The UFC returns to the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo on Sept. 26 for UFC Fight Night 75: Barnett vs. Nelson. The company last held an event at the Saitama Super Arena about a year ago. That event was UFC Fight Night 52, and it featured Mark Hunt knocking out “Big Country” Roy Nelson in the headlining bout. While Hunt is destined for the UFC 193 stadium card in Australia, Nelson will be making a return to Japan this weekend as a co-headliner against former UFC champion Josh Barnett.
Barnett stopped Randy Couture to win the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 36 in March 2002. He left the promotion to fight in Japan, where he became a finalist in the 2006 Pride FC Openweight Grand Prix. Barnett continued to stake his claim as a top heavyweight when he made it to the finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2012. He lost that bout to eventual UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in a five-round fight.
Nelson made a name for himself fighting in the now-defunct, team-based International Fight League promotion, winning the promotion’s heavyweight title with a first-round stoppage of UFC veteran Fabiano Scherner. Despite losses at the hands of Andrei Arlovski in 2008 and Jeff Monson in 2009, Nelson entered the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter house. Nelson was a participant on the TUF 10 season. He defeated Kimbo Slice, Justin Wren and James McSweeney on his way to the finale, where he knocked out Brendan Schaub. Nelson has had his ups and downs against the top fighters in the heavyweight division.
These two heavyweights fight at a time when both men are desperately looking for a win to get them back into title contention.
The co-main event of the evening features former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi taking on the once highly regarded striker Uriah Hall. Both men are riding dominant victories heading into this contest, but Hall is taking the fight on somewhat short notice after Roan Carneiro had to pull out due to an elbow injury.
Flyweight title challenger Kyoji Horiguchi returns from his last-second submission loss at UFC 186 at the hands of the champion Demetrious Johnson. The blossoming Japanese superstar will be taking on rugged top-10 flyweight Chico Camus, who is coming off a decision loss to Henry Cejudo at UFC 188.
Japanese favorites return, as Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto looks for his first UFC win against Matt Hobar and former WEC title challenger Takeya Mizugaki welcomes back George Roop from a more than year-long layoff. Mizuto Hirota and Teruto Ishihara kick off the the main card with the finale of the “Road to UFC: Japan” reality show that was shot in Las Vegas and featured eight fighters trying to make their way to the UFC.
The action kicks off with one fight that will air live on UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. ET. The remaining preliminary-card bouts air live on Fox Sports 2 at 8 p.m. ET. The UFC Fight Night 75 main card begins at 10 p.m. ET and airs live on Fox Sports 1. Combat Press writers Sal DeRose and Zach Aittama preview the event in this edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Roy Nelson has been a fringe top-10 heavyweight with the UFC for several years now, but he has lost four of his last five fights. His UFC Fight Night 75 opponent, Josh Barnett, entered the league as a top heavyweight, but he was derailed by Travis Browne and will be competing for the first time in nearly two years. Is the winner of this bout capable of rising back to the level of a title contender, or are both fighters on the downside of their career?
DeRose: The heavyweight division is so thin that the answer to this question is actually relatively simple: they’re two fighters on the downside of their career that are still capable of rising back to the level of a title contender in the heavyweight division. Just to drive this point home: take a look at Barnett’s status in the division. He has been out of competition for two years and is still ranked at the eighth spot in the top 10. Age also won’t hold them back either. Out of the top five fighters in the UFC rankings and the champion, only one fighter — Junior dos Santos — is below the age of 33 (and given the wear on dos Santos, who has been in war after war, he might as well be in his forties).
