Two of the more notable heavyweight fighters of this era get together for what should be an exciting bout in the main event at UFC Fight Night in Japan. Josh Barnett, formerly the “Baby Faced Assassin,” currently the “Warmaster,” takes on fan favorite Roy “Big Country” Nelson. Plus, we get to see an important middleweight bout between the dynamic Uriah Hall and the steady Gegard Mousasi. Let’s break it down.
Josh Barnett ($10800) vs Roy Nelson ($8600)
When Travis Browne scored a KO win over Barnett in late-2013, it was only the second time he’d been KO’d in his career, and the first since 2001. Nelson has more than enough power to knock out any man, but “Big Country” has lost four of his last five, and Barnett has always been solid defensively. You hear a lot about how Nelson has a world-class ground game, but he never does much from the bottom. Barnett suffocates fighters from top position, then uses his proficient and prodigious catch-wrestling skills to lock in subs and end fights. He’ll feel out Nelson in round one and avoid the big right hand. Barnett will wear him down, get him to the ground and finish him there in round two. Then he’ll deliver an A+ post-fight speech.
Pick: Barnett by submission
Gegard Mousasi ($11300) vs Uriah Hall ($8100)
Fans are still waiting for Hall to dominate the division, but the truth is he has won four of his last five fights. However, Gegard Mousasi represents an entirely different level of fighter than anyone Hall has faced. Mousasi has fought legends all the way back in the PRIDE days, and will do battle in his 45th professional fight on Saturday. He does everything well, especially defensively. He has never been knocked out. Hall is a good fighter, but Mousasi is world class. Mousasi will use his skills and guile to cut off angles for Hall, eventually getting him to the ground and finishing him with either ground and pound or a submission.
Pick: Mousasi by submission
Kyoji Horiguchi ($11000) vs Chico Camus ($8400)
Horiguchi is one of the top prospects to come to the UFC from Japan, but Camus, while just 3-3 in the UFC, is an extremely tough out. He demonstrated his toughness most recently against Henry Cejudo, and before that in a split decision win against Brad Pickett. I expect Horiguchi to do enough to win, but Camus is a decent flyer in cash games. Look for Horiguchi to win by decision, which won’t justify spending the $11000 to have him in your lineup.
Pick: Horiguchi by decision
Takeya Mizugaki ($10500) vs George Roop ($8900)
This has all the makings of a brawl, as both fighters like to stand in the pocket and fire away. However, Mizugaki is a decision-machine with an outstanding chin. Roop is vulnerable to being knocked out, but Mizugaki is not a power-puncher. This one has all the markings of a fight that will go the distance, which means I’m staying away. Mizugaki averages about 48 FPPG, while Roop averages under 40. Those numbers aren’t winning you tourneys.
Pick: Mizugaki by decision
Diego Brandao ($10600) vs Katsunori Kikuno ($8800)
Kikuno is 2-2 in the UFC, with both losses coming by way of knockout. Brandao has insane power, and though he lacks in other skill areas, this seems to be the perfect opponent for him to unleash his wild hands and finish his opponent quickly.
Pick: Brandao by KO/TKO
Mizuto Hirota ($10400) vs Teruto Ishihara ($9000)
The two finalists from “Road to UFC: Japan” meet in a featherweight clash. Both fighters love to trade so we should be provided an entertaining scrap. Hirota, though you probably don’t remember, has already had one stint in the UFC in which he lost two straight fights. Now he’s back and taking on the younger and more dynamic Teruto Ishihara. I’m going against the grain here and picking Ishihara to win. His speed and power will be the difference in this fight. If he KOs Hirota, he is an excellent value pick at just $9000.
Pick: Ishihara by KO/TKO
Jingliang Li ($10300) vs Keita Nakamura ($9100)
Like Hirota, Nakamura also had a prior stint in the UFC. His was also unsuccessful, losing all three of his UFC fights. “The Leech” Jingliang Li has looked very good in his three UFC fights, knocking out Dhiego Lima and beating David Michaud by decision. He took Nordine Taleb the distance, dropping that one in a split decision. This fight is Li’s to lose. If he can keep it on the feet he has a clear advantage. Nakamura is a tough vet, and I expect him to go the distance. $10300 can be better spent on someone who finishes though, so buyer beware.
Pick: Li by decision
Nick Hein ($10900) vs Yusuke Kasuya ($8500)
If you look at Kasuya’s record, you might be tempted to throw down the $8500 and add him to your lineup. Hein has not finished many fights, but we have seen improvement from him. He more than doubled up the striking total of Lukasz Sajewski in their June fight. Add to that it will be Kasuya’s UFC debut and in Japan and he’s likely to be dealing with some nerves. I think Hein will be able to follow the blueprint he used against Sakewski — feeling his way through the early stages then adding volume in the second and third rounds.
Pick: Hein by decision
Kajan Johnson ($10700) vs Naoyuki Kotani ($8700)
Johnson came back from a horrific broken jaw he suffered on the TUF Nations show, which was remarkable in and of itself. But he’s about to make his third appearance in the Octagon, and won for the first time in the UFC this past May. He’s very well-rounded, long and possesses good speed. Kotani has been finished in both his UFC fights, averaging less than one significant strike landed per minute. This is his second go in the UFC, and he didn’t do well the first time around. Johnson is not known for his power, but I think he throws enough volume to catch Kotani and get the ref stoppage in round two or three.
Pick: Johnson by KO/TKO
Shinsho Anzai ($9700) vs Roger Zapata ($9700)
I liked what I saw of Zapata on the TUF show and he finally gets to do his thing in a live UFC event. He has good power and a chin to match. He also holds considerable height and reach advantages. I like Zapata to end this one quickly with a big KO. Great value at $9700.
Pick: Zapata by KO/TKO