MMA Review: #520: UFC Fight Night 75
-The UFC’s yearly excursion to Japan, this show had somewhat of a weaker card than the usual fare, especially given that even free-TV Japanese UFC shows had tended to be stacked in the past. Main event was the return to action of Josh Barnett following quite a while on the shelf, and he had quite the big challenge ahead of him in Roy Nelson, but the main attraction to me was definitely Uriah Hall vs. Gegard Mousasi.
UFC Fight Night 75
-Your hosts are Jon Anik and Kenny Florian.
This fight was set up by a pseudo-TUF series called ‘Road to Japan’, with a mix of veterans and prospects fighting to gain a shot in the UFC. Hirota – who had washed out of the UFC in 2013 – was the veteran here with Ishihara definitely the prospect, as Hirota’s been around for ten years now while Ishihara only started in 2011. I didn’t watch Road to Japan so knew nothing about Ishihara, but a look at his record suggested the veteran would probably have too much for him to handle. Ishihara at least looks like a star though with this wild hairdo like a 90’s nu-metal bass player.
Round One and Ishihara FAKES A GLOVE TOUCH and cracks Hirota with a body kick. Shitty sportsmanship for sure. Combo glances for Hirota and backs the youngster up, but Ishihara comes back with some wild strikes of his own. Pair of good counter lefts land for Ishihara and he follows with a couple of nice kicks. He seems much quicker than Hirota. Leg sweep puts Hirota on his back for a second but he pops right back up. Snapping jab from Ishihara. Winging left hands miss for both. Ishihara is really swinging some heavy shots. Combo backs him up though, ending in a sharp right hand. Ishihara fires right back and these guys are trading pretty wildly here. Takedown attempt is shrugged off easily by Hirota. Pair of hard left hands land for Ishihara and Hirota looks stunned for a second but recovers quickly. Clinch from Hirota and the action slows for a second before Ishihara breaks off. More good movement from Ishihara allows him to land a nasty left hand as Hirota comes forward. His counterpunching is pretty good. Left hand answers for Hirota though. Round ends with a left hand from Ishihara that snaps Hirota’s head back, and another SICK counter left that drops the veteran. Clearly that was Ishihara’s round.
Round Two and Ishihara opens with a low kick and then lands the left hand again to snap Hirota’s head back. Couple of jabs follow and Ishihara continues to use excellent movement to avoid Hirota’s offense. Beautiful counter left drops Hirota again but he pops right back up. More kicks lead to a right hand for Ishihara. He looks awesome so far. More snapping jabs lead to another clean counter left for Ishihara. Hirota keeps swinging but he can’t seem to find his range. More jabs from Ishihara and Hirota looks busted up and he gets wobbled by another left. He just keeps on walking into counters here. Finally though he does connect on a couple of right hands and one lands flush that stuns Ishihara for a second. Head kick follows but Ishihara recovers quickly. Good dirty boxing from Hirota but Ishihara escapes and nails him with the left again. Counter right then connects for Ishihara. Two minutes to go and a Hirota combo leads to the clinch. His right eye is badly swollen. Takedown attempt from Hirota and he gets it. Ishihara tries to escape to his feet and does so, doing a good job of escaping the clinch too. Spinning backfist misses for Ishihara. Nice right sets up a combo from Hirota and he looks for a takedown, but Ishihara blocks and takes him down for a second instead. Wild swings land for Hirota as he’s drawing Ishihara into a brawl now. Another good counter left lands for Ishihara though. Hirota comes back with a strong combo and then a VICOUS right hand. They TRADE OFF WILDLY and then clinch up, and that’s the round. Super-tight round to score but I’d lean slightly towards Ishihara again, 10-9.