Heavyweights tend to get better with age, but Nelson seems to stagnate against top competition. Under the current rankings, Nelson’s biggest win came against Matt Mitrione, who resides two spots below Nelson. Mitrione was also a part of Nelson’s season of The Ultimate Fighter, where Nelson was clearly the best heavyweight and had a relatively easy time winning the show. However, since then, Nelson has simply not come through against any title contenders. That may be due in part to his game plan. Nelson likes to load up on his overhand right and just wing that bad boy until he either ends up knocked out or knocks his opponent out. Nelson is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, yet he seems to be stuck in the mindset of winging what is often a highly telegraphed overhand right. A fighter just can’t be that one-dimensional anymore, especially when they have more tools at their disposal.
If Nelson opens up his game more and allows himself to use his jiu-jitsu instead of gambling on a knockout, he might become a true contender. As I’m sure my colleague will attest, we all love the knockout. However, I like seeing a fighter win more than I enjoy them aiming to entertain me.
Barnett could very easily be a contender with his catch wrestling, which is always a threat to just about anyone in the division. Barnett’s grappling ability is simply amazing to watch and I can’t heap enough praise onto it. At Metamoris 4, Barnett was able to become the first man to ever submit Dean Lister. It was the first submission loss in Lister’s 16-year grappling career.
This fight can either go the easy way or the hard way for Nelson. Barnett’s going to look to bring this fight to the ground, where he will have no fear against Nelson’s grappling. If Nelson decides to stand and try to knock out Barnett, he will not win this fight. Barnett will just try to bring him to the ground and wear him out early on. Now, if Nelson decides to go on the offensive and bring his jiu-jitsu into the mix, we have a totally different outlook on who can win this fight. Either way, I can’t see Nelson being overwhelmingly successful enough to beat Barnett. Even with two years out of action, Barnett is still one of the best grapplers in the UFC heavyweight division. He is a tough out for anybody, including Nelson, and he’ll take this fight by decision.
Aittama: Although I do agree that Nelson needs to use his ground game more effectively in fights, this is not the fight to start. Nelson will need to land one of those big right hands to win. Despite the appearance of Nelson, he will be the smaller fighter in this bout, and it will certainly show in the clinch and during grappling exchanges. Nelson is comfortable on the mat, but he will be playing defense all day unless he starts to punish Barnett. Nelson has won just one fight since April 2013 when he stopped Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with a big right hand in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 39 bout. The win was Nelson’s first in that stretch where his opponent was outside of the top six or seven heavyweights in the UFC. Nelson has struggled against the upper echelon of the division, a group Barnett has belonged to for over a decade.
Granted, Barnett has not fought in MMA competition in 18 months, but, like my colleague has stated, he remained active in grappling competitions. Barnett’s first-round knockout loss to Browne at UFC 168 in December 2013 was tough on the former UFC champion. Barnett stated that he needed time off to reflect on his career and where it was headed. Apparently the time off was good for Barnett, who spent it in grappling tournaments and became the color commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s weekly show on AXS TV alongside Mauro Ranallo, all while continuing to train. Barnett most recently submitted one of the famous members of the Gracie University, Ryron Gracie, at Metamoris 6 in May with a leg-lock submission.
Barnett is one of MMA’s best grapplers above middleweight, especially if he can get top position. Whether or not Nelson decides to use his grappling, it will be the wrong choice for “Big Country.” Nelson will need to keep this fight on the feet and avoid the cage. He can keep Barnett at bay by using his jab and working in his right hand, but Nelson doesn’t want to get his back pushed toward the fence. Nelson needs to circle off the cage and look to land his right hand when Barnett enters the wrestling exchanges. While Barnett has been inconsistent on occasion in his past bouts, he should be the odds-on favorite to take the victory, most likely by way of submission.
Uriah Hall is back again, and this time he draws an elite middleweight fighter in Gegard Mousasi. Hall was once hyped as the next coming of Anderson Silva. Can he finally live up to the hype against Mousasi?
