The former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder leaned on a punishing clinch across five grueling rounds, as he claimed a unanimous decision over Roy Nelson in the UFC Fight Night “Barnett vs. Nelson” headliner on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Scores were 48-47, 48-47 and 50-45, all for Barnett (34-7, 6-2 UFC), who had not fought in Japan in more than five years.
“The Warmaster” zeroed in on Nelson’s midsection with kicks, punches and knees before moving into the clinch. There, he chewed up “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner with everything in his arsenal, from uppercuts, hooks to the body and foot stomps to damaging knees and standing elbows. Nelson (20-12, 7-8 UFC) absorbed it all and kept on fighting, his granite chin coming through for him yet again.
Barnett controlled vast stretches of the 25-minute match, but it was not a wipeout. Nelson delivered a surprising head kick in the second round and struck for takedowns in the first, fourth and fifth rounds. However, his inability to consolidate them with either meaningful ground-and-pound or aggressive submission attempts proved costly. Barnett returned to his feet each time and picked up where he left off, methodically draining the reserves from Nelson’s already-suspect gas tank.
Replacement Hall Upsets Mousasi
Former Ring of Combat champion Uriah Hall put away Gegard Mousasi with a jumping spinning back kick to the face, a flying knee and follow-up punches in the second round of their middleweight co-main event. A replacement for the injured Roan Carneiro, Hall (12-5, 5-3 UFC) brought it to a rousing close 25 seconds into round two, the shock value off the charts.
Mousasi (37-6-2, 4-3 UFC) roared out of the gates in the first round. He executed a takedown inside 15 seconds, applied his ground-and-pound, achieved full mount twice and ultimately forced Hall to yield his back before hunting the rear-naked choke. No one could have foreseen what was ahead. At the start of round two, Hall drilled the onetime Strikeforce and Dream titleholder with a jumping spinning back kick and flying knee, both of which landed flush. Mousasi collapsed, dazed, confused and unable to sufficiently defend himself. A series of follow-up punches necessitated the stoppage.
It marked the first time in Mousasi’s 45-fight career that he had been finished by strikes.
Horiguchi Rebounds to Dominate Camus
Kyoji Horiguchi returned to form five months after his failed bid to unseat flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, as he took a one-sided unanimous decision from Roufusport’s Chico Camus. Horiguchi (16-2, 5-1 UFC) carried all three scorecards by a 30-27 count, winning for the 10th time in 11 outings.
Camus (14-7, 3-4 UFC) lacked the wherewithal to deal with the Krazy Bee rep’s output and variety. Horiguchi darted in and out with punches, countered beautifully and kept the Milwaukee native honest with kicks to the body and the occasional flying knee, all while utilizing sublime head movement. He rattled Camus with a right hook and follow-up flurry in the second round, but when it became clear a finish was not in the cards, the 24-year-old resumed his assault from the outside.
The situation for Camus only deteriorated as the fight deepened. Horiguchi set him on rubbery legs with a two-punch combination in the waning moments, and though the Duke Roufus protégé managed to survive, the decision had long been lost.
Mizugaki Outlasts Roop, Halts Skid
World Extreme Cagefighting veteran Takeya Mizugaki threw the brakes on a two-fight losing streak with a unanimous verdict over George Roop in a featured battle at 135 pounds. All three cageside judges arrived at the same conclusion: 29-28 for Mizugaki (21-9-2, 8-4 UFC), who afterward was overcome by his emotions.
Roop (15-12-1, 5-8 UFC) did not make it easy. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 semifinalist uncorked a fair share of leg kicks and fought well in tight spaces, often interrupting Mizugaki’s advances with a seemingly endless maze of clinches. Mizugaki punched in combination and countered on occasion, doing just enough to squeak by on the scorecards.
A former two-division Rage in the Cage champion, Roop has lost three of his past four fights.
Brandao Blows Away Kikuno
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner Diego Brandao disposed of Katsunori Kikuno with first-round punches in a featherweight showcase. Kikuno (22-8-2, 2-3 UFC) met his end 28 seconds into round one, as he lost for the third time in four appearances.
Brandao (24-10, 6-3 UFC) showed no regard for the Japanese karateka’s skills. The Brazilian dropped Kikuno with an overhand right during their initial exchange and swarmed with punches on the ground. Kikuno briefly returned to his feet before being tossed back to the ground. Brandao then blitzed him with right hands, prompting referee Steve Perceval to act.