Round Three and Hirota comes forward, but walks into a CRUSHING LEFT COUNTER and he goes down hard. Ishihara tries to capitalise but Hirota shows a tremendous chin and works back to his feet. Another left hook lands for Ishihara and another one rocks him badly again. He shoots on a single leg, but Ishihara stuffs it. Big combo from Hirota lands and now Ishihara’s on the run, but he fires back with another left. This is a great fight. Jumping knee to the body from Hirota sets up a clinch and then he breaks to land a nasty combo. Another one has Ishihara stunned and he has to clinch. Takedown attempt from Hirota but he can’t get Ishihara down and they break off. Another exchange sees both men land left hooks. Hirota is walking right through the counters now and Ishihara is looking tired. Takedown attempt from Hirota but Ishihara defends, but only initially and Hirota gets him down on a second go. He takes the back and lands some punches, but he can’t get hooks in. Big punches are landing for Hirota though with Ishihara crouched down. Ishihara slips free back to his feet, and with 1:30 to go it’s anyone’s fight. Another takedown attempt from Hirota is somehow stuffed, and they muscle for position inside the clinch before Hirota breaks. Nasty punches land for both men in another trade and they clinch again with seconds to go. Takedown attempt from Hirota but Ishihara works to defend it. Right breaks for Hirota and they trade wildly AGAIN until the fight ends. Awesome! 10-9 Hirota but I’d go 29-28 for Ishihara overall.
Judges actually have it a split draw, 29-28 Ishihara, 29-28 Hirota and 29-29 for the draw. Crowd totally die on that announcement but to be fair it was actually a good call as the second round was damn near impossible to split. Absolutely tremendous action from start to finish, however, so massive kudos to both guys as I wasn’t expecting anything going in. I’m pretty sure both guys have been given UFC contracts though in a Griffin/Bonnar-esque situation, which is definitely the right decision for me – Hirota is a solid veteran to add to the weight class while Ishihara might develop into something special if he hooks up with the right camp and works on his cardio and grappling some more.
Promoted to the main card when Kid Yamamoto fell off with another injury, this to me was a likely squash match – Brandao is a bit of a glass cannon but he hits insanely hard for 145lbs and Kikuno’s got possibly the worst striking defense in the division. I was expecting a brutal KO for Brandao but hey, I like Diego so it’s all good.
Round One and Kikuno comes out with his hands alarmingly low. Sure enough a BRUTAL OVERHAND RIGHT connects for Brandao and sends the Japanese fighter crashing down, and from there Brandao swarms with punches that land hard. Kikuno somehow comes back to his feet, but Diego tosses him right back down like a ragdoll and seals the deal with another flurry of nasty shots.
Fight went exactly how I expected – you can’t come out with your hands down against a guy like Diego Brandao, sorry, and Kikuno ALWAYS seems to come out with his hands down. Strong win for Brandao and while his lacking defense and cardio are probably still a problem, there are few better to watch at 145lbs in terms of offensive potential. Next up for him is Brian Ortega in a fight that promises fireworks. This was a sick knockout.
Both of these Bantamweights were coming off pretty testing times in their careers – Roop hadn’t fought since a knockout loss to Rob Font in July 2015 while Mizugaki had last been seen losing to Aljamain Sterling in April, his second loss in a row albeit to top competition. My pick was Mizugaki as I’ve never been high on Roop and especially at home I couldn’t see Mizugaki losing.
First round begins and Mizugaki presses forward and tags Roop with some quick punches in the early exchanges. Roop catches him with a couple of decent counters though and they clinch. Hard knee to the body from Mizugaki as they exchange from inside the clinch. Crowd are SILENT but as it’s Japan it’s cool. They break off and Mizugaki counters a kick with a solid left hook. Big body shot lands too and he follows with a right hand to the head. Roop throws out some kicks to try to use his range, but he’s letting Mizugaki get inside and land on him. Clinch from Roop and they muscle for position with both men trying to secure underhooks. Pair of knees break for Roop but he comes charging in and eats some heavy counters en route to another clinch. 1:30 to go and they break off, and again Mizugaki shows the quicker hands and clips Roop with counters coming in. Another clinch follows before Mizugaki separates with a knee from the plum. Seconds to go and they trade pretty wildly, with Roop walking through some flush punches to clinch again. Nice combo inside for Roop but Mizugaki stuns him with a heavy combo of his own and they trade to the end of the round. 10-9 Mizugaki.
