Matches to Make After UFC Fight Night ‘Barnett vs. Nelson’

By Brian Knapp Sep 27, 2015
When Josh Barnett settles into his comfort zone, few can stop the snowball that follows.

The former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder returned from a two-year absence to take a unanimous decision from Roy Nelson in the UFC Fight Night “Barnett vs. Nelson” main event on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Barnett, 37, swept the scorecards with 48-47, 48-47 and 50-45 marks, registering his first win since he put away Frank Mir with a knee strike at UFC 164 on Aug. 31, 2013.

According to preliminary FightMetric data, Barnett outdistanced Nelson by a wide margin in both significant strikes (146-60) and total strikes (215-92). He landed a staggering 95 of his 146 significant strikes in the clinch, where he tenderized Nelson’s body with a steady stream of knees and punches. “Big Country” tried to counteract his disadvantages with takedowns -- he secured four of them -- but could not effectively navigate the Barnett guard once it hit the floor. Those four takedowns amounted to three significant strikes on the ground and a pair of guard passes for Nelson. They did not net him a single submission attempt.

Barnett’s return adds some quality depth to a division that desperately needs it. While his best days are likely behind him, “The Warmaster” owns an 11-2 record across his last 13 appearances, having lost only to Daniel Cormier and Travis Browne.

In wake of UFC Fight Night “Barnett vs. Nelson,” here are six matches that ought to be considered:

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Josh Barnett vs. Mark Hunt-Antonio Silva winner: Even as he approaches his 38th birthday, Barnett still has what it takes to remain a factor in the heavyweight division; and the recent career renaissances of Hunt, Andre Arlovski and even former rival Mirko Filipovic -- “Cro Cop” has quietly rattled off three straight wins -- should only embolden him. Hunt and Silva will duke it out in a long-awaited rematch at UFC 193 on Nov. 15 in Melbourne, Australia. Barnett submitted Hunt with a kimura under the Pride Fighting Championships banner in 2006.

Uriah Hall vs. Lyoto Machida: MMA observers had long wondered whether or not Hall’s overwhelming physical skills would result in the kind of stardom many had once forecast. Perhaps the day is near. Hall filled in for the injured Roan Carneiro on short notice and scored a shocking upset on Gegard Mousasi in the co-main event. The former Ring of Combat champion withstood a harsh first round and wiped out Mousasi with a spinning back kick to the face, a flying knee and follow-up punches in the second. With that, the 31-year-old became the first man to stop Mousasi with strikes in his 45-fight career. Machida last fought at a UFC Fight Night event in June, when he was on the receiving end of a savage elbow-laced knockout from Yoel Romero.

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Joseph Benavidez-Ali Bagautinov winner: A submission loss to 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson notwithstanding, Horiguchi remains one of the sport’s premier flyweights; and at just 24 years of age, the Norifumi Yamamoto protégé has plenty of time and room to grow. Horiguchi took care of business against the criminally underrated Chico Camus, as he cruised to a three-round unanimous decision against the Roufusport representative. The Japanese karateka has now won 10 of his last 11 bouts and showed no residual effects from his failed encounter with Johnson. Benavidez and Bagautinov will collide at UFC 192 on Oct. 3 in Houston.

Takeya Mizugaki vs. Thomas Almeida-Anthony Birchak winner: One can only marvel at Mizugaki’s consistency and resilience. The 31-year-old rebounded from back-to-back losses to Dominick Cruz and Aljamain Sterling to score a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 semifinalist George Roop. Mizugaki fired off powerful punching combinations and weathered Roop in the clinch to elicit 29-28 scores from all three judges. In a career that stretches back more than a decade, he still has never lost three fights in a row. The heralded Almeida will put his perfect 19-0 record on the line against Birchak at UFC Fight Night “Belfort vs. Henderson 3” on Nov. 7 in Brazil.

Diego Brandao vs. Doo Ho Choi-Sam Sicilia winner: Brandao could not have drawn up a more favorable opponent than Katsunori Kikuno. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner made Kikuno pay for carrying his chin high and his hands low, as he disposed of the former Deep champion with punches in a cool 28 seconds. It was the quickest finish of Brandao’s 30-fight career, surpassing his 30-second knockout against Michael Casteel in October 2010. While viewed as a disappointment by some, “DB” has compiled a 7-3 mark since arriving in the UFC a little less than four years ago. Choi will face Sicilia at UFC Fight Night “Henderson vs. Alves” on Nov. 28 in South Korea.

Roy Nelson vs. Shawn Jordan-Ruslan Magomedov winner: Nelson’s days in the UFC may be numbered, as he has lost three fights in a row and five of his last six. During his current skid, “Big Country” has absorbed 240 significant strikes from Barnett, Hunt and Alistair Overeem. At 39, the former International Fight League champion is clearly trending in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, Nelson carries a certain mystique -- the unruly hair, the trucker’s beard, the iron chin, the massive gut, the daisy cutter of a right hand -- and benefits from competing in a division largely devoid of young talent. Jordan and Magomedov will lock horns at UFC 192 on Oct. 3.
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