After a much-needed break from the combat sport arena, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on FOX Sports 1 this Sat. night (Sept. 26, 2015) with "Barnett vs. Nelson," a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card that brings cagefighting back to the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Along with a few familiar faces.
That includes former PRIDE standouts Josh Barnett and Gegard Mousasi, who try to replicate past success in "The Land of the Rising Sun" this weekend in the UFC Fight Night 75 main and co-main events. Opposing them are formidable strikers Roy Nelson and Uriah Hall, respectively.
The four-fight balance on the network televised line up is, well ... less than spectacular.
Japanese fight fans will get treated to local favorites like Kyoji Horiguchi and Katsunori Kikuno, among others, while stateside and Brazilian audiences will likely recognize The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veterans Diego Brandao and George Roop.
All respectable names, but none of their fights will have much of an impact on the division rankings, so the enjoyment factor of this card lives and dies on the individual performances of each combatant.
That said, let's take a closer look at each fight.
265 lbs.: Josh "The Warmaster" Barnett (33-7) vs. Roy "Big Country" Nelson (20-11)
Nostradumbass predicts: I get the impression that Roy Nelson enjoys being fat and lazy. Now, if you're a "Big Country" fanboy and your balloon knot just sealed itself shut like a time-lock at the bank, there are a few facts I want you to consider before hunting me down on Twitter.
Nelson is pushing 40, never earned a UFC title shot, and has now dropped four of his last five. In response to that rapid decline, "Big Country" comes into the cage, clomps around like he's fighting in ski boots, and spams right hands until he runs out of gas.
It worked against the mummified remains of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but I'm not sure that's cause for celebration in 2015.
My issue here is that Nelson is a talented fighter -- with power -- but has made no attempt to fine-tune his skill set (or gameplan) since winning TUF 10 back in 2009. He's got a remarkable ground game that we never see and as a result, the burger-biting brawler has not secured a submission in nearly a decade.
Is he a threat to Jon Jones?
Probably not, but I would reckon he could be a heart attack at light heavyweight, a place he chooses not to go because losing weight and disciplining yourself is hard work (= fat and lazy). It's not like he's out there winning fights. In fact, he's looked pretty dreadful these past few years and recently slipped out of the top 10 rankings.
That doesn't leave me feeling overly optimistic about his chances in Japan.
For all his pomp and circumstance, Josh Barnett is a legitimate threat to any fighter at 265 pounds. Getting outwrestled by an Olympian like Daniel Cormier is forgivable, and I believe he was overlooking Travis Browne when they went to war back in late 2013.
Working against "The Warmaster" is his extended layoff, but he's kept himself busy on the grappling circuit with pretty impressive results (see Lister, Dean). I'm also a bit concerned that his biggest victory dating back to his departure from PRIDE was his UFC 164 win over a senescent Frank Mir.
Striking is not his forte, but Barnett knows how to stay out of the red zone and, with the exception of careless execution, keep himself from getting KTFO. I don't believe he submits Nelson in a three-round fight; however, this main event is booked for five.
After 20-plus minutes of being smothered and sucking wind, "Big Country" will be in big trouble.
Final prediction: Barnett def. Nelson via submission
185 lbs.: Gegard "The Dreamcatcher" Mousasi (37-5-2) vs. Uriah "Primetime" Hall (11-5)
Nostradumbass predicts: We're in kind of this weird place with Gegard Mousasi ... is he a legitimate title contender? Has he peaked? I look at a fighter with a staggering 31 finishes -- which is more than most fighters on this card have in total fights -- and I wonder why he's not on the cusp of a title shot.
Then I remind myself that he lost to Ronaldo Souza and Lyoto Machida.
I won't go crazy over the loss to "Jacare" because the Brazilian is running through the middleweight division like Zuul ran through Dana Barrett's apartment building. The "Dragon" defeat bugs me a little more because he was outclassed on the feet, but Mousasi bounced back with a flash knockout over Dan Henderson, as well as a unanimous decision win over Costas Philippou.
Is he a better fighter than Uriah Hall, who is one year his senior?
I'm not sure it's even close. Don't tell me about Hall's vaunted striking, because Mousasi fought -- and defeated -- killers like Melvin Manhoef, Mark Hunt, and Hector Lombard when they were all in their prime. Any fighter can get knocked out at any time, but "Primetime" hasn't faced or triumphed over anyone elite.
Hall's biggest victory, in a UFC career that has him sitting at 4-3, is a technical knockout win (retirement) over Chris Leben. Mousasi hasn't been knocked out in 44 professional fights and outside of Souza, hasn't been submitted since 2006.
Unless 30 is the new 50, or Mousasi leaves his chin on a silver platter, I'm not sure where the dynamic-but-unproven Hall wins this fight. "The Dreamcatcher" (what a terrible nickname) is a sniper with his hands and can surprise you with his wrestling, something we saw against Philippou.
Knowing that Hall was pushed around by a couple of welterweights in Kelvin Gastelum and John Howard, this has to be considered Mousasi's fight to lose.
Final prediction: Mousasi def. Hall via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Kyoji Horiguchi (15-2) vs. Chico "King" Camus (14-6, 1 NC)
Nostradumbass predicts: I wouldn't be surprised to see this flyweight thriller end up as "Fight of the Night" as both Kyoji Horiguchi and Chico Camus are top-shelf talents who finish fights and look good in the process. That said, it's hard not to favor the hometown hero.