Second round and Roop lands a groin kick that Mizugaki shrugs off. Counter right hook lands for Mizugaki and stuns Roop and he follows with another big right. Roop manages to clinch to slow the Japanese fighter down, but he’s not doing much at all from these clinches. They exchange inside and Roop manages to land some decent knees, then exits with an elbow. He gets tagged by another combo though and has to clinch again. Mizugaki really ought to find a way to avoid the clinch here. Another break sees Roop glance on a head kick before clinching AGAIN. Why break only to go back to the same position? Another break follows and again Mizugaki tags Roop with the harder, more accurate punches. A good leg kick lands for Roop though. More exchanges follow and Mizugaki’s hands look on point here. He’s landing the right hand over and over. Another clinch from Roop slows him down though and this time the ref has to demand action from them. Mizugaki manages to break and he lands another combo. Roop’s chin is holding up well though. Seconds to go and Mizugaki clips Roop with a hard counter left. Straight right follows and snaps Roop’s head back. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 Mizugaki again.
Third round and Mizugaki presses the action with some punches, before Roop clocks him with an uppercut and uses it to….you guessed it, get to the clinch. This gameplan is terrible in all honesty. Mizugaki escapes quickly and tags him with another combo ending in a straight right. Leg kick from Roop and he clinches yet again. Roop looks like he might be cut slightly over the left eye. Not much action from the clinch until Roop flurries a bit and then hits a takedown. Mizugaki pops right back up though to some polite applause from the crowd .Good right hands connect for both men and Mizugaki blocks a takedown attempt. Just over two minutes to go and Mizugaki breaks with a combo. Flying knee attempt from Mizugaki is avoided and Roop clinches again. Roop’s corner tell him he’s winning the round which he isn’t. Left hand separates for Mizugaki. He cracks Roop with a right hook and then goes for a takedown of his own, but Roop blocks and we’re back to the clinch. Ken-Flo sounds bored as hell on commentary. Crowd actually start to BOO which is wild in Japan. Mizugaki separates with a hard knee but Roop clinches AGAIN. Seconds to go and they break off, and Mizugaki ends the fight with some decent punches. 10-9 Mizugaki for a 30-27 I’d say.
Judges all have it for Mizugaki, 29-28 all round. Fight was awful for the most part though as while Mizugaki landed some great combinations, he couldn’t stop Roop from getting inside and clinching and while Roop was capable of doing that he didn’t do much else to be honest and never actually got anywhere with all that clinching. Post-fight Mizugaki breaks down in tears, saying he considered retirement after losing to Dominick Cruz but is glad he didn’t. At least that gets him some cheers after such a bad fight.
This one was set up as basically a bounce-back match for Horiguchi – one of the best prospects in the division who had pretty much taken one step too far in his title challenge against Demetrious Johnson and been outclassed. Camus looked like a much more favourable match though – who isn’t in comparison to Johnson? – and I expected Horiguchi to win handily.
Round One and Horiguchi bounces around on the outside before landing a body kick. Good right hands land for both men in a brief exchange before Horiguchi goes to the body again. Combo glances for Camus. Nice right hook connects for Horiguchi but Camus fires back with one of his own. Clinch from Camus but Horiguchi breaks with a knee. Nice counter right from Horiguchi. Takedown attempt follows but Camus stuffs it. Quick combination lands for Horiguchi. He misses on a spin kick though and Camus shoots and gets a rear waistlock. Horiguchi prevents the takedown though and breaks off despite taking a knee. Beautiful body kick from Horiguchi. Camus clinches again and muscles him into the fence, but again they break quickly. Lunging left from Horiguchi but Camus catches him with a clean counter right. Another right also lands for him. Clean left hook connects for Horiguchi. Couple of kicks glance for him and he avoids a combo from Camus. Takedown attempt is blocked by Camus but he eats a knee for his efforts. Another good right hand lands for Camus as he catches the Japanese fighter trying to dance out of the way. Another solid body kick answers for Horiguchi. Lunging knee misses for Horiguchi as does a combo and that’s the round. Close round but 10-9 Horiguchi.
Round Two and they trade punches from the off and Horiguchi wobbles Camus with a hard right hand! Camus is wobbled and Horiguchi swarms on him and then tries to leap onto his back in a pretty wild move, but Camus shakes him off. Camus has a big cut under his right eye. Horiguchi chases him down with some strikes, but doesn’t land cleanly. Nice counterpunches stun Camus again but his chin holds up well. Awesome combination lands for Horiguchi and he seems uber-confident, potshotting at Camus from the outside. Left from Camus sends Horiguchi down for a split-second but it was clearly a slip and he’s right back up. Couple of stiff jabs land for the Japanese star. Camus is staying in the pocket and firing back but he’s being beaten to the punch here. Beautiful left uppercut connects for Horiguchi. Camus’s eye looks in bad shape. Flying knee lands for Horiguchi and the Japanese crowd love that one. Left lands for Camus in an exchange but Horiguchi seems fine. Couple of deep breaths from Horiguchi before they trade again. This has been a torrid pace to be fair. Seconds to go and Camus gets wobbled by a left hand again. 10-9 Horiguchi.