The 28-year-old Brandao has won five of his last seven bouts.
Hirota, Ishihara Battle to Draw
Former Deep titleholder Mizuto Hirota and Shooto veteran Teruto Ishihara fought to a split draw in the “Road to UFC: Japan” featherweight final. Two of the cageside judges scored it 29-28, one for Hirota, the other for Ishihara. The third judge saw it 29-29.
It appeared as though Ishihara (7-2-2, 0-0-1 UFC) was going to make it a runaway in the first round, as he kicked effectively to the body, head and legs, connected with repeated jabs and sat down his opponent with a searing left hook in the closing seconds. Hirota (17-7-1, 0-2-1 UFC) weathered his attack and waited for fatigue to force him to downshift. The 34-year-old pressured Ishihara with multi-punch volleys over the final two rounds, executed a takedown in the third and lured “Yashabo” into the clinch whenever he left an opening. However, it was not enough to nail down the victory, as the draw snapped Hirota’s three-fight winning streak.
Nakamura Choke Stuns Li
Former Sengoku and Shooto Pacific Rim champion Keita Nakamura rendered Jingliang Li unconscious with a third-round rear-naked choke in an undercard affair at 170 pounds. Nakamura (31-6-2, 1-3 UFC) finished it 2:17 into round three, posting his fifth consecutive victory.
Li (10-4, 2-2 UFC) recovered from a rough first round to shine in the second. There, the China Top Team export battered Nakumura with body-head combinations, hammered away with a stabbing jab, drove him to the mat with a left hand over the top and let loose with ground-and-pound. The assault resulted in a bloody nose for Nakamura and left him to move forward in a diminished capacity.
Appearing to pull away, Li sprawled out of a takedown in the third round but met with a false sense of security. Nakamura scrambled to his back and cinched the standing rear-naked choke in a blink. Li went limp while still on his feet, collapsing face first to the canvas.
Hein Spoils Kasuya Debut
German judoka Nick Hein spoiled the promotional debut of Yusuke Kasuya, as he captured a unanimous decision over the Shooto veteran in a preliminary lightweight tilt. All three cageside judges scored it for Hein (13-2, 3-1 UFC): 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Kasuya (9-2-2, 0-1 UFC) enjoyed some early success, but a knee below the belt stalled his momentum and curbed much of his enthusiasm. Hein circled and countered from there, negating the 25-year-old newcomer’s speed advantage. The judo black belt punched in combination and zeroed in on Kasuya’s legs with punishing kicks. Kasuya delivered a takedown in the third round, only to be swept, as Hein escaped to his feet and steered clear of danger.
The defeat halted a four-fight unbeaten streak for Kasuya.
Tristar’s Johnson Handles Kotani
Superior footwork paired with damaging combinations carried Tristar Gym’s Kajan Johnson to a unanimous decision over Pride Fighting Championships alum Naoyuki Kotani in a three-round undercard battle at 155 pounds. Johnson (21-11-1, 2-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 marks from the cageside judges.
Kotani (33-13-7, 0-5 UFC) had nothing to offer in the standup, and his Canadian counterpart exploited his advantage. Johnson wobbled him with a clean right hook in the first round and then savaged him in the second. He floored Kotani with a right cross and later with a crushing knee to the body. In the spaces in between, he tore into him with ground-and-pound: Standing-to-ground punches, hammerfists and elbows all landed. Somehow, Kotani survived.
The Japanese journeyman rebounded to do his best work in round three, where he executed a takedown and made a pass at a heel hook. However, the finish Kotani needed never materialized, and he remained winless in five appearances inside the Octagon.
Injury Gives Anzai First Octagon Victory
A finger injury suffered by “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 19 semifinalist Roger Zapata gave Pancrase champion Shinsho Anzai his seventh win in eight appearances in a preliminary welterweight clash. Referee Neil Swailes called for the stoppage 47 seconds into round three.
Anzai (9-2, 1-1 UFC) applied ridiculous pressure with clinches and takedowns, frustrating the standup-minded Dominican. The 29-year-old struck for takedowns in each of the first two rounds and corralled Zapata on the canvas. Less than a minute into the third, Zapata (4-2, 0-1 UFC) connected with a left hand and immediately turned away in pain. Soon after, he was deemed unfit to continue.