While our last memory of the former Shooto standout is a submission loss to Demetrious Johnson, it was just the second defeat of his still-young career (he's only 24) and prior to his misstep against "Mighty Mouse," captured nine in a row.
Four under the ZUFFA banner.
Camus is no slouch himself and watching Henry Cejudo struggle to make the finish line should give you an idea of how capable "King" is inside the cage. His defensive wrestling is as sharp as his counter-punching and there isn't much you can throw at him that he hasn't already seen.
One thing that troubles me, however, is his inability to finish fights.
It's been four years and 11 bouts since Camus sealed the deal and I don't think he's going to be busy enough to beat Horiguchi on points. Unlike his opponent, the Krazy Bee battler has power not often seen in 125-pound fighters (to the tune of nine knockouts).
Camus is going to make this interesting, but eventually he's going to get hit. Once that happens, it's a matter of running out the clock before the referee decides to invoke the mercy rule.
Final prediction: Horiguchi def. Camus via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Takeya Mizugaki (20-9-2) vs. George Roop (15-11-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: One thing I miss about World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) is how certain fighters could be irrelevant and yet still be relevant, if that makes any sense. Takeya Mizugaki is a perfect example, a well-rounded combatant who will never fight for the title.
But he's still a pretty tough out at 135 pounds.
It's easy to overlook him, but getting destroyed by Dominick Cruz is not a career killer, and I think his submission loss to Aljamain Sterling was a case of succumbing to a far-superior athlete. Outside of those recent hiccups, Mizugaki was riding a five-fight win streak and should be able to outsmart his opponent.
But he won't.
George Roop is not the world-beater he thinks he is, but he's not going to have to worry about the knockout heading into this fight. As a result, expect a lot of forward momentum and rangy strikes, some of which come with a surprising amount of power.
Roop has managed to secure finishes in eight of his 15 wins.
Unless his chin has completely evaporated (it's possible) or he throws shots with reckless abandon, I expect Roop to bully his opponent early and often. Don't be surprised to see a kick or long jab sneak through and drop the Japanese veteran, followed by a late tap.
Final prediction: Roop def. Mizugaki by submission
145 lbs.: Diego "DB" Brandao (19-10) vs. Katsunori Kikuno (22-7-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: Diego Brandao is a total lunatic who charges forward and tries to bludgeon whoever is standing in front of him. For those opponents who can keep a clear head and return fire, he's sunk, as was the case with Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
For everyone else, it's five minutes of survival mode.
Even so, behind that ferocious facade is a fairly gifted fighter, one with a surprisingly technical ground game and the will to win (see Bermudez, Dennis). His biggest weakness is his defense, something not uncommon in MMA, but I'm not sure it's a concern here.
Katsunori Kikuno has been knocked out twice -- both in the first frame -- since joining UFC in 2014.
That's what happens when you no longer get to beat up local scrubs like Ichiro Kojima (7-9-5) and Hitoki Tsuti (2-3). Kikuno is certainly a formidable challenger and his experience cannot be discounted, but as far as overall records are concerned, all that glitters is not gold.
For my money, Brandao has faced much stiffer competition.
I would expect this fight to play right into the Brazilian's wheelhouse. Kikuno will try to neutralize his opponent's initial blitzkrieg with an urgent, haphazard counter attack, but nobody in the featherweight division does a crazed, rock-em sock-em robot better than "DB."
Final prediction: Brandao def. Kikuno via technical knockout
145 lbs.: Mizuto "Pugnus" Hirota (17-7-1) vs. Teruto "Yashabo" Ishihara (7-2-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: I know he's the winner of three straight, but I can't in good faith pick Mizuto Hirota. Forget about getting crippled by Shinya Aoki in 2009, he had one fight in Strikeforce and two in UFC and came up empty in all three.
"Pugnus" is 34, to boot, and has the distinction of being one of the few featherweights who actually lost to the frangible Rodrigo Damm. He's also in the game for over a decade and has a whopping zero submission wins across the span of 25 fights.
Nothing to see here.
While I've seen Hirota in action, I didn't bother watching "Road to UFC: Japan" in preparation for UFC Fight Night 75 and I'd reckon most of you didn't, either. Frankly, I can't even believe you've made it this far in my (cough) "analysis" but hey, give yourself a cookie for sticking it out.
Where were we? Oh right, Teruto Ishihara.
He's 10 years younger than Hirota, which is a plus, but has also competed at lower weight classes, which is a minus. Like his Japanese counterpart, he also failed to notch a single submission victory but makes up for it with six of seven wins by way of technical knockout.
Sorry, but I do not have high hopes for this fight.
Final prediction: Ishihara def. Hirota via split decision
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 75 fight card on fight night, starting with the FOX Sports 2 "Prelims" bouts at 8 p.m. ET before moving on to the FOX Sports 1 main card at 10 p.m. ET.
For previews and predictions of all the UFC Fight Night 75 "Prelims" bout click here and here. Odds, betting lines, and best bets for "Barnett vs. Nelson" go here.
You've heard my picks, now let's hear yours. Who gets it done tomorrow night in Japan?