Aittama: Hall has carved out an excellent UFC career since losing to Kelvin Gastelum in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 17 in April 2013. He has won four of his subsequent six bouts, with his only defeats by way of split decision in two very close fights. One of the most recent split decision losses was at the hands of Rafael “Sapo” Natal at UFC 187 in May 2015. The Brazilian was able to land a series of leg kicks and wild right hands that kept the striking numbers even throughout the bout. Hall looked to have won the fight on his powerful striking, landing a variety of strong kicks throughout the bout while avoiding most of the Brazilian’s strikes. Hall was taken down and controlled for a stretch in the second round, but he was able to land two slam takedowns of his own late in the round. However, judges Junichiro Kamijo and Sal D’Amato believed Natal had done enough to take the decision. Hall was disappointed when the decision was rendered, walking off before congratulating his opponent for the close affair. The 31-year-old Hall returned to the Octagon last month at UFC Fight Night 73, where he quickly put an end to the undefeated record of Oluwale Bamgbose with sharp ground-and-pound just over two minutes into the opening round. The punches rocked the head of the Nigerian prospect, putting Hall right back on the winning track heading into this co-main event bout in Japan.
The trip to Japan will be Hall’s first fight outside of the United States, a tough task in its own right and an even bigger challenge when facing a former two-division champion from one of Japan’s once largest promotions. Mousasi, who held the Dream light Heavyweight and middleweight belts, also claimed Strikeforce gold when he stopped Renato “Babalu” Sobral just 60 seconds into the opening frame of their 2008 title bout. Mousasi has won two consecutive fights and four of six since entering the UFC’s Octagon. He stopped Dan Henderson with strikes just one minute and change into their UFC on FOX 14 bout in January. Running with the momentum from the first-round stoppage, Mousasi dominated Costas Philippou on the mat in his last bout at UFC Fight Night 66 in May, not giving the striker any space by constantly looking to advance position and finish the fight.
For Hall, the dangers in this bout lie in the ground game and at range. He will need to use his footwork to avoid the clinch game and takedowns of the veteran fighter. Hall has been caught flat-footed in the past, especially late in fights. He must avoid staying in one place at all costs.
Mousasi will press forward in this bout, always looking to keep the fight just inside boxing range to land his effective punches and stay inside the range of Hall’s kicks. Mousasi likes to get trips inside and has shown a steady improvement in his offensive takedown arsenal. If this fight were to hit the mat, Hall needs to work his way to the fence, trying not to expose an arm or his neck for the lengthy arms of the crafty Mousasi.
The range will play an important role for determining the winner of this contest. Hall needs to catch Mousasi in transition with his counters and, if he hurts Mousasi, he must push for the finish. Hall has a reach advantage, making the distance and range that much more important. He will need to effectively use his time and put a stamp on each round in order to be successful in this contest.
With the experience on the side of Mousasi, this is a fight that has so much going against the once heralded TUF veteran. While I don’t believe Hall will ever be the next Anderson Silva — a claim that was ridiculous from the beginning — he will be a solid fighter just outside the top 10 in a stacked middleweight division. However, Hall does have an opportunity to prove me wrong on Saturday.
DeRose: Yeah, that Anderson Silva comparison is absolutely crazy to bestow on anybody, even a guy coming off a dominant performance on The Ultimate Fighter. Hall is a good fighter in his own right, but he is missing the most important elements that make Anderson Silva one of the greatest of all time. Hall doesn’t have Silva’s movement, ability to read a fight quicker than any other fighter before him, or the ability to absolutely take over and dominate a fight.
Hall is his own fighter, and he has been rather pedestrian since coming off of TUF. His loss to Gastelum is something no one could have seen coming, but it showed Hall’s glaring weakness. It seems from one fight to the next, Hall continues to fight himself as much as he fights his opponent. It’s like what Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky says in the upcoming Creed trailer while pointing at Michael B. Jordan in the mirror: “Your toughest opponent is right there.” Hall had an unseemly amount of potential to really be a force in the middleweight division, but he seemed to lack confidence in himself through his first two fights in the UFC. My colleague mentioned the close nature of Hall’s split decision losses, but they’re still losses in fights Hall was projected to win.
