UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night: Barnett vs. Nelson, taking place Saturday, September 26
That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another Japanese edition of the Downes Side! While it may not be as beautiful as the cherry blossoms, it does have greater longevity.
Whether you’re a botanist or a pugilist, we have your Satruday night entertainment covered. Live from the Saitama Super Arena, we have a UFC Fight Night. In the main event, it’s heavyweights Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson battling to move up the rankings. In the co-main event, middleweights Uriah Hall and Gegard Mousasi promise to deliver what’s sure to be high level striking.
We begin in the featherweight division with Mizuto Hirota and Teruto Ishihara. Returning to the UFC after an unsuccessful 0-2 stint his first time around, Hirota has been fighting for over a decade. By contrast, the 24-year-old Ishihara doesn’t have as many miles on his body. Only going to a decision twice in his career, he has six career KOs.
As fight fans, we are all familiar with the irresistible force paradox. You know, the old phrase, “What happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object?” In this case, however, it’s like, “What happens when a capable force meets a hittable object? Hirota is good (but not great) everywhere. Ishihara has strong offensive capabilities, but lax defensive ones. Hirota uses experience and pacing to take this one by decision.
We remain at featherweight for Katsunori Kikuno and Diego Brandao. Kikuno has dropped two of his last three (both losses by first-round knockout) and desperately needs a win here. Winner of season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, Diego Brandao hasn’t lived up to his potential. Athletic and powerful, he’s finished 15 of his career opponents.
You never know what to expect from Diego Brandao. One minute you think he’ll be the next featherweight contender, the next he’s threatening to stab Dustin Poirier with a pen. Much like Ishihara in the previous fight, he has a lot of offensive firepower, but also lacks discipline. Despite that, I’m still picking him to win. The talent gap is too wide, and Kikuno won’t be able to keep DB at bay for three whole rounds. Brandao by first-round TKO.
Next, we drop to bantamweight for Takeya Mizugaki and George Roop. A mainstay since his impressive debut at WEC 40 back in April 2009, Mizugaki tries to rebound from two straight losses to Dominick Cruz and Aljamain Sterling. Competing for the first time in over a year, I always enjoyed cutting weight with George Roop. Why? Because the 6’1” 135 lb fighter always made me feel way more muscular. Don’t let the rangy frame fool you, though. Once he gets his timing down, he can start to do damage.
The smart money is on Mizugaki grinding out a decision. If I were the type of guy who wanted to be smart with my money, I wouldn’t have just bought a bunch of Volkswagen stock. Roop is a slow starter, but he should be able to find the mark enough with his hands to give Mizugaki trouble. Mizugaki will probably try to take the fight to the ground, but his above average wrestling offense should be cancelled out by Roop’s above average defense. Roop pulls the upset and wins by unanimous decision.
We move down one more division for a flyweight contest between Kyoji Horiguchi and Chico Camus. Returning to the Octagon for the first time since challenging for the title at UFC 186, Horiguchi packs tremendous power and has nine KOs to show for it. A kickboxer with tremendous scrambling ability, “King” Camus is coming off a close decision loss to Henry Cejudo.
Horiguchi has the clear advantage when it comes to striking power. With regards to overall striking ability, I give the edge to Camus. He works angles better and attacks at varying levels. Neither uses their wrestling as their main offensive weapon, so expect this fight to be a stand up contest. Camus does leave himself open to big shots, but his speed and volume should propel him to the upset victory via decision.
GEGARD MOUSASI VS. URIAH HALL
That brings us to the co-main event of the evening. With the news that Ronda Rousey plans on starring in a remake of the movie Roadhouse, I believe that Gegard Mousasi should star in a Kickboxer remake. Instead of a Belgian guy throwing spin kicks and dancing with women in a Thai bar, I think audiences would appreciate a Dutch guy who’s technically sound and reads Het Financieele Dagblad. I’m not sure what movie Uriah Hall should star in, but it would probably be one that people had a lot of hope for and let them down. So...Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Even though Mousasi is actually a year younger than Hall, he seems like the much older fighter. Hall has more dynamism in his attacks, and feels like the more dangerous fighter. Hall’s biggest problem is that he does not let loose enough. He waits away rounds and doesn’t attack. The same happens here. He won’t be able to find a way around Mousasi’s incredible 70.62% striking defense rate and winds up on the losing end of a judges’ decision.
JOSH BARNETT VS. ROY NELSON
Time for the main event! MMA’s favorite metalhead, Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett, fights for the first time since his KO loss to Travis Browne in December 2013. An accomplished wrestler, he has 18 career submission wins. A man who rocked the dad bod before it was the worst trend of the last year, Roy Nelson has dropped four of his last five. Everyone knows that he’s looking to land that right hand, but many have still fallen victim to it.
People love to throw out that Roy Nelson is an accomplished jiu-jitsu artist (and he is), but he’s become one-dimensional. Now, he does do a lot of different things to disguise his attack and strike from unorthodox angles, but he’s a boxer. Barnett may not be adept at working from distance, but he’s incredible inside the clinch. Nelson has only been finished twice in his career, and Barnett will make it three. He’ll wear out his opponent and finish an exhausted Big Country in the third round.
That wraps up another delightful Downes Side no matter what your age. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your praise, commendation and appreciation on the page here. Or leave the opposite of all that. That’s what usually happens.