Round Three and both men come out swinging and again Horiguchi tags Camus with the better punches, before clinching and forcing him into the fence. Camus does well to break off but again he gets the worst of the striking exchange, eating a glancing left head kick. Nice one-two catches Camus and he visibly checks the injured right eye. Another sweet counterpunch lands for Horiguchi as he continues to potshot Camus while dancing around him. Single leg attempt by Horiguchi is stuffed but he lands a leg kick. Horiguchi is looking a bit marked up himself now actually. Single leg is easily shrugged off by the Japanese fighter. Right hand sets up a bodylock for Horiguchi and he transitions to a rear waistlock and looks to take him down, but Camus blocks well. Two minutes to go and it doesn’t look like Camus is capable of changing this around really. Clean left counter does land for him but he can’t seem to hurt Horiguchi with these shots. Camus tries to push forward some more but he takes a couple more counters. Head kick glances for Horiguchi. Big one-two hurts Camus again with seconds to go and Horiguchi swarms on him again, but Camus fires back and the fight ends in exciting fashion. I’d call it a clean sweep for Horiguchi.
Sure enough the judges have it 30-27 all round for Kyoji Horiguchi. This was a decent fight with some really exciting parts, but it did get a little frustrating to watch at times too as while he had Camus hurt a few times, Horiguchi never really came close to a finish. Miles better than the previous fight, however!
Initially this would’ve seen Mousasi – going back to his old stomping ground where he won the DREAM title back in 2008 – facing off with resurgent Brazilian Roan Carneiro, but when Carneiro withdrew, in stepped TUF’s striking beast Hall, giving us a rare upgrade from the original fight. While some were worried about a possible staring contest erupting here I was hoping for fireworks and I was taking Mousasi to win.
And it’s a CLASSIC ENTRANCE from Hall as he walks out to Stan Bush’s Fight To Survive from the fucking Bloodsport soundtrack of all things. You cannot get any more awesome than that.
First round begins and Mousasi stalks forward before catching a low kick and taking Hall down. Hall attempts to scramble but Mousasi keeps him down and lands a quick flurry of punches from the guard. Crowd are massively into Mousasi moreso than anyone else on the card thus far. He stacks Uriah up and lands some really good shots before passing into half-guard. Side mount follows for Mousasi. Looks like he’s trying to set up a mounted crucifix but Hall avoids and manages to scramble back to guard, taking some more punches along the way. Another pass to half-guard follows and Mousasi begins to look for an arm triangle choke. Uriah defends it, but he’s being dominated on the ground here. Full mount now for Mousasi but Hall hip escapes and goes for a footlock. Mousasi stands to avoid that quite easily and drops a decent right hand before going back into top position. He looks to take the back as Hall continues to go for the footlock, but instead Hall goes to his back and Mousasi settles on top again, this time in half-guard. Kimura attempt from Hall though and he actually has it locked up! He switches off to an armbar as Mousasi defends, but he can’t quite extend the arm and Mousasi works free and looks to mount. Hall gives his back and he might be in trouble. He takes some hard shots before Mousasi switches to a body triangle, and it looks like he’s got the choke sunk, but Hall manages to last it out until the round ends. Pretty one sided round; 10-9 Mousasi.
Second round and Hall opens with a jab and then WOBBLES MOUSASI WITH A JUMPING SPIN KICK!~! Crowd EXPLODE as Mousasi stumbles back and Hall DECKS HIM WITH A FLYING KNEE! Somehow Mousasi tries to recover, but he takes a TON of shots on the ground to seal the deal. Holy fucking shit.
Replay shows Mousasi practically lunged right into the spinning kick and the fight was basically over from there as he just couldn’t recover, despite never being knocked out before. Absolutely spectacular finish – one of the most spectacular in UFC history in fact. Whether it means Hall makes a run at the elite level now I don’t know (I wouldn’t hold the Robert Whittaker loss against him too much as I think Whittaker is probably top ten right now) but wow, hopefully in the very least he can channel that side of his fighting style more than the passive one he’s used in some previous fights. This was tremendous, no other way of putting it. One of the best if not *the* best finish of 2015.
