Guess what the UFC’s return to Japan and I have in common? We’re both sick! Anyways, the UFC returns to Japan after almost three years, and does so by putting forth one of the most revered MMA fighters to ever fight in Japan, Josh Barnett. He’s fighting for the first time since a brutal tko loss to Travis Browne back at UFC 168 in December 2013, and will do so against knockout machine Roy Nelson.
Also on the card will be former Pride fighter and longtime Strikeforce veteran Gegard Mousasi, Two of the best Japanese fighters remaining in the UFC in Takeya Mizugaki and Kyoji Horiguchi, the return of former DEEP Lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota, and a Featherweight bout between smash mouth brawlers Katsunori Kikuno and Diego Brandao that might wind up being a fight of the night candidate.
Here are my picks for tonight’s main card.
Main card (10/9c FS1)
Mizuto Hirota will win the “Road to Japan” final. I can’t remember his opponent’s name, but I do know that he’s a finisher. The former UFC fighter should definitely win this one. Prediction: Hirota by whatever he wants.
Katsunori Kikuno vs. Diego Brandao
This fight will be a guaranteed finish. Both fighters have a “kill or be killed” style, so anything can happen. Unfortunately, Brandao has a bad habit of gassing out early in bouts, so if Kikuno can avoid the early barrage, this fights hould be his. Prediction: Kikuno via tko, round 2.
Takeya Mizugaki vs. George Roop.
Mizugaki is a high-end gatekeeper who tends to always go to decision, while Roop should have been cut after losing to Rob Font. This one’s as easy a pick as it gets. Prediction: Mizugaki via decision.
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Chico Camus
Up next, the last Japanese fighter to fight for a UFC title returns to the octagon, this time in his home country. Camus is a game fighter though, so I think he can take this to the distance. However, for some reason, I believe Horiguchi will be able to handle the pressure, and unleash everything upon Camus, en route to a finish. Prediction: Horiguchi via tko, round 2.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Uriah Hall
The co-main event of the evening is a fight that could be entertaining. But, that’s only if you’re a Mousasi fan, or if Hall unleashes in a manner which he hasn’t since being a TUF 17 castmember almost three years. If he fights like that, he has a chance. However, I don’t see it happening. Instead, I see him disappointing, yet again, as Mousasi either coasts to a decision, or wins via finish. For the sake of sanity, I’ll go with the latter. Prediction: Mousasi via tko, round 2.
Roy Nelson vs. Josh Barnett
In the main event of the evening, the Japanese fans will get to see a man who made a mark in their country return after years. That man is Josh Barnett, a longtime MMA fighter, Jiu-Jitsu specialist and wrestler who hasn’t fought in MMA since a tough knockout loss at the hands of Travis Browne at UFC 168 almost two years ago.
His opponent is a tough one, albeit somewhat predictable. Roy Nelson is a tough fighter, with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and a lot of heart, all to go with his elite knockout power. However, nowadays he’s all about the knockout. Can he finish Barnett? Absolutely. Do I see it happening, in what may as well be Barnett’s hometown? Sadly, I don’t. It should be a fun fight though. Prediction: Barnett via submission, round 3.