Mousasi is such a huge step up for Hall, too. Hall last fought the aforementioned Bamgbose, a debuting fighter. Hall looked good in that fight, but nobody he has faced is at the same level as Mousasi. In a deep middleweight division, Mousasi is one of the top fighters. You can’t rule out any fighter in MMA. Even the most lopsided fights still have a chance to produce the unexpected. However, Mousasi is a really good fighter with 19 knockouts and 12 victories by submission, so a Mousasi win could come from anywhere.
It’s an uphill battle for Hall. Mousasi is a highly experienced member of the middleweight elite. When he isn’t facing a top-five fighter, Mousasi tends to be at the height of his game. Mousasi wins the fight. Hall still has some space to grow, and this contest will provide him with a good learning experience.
Japanese superstar Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto has lost three of his four bouts since entering the UFC in 2011 and will be looking for his first win under the promotional banner. Will Yamamoto be able to get his first win in over five years on home soil, or will he finish out his career without a win in the biggest MMA promotion in the world?
DeRose: Yamamoto used to be one of the best Japanese fighters in the world, if not simply one of the best fighters in the world. That was, until Yamamoto met Joe Warren a few fights before ultimately making the jump to the UFC. Yamamoto hasn’t had the same shine since that fight, going 1-4 with one no-contest. His lone win in that span comes over Federico Lopez at Dream 14 in 2010.
Yamamoto has always been an exciting fighter above all else in the ring or cage. Despite being 1-5 in his last seven fights and not etching his name in the victory column since 2010 — and being a 38-year-old going against a young fighter in Matt Hobar — I’m picking Yamamoto to win this fight.
Yamamoto could very well be facing the exit door with a loss here. It’s not only an important fight to keep himself at the highest level, but also a fight in his home of Japan. “Kid” is going to look to entertain the fans with his highly aggressive style, but that approach could lead to his demise. Call it a gut feeling, but Yamamoto is going to go out in style whether he wins or loses.
The knockout is a very attainable result for Yamamoto. If he doesn’t get it, it might be hard for him to secure the victory by other means. Yamamoto does have his wrestling background to fall back on if he so needs it to slow the pace down and possibly turn the fight in his favor. Overall, it will be his home-field advantage that helps to lead him to a victory. There isn’t much left in Yamamoto’s tank, but he gets the win at the end of the night via a TKO.
Aittama: As my colleague stated, Yamamoto was once considered among the best fighters in the world during his stretch of 14 straight wins, including 12 finishes from September 2002 to 2007. The stretch ended not with the Warren fight, but with his announcement in 2007 that he would leave MMA to pursue a freestyle wrestling bid to the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Yamamoto moved to the United States when he was a teenager to pursue a wrestling career following in the footsteps of his father, who competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Yamamoto won three Arizona state championships with Marcos de Niza High School, putting together a 32-0 undefeated senior season (112-4 overall record) and setting the school record with 159 takedowns in a single season. He moved back to Japan for university, opting to compete in his home country in college and capturing the All-Japan College Wrestling Championships title. Yamamoto finished second at the 1999 Emperor’s Cup, the highest level national tournament for wrestling in Japan, falling just short for a bid to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. He left wrestling after he was suspended from amateur competition due to an incident with a Yakuza member, opting instead to use his wrestling to become a successful fighter under the tutelage of Enson Inoue. Yamamoto won the All-Japan amateur Shooto championships in 2000.
Yamamoto’s return to wrestling in 2007 was headline news in Japan. He had dreamed of winning an Olympic medal as a child. He won his opening match, but he fell in his next contest. Just 16 seconds into the match, 2004 Athens Olympics bronze medalist Kenji Inoue tossed Yamamoto down with an arm-whip takedown. On the descent, Yamamoto planted his arm against the mat. The weight of the two men fell on Yamamoto’s elbow, dislocating it and making the road to an Olympic bid that much harder.
