The bulk of the UFC’s booking work is done for the remainder of the year, and with a slow October looming before the year ends on a massive high note, there wasn’t much news over the weekend. That meant that the focus of the weekend were actual fights. While the UFC’s latest offering for the Japanese crowd wasn’t the most hotly anticipated event, it ended up producing some great fireworks. The main event of UFC Fight Night 75 delivered in rare fashion for a heavyweight bout (especially one featuring Roy Nelson), as the pace of the fight didn’t slow to a crawl after the first round. Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson put on a competitive bout through five rounds, although Barnett was the clear victor for the majority of the fight. Nelson landed some good shots and had more success in the wrestling than most anticipated, but Barnett was the superior overall fighter, using his diverse striking to batter Nelson at range and in the clinch en route to the decision victory.
The co-main event produced the most memorable moment of the card — and perhaps even year — as Uriah Hall nearly duplicated the spinning back kick that gained him so much acclaim on The Ultimate Fighter. Gegard Mousasi didn’t go down quite like Adam Cella from the initial kick, but that only allowed Hall to follow up with a beautiful flying knee before he ended it all. Aside from Mousasi being a top 10 fighter and the biggest win of Hall’s career, this knockout was made even more impressive by the fact that Hall was dominated in the first round before coming back to score the finish.
Likely the fighter with the biggest upside from the Japan card was the country’s own Kyoji Horiguchi. While it seems strange to say that about a fighter who has already competed for a UFC title, Horiguchi has shown massive improvements in each of his appearances in the Octagon, and his clean sweep of Chico Camus was no exception. While the stats only show Horiguchi outlanding Camus by 15 strikes across the 15 minutes, watching live it seemed far more lopsided than that. Camus was rarely able to react to Horiguchi’s quick attacks before it was too late, and he was stung on a couple of occasions by the Japanese karateka. It was a good first step for Horiguchi to work his way back to a second crack at the flyweight belt. Diego Brandao was another impressive performer on the UFC Japan card, as he needed just 28 seconds to dispatch Katsunori Kikuno. It was another case where Brandao was able to come out in a fight calm and confident, which is the worst case scenario. Marching forward early, it didn’t take long for the Brazilian to land on Kikuno’s stationary chin and then swarm for one of many visceral finishes on the night.
The one lull on the main card came in the form of Takeya Mizugaki’s decision win over George Roop, although Mizugaki did his best to keep the fight entertaining. Roop insisted on getting into the clinch as much as possible throughout the fight, although he was unable to get any offense going once there. At range, Mizugaki was the cleaner boxer, and likely would have scored a TKO if he possessed a bit more power in his hands. After a fairly dull undercard (Nakamura/Li aside), Mizuto Hirota and Teruto Ishihara woke the crowd back up with their ‘Road to UFC Japan’ tournament final. While the bout ended a draw, the stock of both men took a definite uptick after watching them go toe-to-toe for 15 minutes. Ishihara shows some definite promise moving forward if he can improve his cardio, and Hirota has always been a solid veteran who just hasn’t been able to break through at the highest level. Both men earned presumably the same “six-figure contract” that Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar did at TUF 1, which is essentially just the entry-level UFC contract these days, and while the fight didn’t have the same impact, at least they put on a good show.