These two had been the coaches for the Road to Japan series but outside of that it was just a random solid HW fight to put together for the main event of this show. Obviously Barnett’s got more history in Japan – his PRIDE run and all his pro-wrestling background – while Nelson’s last excursion to the Land of the Rising Sun had seen him knocked out by Mark Hunt. Stakes were pretty high too – while neither man was in danger of being cut or anything, Nelson needed to win to preserve himself as more than a gatekeeper at HW after losing four of his last five, while Barnett needed to prove his relevance after a long period of almost two years on the shelf. My pick – assuming he hadn’t gone way past his sell-by-date suddenly – was Barnett.
Round One and Barnett looks to use his jab, pushing forward and ducking the haymaker right from Big Country. Nice left head kick lands for Barnett and Nelson looks for a single leg and manages to get it, popping the crowd huge as he lands in half-guard. Action slows a bit as Nelson looks to advance position without doing much ground-and-pound, while Barnett seems content to possibly stall for a restart. Ref finally calls the stand-up and Barnett wades in with a left knee and backs Nelson into the fence. Plum clinch from Barnett and he lands some more knees, but takes some wild punches inside. He breaks with a body shot and follows in with a left hook and another hard knee, and now he’s got Nelson against the fence in the plum. Nelson escapes but he can’t get Josh down, and a hard body kick from Barnett leads to a nice uppercut. Barnett’s clinch looks fantastic here. More knees and uppercuts land for him before he defends another attempted takedown. Nelson keeps working and manages to get the takedown with about 40 seconds to go, but Barnett ties him up again in the half-guard. Roy looks to pass the guard, but he can’t quite manage it and the round ends there. 10-9 Barnett as despite the two takedowns, Nelson did no damage while he took some nasty shots standing.
Round Two and Big Country comes out swinging, glancing with the right haymaker but Barnett seems to absorb it well. A big combination follows though and has Barnett backing up a lot. Low kick lands for Barnett but he takes a pair of uppercuts from close range. Couple of right jabs from Barnett set up a nice combo from him. Big knee lands as Nelson steps forward right into it. HUGE right hand lands for Nelson but somehow Barnett eats it up and fires back! They trade off to a MASSIVE CROWD POP and a big right from Barnett has Nelson hurt! He looks to follow up, but Nelson shoots for a takedown and forces him to sprawl back. Big knee from Barnett sets up the clinch and he works Roy over from there before Nelson tries to get him down again. Barnett defends and continues to go to work from the clinch. This is a torrid pace for two big guys to be putting on, too. Looks like Barnett’s cut around his mouth. Hard knee lands for Nelson from the clinch. Barnett soon returns the favour with one of his own. You can hear these guys breathing really heavily already. Exchange from the clinch continues and Barnett’s getting the better of it. Just under a minute to go and they break, and NELSON LANDS A BIG HEAD KICK! Holy shit I did not expect to see that! Barnett comes right back though with a big combo and backs Nelson up. This is a hell of a fight. They exchange back to the clinch where Barnett lands the better shots again to close the round out. 10-9 Barnett again.
Round Three and the crowd are massively into this fight. Big uppercut lands for Barnett in the early seconds and he backs Nelson into the fence with a left to the body and a knee. Clinch from Nelson and he forces Barnett into the fence. Knees to the legs land for Nelson but the action has slowed down quite a bit here. Ref calls a break and Barnett fires off a combo ending with another knee before Nelson clinches to slow him down. Big knee to the gut from Barnett as Nelson desperately looks to get him to the ground. Great defense from Barnett allows him to avoid though and they separate. Combo from Barnett leads to another clinch and he snaps Roy’s head back with an uppercut. Break follows and both men look tired now but they’re still swinging leather. Another head kick glances for Nelson and then he shoots on a single leg. Barnett defends, but Nelson keeps on trying and eventually forces the Warmaster back into the fence. Action again slows down before Nelson somehow lifts Barnett up, but Josh blocks before he gets slammed. Ref calls a break with seconds to go and Barnett smashes him with a huge body kick and a knee to end the round. 10-9 Barnett. Nelson is exhausted here.