Yamamoto returned to MMA in 2007 to defeat current ONE Championship bantamweight titleholder Bibiano Fernandes at K-1 Hero’s 10. He returned one more time — for a knockout victory over UFC veteran Rani Yahya at K-1 Hero’s Dynamite!! 2007 — before a myriad of injuries kept him out of the ring for 17 months. Yamamoto fought Bellator MMA two-division champion Joe Warren during the second round of the Dream Featherweight (139-pound) Grand Prix. Warren, a successful amateur wrestler who won the 2006 FILA Wrestling World Championships, was able to out-wrestle Yamamoto on his way to a split decision victory.
Yamamoto’s struggles were compacted by an ugly divorce and tabloid news reporting that he was involved in suspicious marijuana use. Yamamoto lost again just two months later in a kickboxing bout with South Korean fighter Jae Hee Cheon when he was knocked out cold with a counter left hook just minutes into the bout. He suffered another loss at Dynamite!! 2009 to former Sengoku featherweight and current UFC fighter Masanori Kanehara in a back-and-forth affair where Yamamoto was dropped on two separate occasions.
The win against Lopez was supposed to get Yamamoto on track, but another myriad of injuries and tough matchmaking left the Japanese superstar without a win in the UFC. Yamamoto returned from a knee injury that kept the Japanese fighter out of the Octagon for 1,098 days. He fought Roman Salazar at UFC 184 in February. Yamamoto looked good in the bout before a finger on his right hand went into the eye of Salazar during the second round, forcing the doctor to halt the fight, ruling it a no-contest. It was yet another UFC fight without a win for the Japanese star.
Yamamoto looks for his first UFC win in his return to his home country. He will be fighting alongside his star pupil, Kyoji Horiguchi. Yamamoto has traveled a difficult road in the past, but this very well may be his last shot at a win under the UFC promotional banner. I, too, believe Yamamoto finally gets the UFC win he has been chasing since 2011.
Kyoji Horiguchi was thrust into a title fight with Demetrious Johnson due to the sheer lack of new faces for the champion to face. If Horiguchi wins his fight with Chico Camus, can he vault himself back into title contention? Will the next time against Johnson be any different for the Japanese flyweight?
Aittama: Horiguchi’s loss at the hands of Johnson at UFC 186 in April was just a minor setback in what is still a very promising young career. There could be many negative takeaways from the bout, but as someone who has watched Horiguchi since his amateur days, I really didn’t learn anything new from the fight. Horiguchi has always parlayed his footwork and explosive movements to effectively close the distance and land powerful strikes. He had few opportunities to showcase this ability in the bout against the champion, as Johnson wouldn’t give him an inch of space. Horiguchi did well in the early rounds, defending the takedowns and working back to his feet. However, the champion took over the fight in the third round, taking Horiguchi down and racking up significant time in the top position before pulling off the last-second armbar submission.
In Horiguchi’s only other career loss — to Shooto champion Masakatsu Ueda — a similar fight played out for the first two rounds. Horiguchi was able to fight off a few takedowns, but eventually succumbed to the much superior grappler. Horiguchi was able to knock down Ueda at the start of the third round, but he wasn’t able to capitalize. The crafty Ueda recovered and went on to win a unanimous decision.
The game plan to defeat Horiguchi remains the same, but the 24-year-old won’t be on the other side of the Octagon from one of the best fighters in the world. However, he will be facing the well-rounded Camus, who most recently fought Henry Cejudo at UFC 188 in June. The gritty Camus reunited with Duke Roufus for his last fight, and it showed in his performance against the projected next flyweight title contender. Camus wasn’t blown out of the water by the 2008 Olympic Gold medalist, proving his toughness in a UFC career that has had its ups and downs over the past three years.
