horiguchi(-335) vs. Chico Camus(+255), Takeya Mizugaki(-225) vs George Roop(+175), Katsunori Kikuno(+175) vs. Diego Brandao(-210), and Mizuto Hirota(-225) vs. Teruto Ishihara(+175).
Overall it should be a great night of fights, and if you get the opportunity definitely check them out. (After all, they’re free, so there’s that.)
Where and When:
Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET -Prelims, 10:00 p.m. ET-Main Card on Fox Sports 1
By Jake Cianci