He's back, folks.
After nearly two years out of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) cage, Josh Barnett returns to his old stomping grounds this weekend (Sat., Sept. 26, 2015): Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, where he will take on Roy Nelson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 75.
In addition, former DREAM and K-1 Dynamite! competitor Gegard Mousasi will take on late replacement Uriah Hall, while Takeya Mizugaki attempts to end a two-fight losing streak against George Roop.
Two "Prelims" undercard matches remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), both of which can be found on FOX Sports 2.
Here's what's up:
145 lbs.: Katsunori Kikuno vs. Diego Brandao
A four-fight win streak in Japan’s DEEP promotion brought Katsunori Kikuno (22-7-2) to UFC’s Lightweight division, where he decisioned Quinn Mulhern before suffering a career-first knockout loss to Tony Ferguson. The loss prompted him to drop to 145 pounds, where he was choked out Sam Sicilia and been knocked out by towering Brazilian "Kevin" Souza.
Half of his wins are by knockout, another three coming via submission.
Diego Brandao's (19-10) tremendous run on The Ultimate fighter (TUF) 14 gave way to a 4-1 start to his UFC career. Consecutive knockout losses to Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor followed, though he managed to re-enter the win column with a cut stoppage of Jimy Hettes this past April.
Fifteen of the 19 victories for "Ceara" have come inside the distance, 10 by knockout.
I’m done fooling myself -- Kikuno’s completely killed his career with his insistence on keeping his hands down and abandonment of his signature body kicks. Brandao’s power and wrestling would have made him a tough match up even at the best of times, but at this point, Kikuno’s just plain screwed.
Brandao figures to be the better grappler by a fair margin and I’m not even sure he’ll need to use that advantage. Kikuno no longer has the durability to stand up to "Ceara’s" power and I expect the Brazilian to prove it midway through the first.
Prediction: Brandao via first-round knockout
170 lbs.: Keita Nakamura vs. Li Jingliang
Keita Nakamura (30-6-2) first joined UFC back in 2006, going winless (0-3) in the promotion over two separate stints. "K-Taro" has since established himself as one of Asia’s top Welterweight fighters with a 9-1 (1 NC) record in his last 11 fights.
He replaces the injured Kiichi Kunimoto on approximately one month’s notice.
Li Jingliang (10-3) began his UFC career with a pair of split decisions, defeating David Michaud before falling to hulking Tristar-trained product Nordine Taleb. Last May, "The Leech" notched the biggest win career with an 85-second knockout of Dhiego Lima, just his second (technical) knockout victory.
He’s earned five submission wins overall, four via guillotine.
This one’s a stumper. "K-Taro" is much more experienced and probably the better grappler overall, but "The Leech" is incrediblly strong and has had time to prepare. Plus, Nakamura’s lost a few fights he should have won with ease.
Still, I’m taking the veteran.
Nakamura can more than hold his own in Li’s wheelhouse and his technical edge should overcome Li’s strength. "K-Taro" finally gets his first UFC victory in a fun ground battle.
Prediction: Nakamura via unanimous decision
The main event should be a blast and there are some good match ups here and there -- I'd say it's worth watching.
See you there, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 75 fight card, starting with the UFC Fight Pass "Prelims" match online, which is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 2 undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before moving on to the FOX Sports 1 main card at 10 p.m. ET.