Unfortunately for Camus, the style match-up he employs is less threatening to Horiguchi than that of the last man to defeat the budding Japanese superstar. The fight should play out on the feet with the brief grappling exchanges being a fight for top position or to scramble back up to the feet. Horiguchi uses his head movement, footwork and explosive straight-line striking to attack his opponent with a high volume of punches. Horiguchi lands about twice as many significant strikes per minute — about 3.9 strikes per minute before his fight with Johnson — lending to the idea that he will find a home for his explosive left and right hands. Horiguchi should be just a little bit better in all aspects of MMA. With a knockdown ratio that rivals that of UFC heavyweight Junior dos Santos, don’t be surprised if the referee has to pull Horiguchi off of his unconscious opponent.
A second fight with Johnson certainly looks plausible for the future, but the UFC will need to give the Japanese prospect the time he needs to develop his grappling. Horiguchi began training at Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto’s Krazy Bee gym when he graduated high school at the age of 18. With only six years of experience, Horiguchi will need time to hone his grappling, as he mostly uses sheer brute strength and athleticism to get out of dire situations on the mat. Horiguchi flew to San Jose, Calif., before his UFC 186 bout to train with the high-level wrestlers and grapplers at American Kickboxing Academy. If he is to continue to develop and become a great mixed martial artist, he will need to continue to train with gyms and fight camps in the western hemisphere. With the raw talent and superior striking that Horiguchi has shown throughout his five-year professional career, the ceiling on his fighting career is yet to be defined and his chances at fighting for UFC gold again have yet to be closed.
DeRose: Flyweight is one of those divisions where even a loss to the champion doesn’t exclude a fighter from a legitimate chance at a second title shot. “Mighty Mouse” has run all over the division en route to becoming one of the sport’s most dominant champions. There really isn’t a fighter in title contention — outside of the aforementioned Cejudo — that Johnson hasn’t beat. With a win over Camus, Horiguchi can go right back to considering himself a legit title contender.
Horiguchi is young and still has a long career ahead of him. It would be shocking if he doesn’t get at least one more title shot considering how great he has been early on in his career. Barring a huge injury setback or an incredible case of the yips, Horiguchi will get back there eventually. Whether it’s in the next three years or next five is an entirely different story. My fellow writer already mentioned this, but it is definitely important for Horiguchi to actually train at a camp over here in North America like he did prior to UFC 186. It’s extremely important for him to keep growing as a fighter and training with the best fighters this early in his career. It’s hard to put a cap on his potential if he gets the best possible coaching and best possible sparring experience.
If Horiguchi is going to fight Johnson again, he will need that sort of change in training to help bring out a different dimension to his game. The thing with “Mighty Mouse” that makes him such a great fighter is that he continues to grow in every aspect of his game from one fight to the next. Johnson is already an amazingly well-rounded fighter, but he continues to improve in every area. Horiguchi would certainly get that type of training here. If he does, he may be a legit threat the next time he meets Johnson.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
DeRose: Somehow, Diego Brandão is on the preliminary card. He is crazy and a pretty safe bet to really bring an exciting fight. He tends to be aggressive and attempts to knock out his opponent. He’ll face Katsunori Kikuno, whose last fight in his native Japan led to a submission victory over Sam Sicilia. Kikuno really turned it up in the second round of the fight and gave the fans a treat with his hands down for a majority of the contest. I like these two to give the Japanese faithful a good show.
Aittama: I have a feeling that most of this undercard is getting overlooked, but the fight that I feel is the most underrated is the welterweight clash between hometown favorite Keita “K-Taro” Nakamura and Chinese prospect Jingliang “the Leech” Li.