Round Four and Barnett opens with a head kick. A body kick is caught but Nelson can’t do anything with it. Barnett backs him up with a combination that leads to the clinch again. Nice elbow lands inside for the Warmaster this time. He lands with a pair of really harsh knees and a right hand, but Nelson looks for another single leg and gets it this time. Barnett instantly reverses though and pops back up to his feet. You can literally hear both guys gasping for air here. Brutal elbow lands from the clinch for Barnett. Knee to the body follows. It’s a given but Nelson is tougher than old leather. Barnett OPENS UP though and Nelson’s getting hammered. Somehow he takes it all and fires back. Pair of huge elbows land for Barnett. It must be said that these two giant guys have done more in the clinch than Mizugaki or Roop did earlier. Elbow into a backfist (!) break for Nelson and he follows with a single leg! Barnett responds though by rolling for a heel hook, only for Roy to escape *that* and take the back! He can’t get hooks in though and Josh stands and tries to go for a kimura, Sakuraba-style, before giving it up. Takedown attempt again from Nelson but he can’t get Barnett down this time and the ref calls a break with one minute to go. Wild swings miss for Roy. Beautiful combination ends with a knee for Barnett and he forces Nelson into the cage. Round ends in the clinch and Nelson’s gonna need a fifth round knockout because I have Barnett up 40-36 going into the final round.
Round Five and Barnett pumps out some jabs and then lands a spinning back kick to the gut. Body kick fires back for Nelson but he eats a heavy uppercut that allows Barnett to force him into the fence. Pace finally slows a bit in this clinch which is understandable. Barnett begins to work Nelson over again with more uppercuts, elbows and knees, and while Roy tries to fire back he’s clearly out of steam. Nelson switches him around to look for the takedown again, and after some hard work he manages to dump Barnett onto the ground. Barnett looks to roll for a kimura on the right arm, but Nelson shows good posture to avoid. It allows Barnett back up to his feet though and he bulls right back into the clinch. Just over a minute to go now and a heavy uppercut snaps Nelson’s head back. Nelson goes for the takedown again but Barnett defends and controls the clinch again, before the ref calls a break. Right to the body and another to the head from Nelson but Barnett takes them and comes back with a body kick. Combo from Barnett and then Nelson ends the round with the right haymaker. 10-9 Barnett and I’d call it 50-45 for him overall.
Official scores are 48-47, 48-47 and 50-45 for Josh Barnett. Didn’t think it was as close as a 48-47 but it doesn’t matter really. This was a hell of a fight as it goes, as both guys came in and worked really hard, pushing a torrid pace from start to finish and staying super-active in the clinch throughout. The difference was basically Barnett’s superior clinch work as his use of the plum was excellent and he landed by far the heavier shots with his knees, elbows, uppercuts and body shots, but Nelson didn’t look bad or anything – his gas tank held up for five rounds for the most part and he landed some heavy blows of his own as well as showing off that sick chin. Judging on this I’d say Barnett is still very relevant to the division – when you remember that he sparked out Frank Mir a couple of years back and Mir’s a title contender, I think with a more consistent schedule, Barnett is a contender too for sure. And for the record he’ll beat Ben Rothwell and make it look easy I think. As for Nelson, he’s a very high-end gatekeeper these days but there’s nothing wrong with that – give him a lower-ranked opponent and to see him land that haymaker right again wouldn’t surprise me at all. But yeah, bravo to both guys as they put on a hell of a show here.
-Show ends with Barnett putting over the Japanese fans, pro-wrestling and Nelson himself. Really classy stuff.
I remembered this as being a pretty shitty show but on a rewatch it wasn’t that bad at all – the bookends of Ishihara/Hirota and Barnett/Nelson were great fights and we also got a pair of highlight reel knockouts for Diego Brandao and of course Uriah Hall. Mizugaki/Roop sucked and Horiguchi/Camus wasn’t great either which means it’s not one of the best Fight Nights of 2015, but really you have to check out that Hall knockout and you may as well have a look at the opening and closing fights too. Mild recommendation for this one.
Best Fight: Ishihara vs. Hirota
Worst Fight: Mizugaki vs. Roop
Overall Rating: ***
Until next time,