Nakamura has compiled 30 wins in his 12-year career that began when he was just 19 years old. Nakamura initially signed with the UFC as an undefeated 22-year-old in 2006 and made his Octagon debut against Brock Larson at UFC Fight Night 7 in December 2006. Nakamura was unsuccessful in his next two bouts in the UFC, losing decisions to Drew Fickett and TUF 5 veteran Robert Emerson. He retired shortly thereafter, but the retirement didn’t last long. He returned to fighting just months later to defeat current UFC fighter Adriano Martins at Dream 6 in August 2008. Nakamura moved up to welterweight following a loss at the hands of Jang Yong Kim. He started a long stretch of success and captured titles in Sengoku and Deep while producing a 13-2 record. With 24 finishes in his career, Nakamura can end the fight on the feet with his crisp boxing and on the ground with his aggressive submission offensive.
“The Leech” doesn’t bring the same experience into this bout, but what the steadily improving welterweight does bring is size. The Zhang TieQuan disciple out of China Top Team has had 13 fights and 10 wins in a career that spans just under eight years. Former UFC scout David Stern believed that Li was the best welterweight in China and, wanting to help the promising fighter improve his career, brought Li under the wing of coaches Jimmy Gifford and Ricky Lundell in Las Vegas to improve his striking and wrestling. Li has shown improvement since arriving with the promotion at UFC 173 in May 2014 in a bout in which he took a split decision over Midwest fighter David Michaud. Li lost a close decision to Nordine Taleb in his opponent’s home country at UFC Fight Night: MacDonald vs Saffiedine in October 2014. The Chinese prospect returned to the win column with a big knockout of Dhiego Lima at UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Faber in May. Not only is this a battle of two promising Asian fighters, but it is also a fight that has all the makings to be an exciting affair.
Pair this card with…
Aittama: Your Japanese flag. One thing is universally true in the Land of the Rising Sun: martial arts are embedded in the culture. From the big shows at the Saitama Super Arena and Tokyo Dome to the Tuesday evening boxing and kickboxing events at the famous Korakuen Hall, the country has a long tradition of competing in combat arts. Shooto, a collection of events run under a collective commission and association, has been running MMA fights since 1989, four years before the UFC’s famous first event. Shooto, as well as other high-ranking Japanese promotions, has put forth a great history of mixed martial arts in Japan. With former champions from every major organization in Japan being represented at UFC Fight Night 75, fans around the globe will be treated to just part of what makes Japanese MMA so iconic. So, on Saturday afternoon, put down your home country’s flag and instead raise the Japanese flag to the sky. Fans need to show the UFC that the promotion needs to keep coming back to the island on the opposite side of the earth, where true mixed martial arts was born.
DeRose: A night out at the bar to watch UFC Japan unfold. While I’ll be trying to brush up on my Japanese that, admittedly, is pretty bad, take a night out at the bar to enjoy the event with some other fans who will watch an entertaining main card unfold on the other side of the planet. Something to drink, maybe some appetizers, and some MMA never hurt anybody.
|Fight||DeRose’s Pick||Aittama’s Pick|
|Main Card (Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET)|
|HW: Roy Nelson vs. Josh Barnett||Barnett||Barnett|
|MW: Uriah Hall vs. Gegard Mousasi||Mousasi||Mousasi|
|FlyW: Chico Camus vs. Kyoji Horiguchi||Horiguchi||Horiguchi|
|BW: Takeya Mizugaki vs. George Roop||Mizugaki||Mizugaki|
|BW: Matt Hobar vs. Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto||Yamamoto||Yamamoto|
|FW “Road to UFC: Japan” Final: Mizuto Hirota vs. Teruto Ishihara||Hirota||Hirota|
|Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 2, 8 p.m. ET)|
|FW: Diego Brandão vs. Katsunori Kikuno||Brandão||Brandão|
|WW: Li Jingliang vs. Keita Nakamura||Jianliang||Nakamura|
|LW: Nick Hein vs. Yusuke Kasuya||Hein||Hein|
|LW: Kajan Johnson vs. Naoyuki Kotani||Johnson||Johnson|
|Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 7:30 p.m. ET)|
|WW: Shinsho Anzai vs. Roger Zapata||Anzai||Anzai|