Sunday’s UFC Fight Night at Saitama Super Arena saw the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) sport return to one of its true spiritual homes in what was a full day of action, an historic performance by two heavyweight veterans and a step towards bringing the UFC back its glory days in Japan.
In five hard-fought rounds in the heavyweight main event, Josh Barnett was triumphant against Roy Nelson in a unanimous decision (50-45, 48-47, 48-47). Both fighters left absolutely nothing in the tank in a grueling battle that saw Nelson put in a valiant effort but ultimately failing to capitalize on opportunities to take Barnett to the ground and focus on his preferred jiujitsu techniques. It was Barnett’s first fight in nearly two years (his last bout against Travis Brown in 2013 ended in a loss), but the crowd favorite managed to keep the majority of the fight standing to suit his preferred approach, resulting in big blows being traded throughout, despite Nelson’s famed overhand-right not dealing quite as much damage as it has in the past.
Gracious in victory, Barnett had nothing but praise for the way Nelson fought: “It’s not about belts, it’s about the way people fight, and Roy Nelson fights like he means it. He’s a warrior and he’s the kind of people we need in the UFC. That’s what people want to see fight and that’s why I wanted to fight Roy and that’s why I gave everything I could. He took it and came back.”
Sitting at a healthy ranking of number 8, Barnett’s record now improves to 34-7. Nelson, on the other hand, who has now lost five of his last six bouts, drops to 21-12.
After getting the call up on short notice, Uriah Hall didn’t disappoint with a spectacular spinning back kick and flying knee combination that earned him the victory over Gegard Mousasi in the second round of the middleweight showdown.
Addressing his reputation as being a ‘nice guy’, Hall said “I didn’t let the psychological stuff get to me. I was able to overcome all that and impose myself. Put me against the wall and I always deliver.”
Could this be the boost Hall needed for people to recognize his true potential and finally put to bed any doubt about his ability to “finish”?
Other highlights included Keita Nakamura pushing through a brutal first two rounds, only to bounce back and take victory over Li Jingliang with a rear naked choke in the last bout of the preliminary fights, and the featherweight final between Mizuto Hirota and Teruto Ishihara which disappointingly ended with in a draw, despite both fighters displaying some serious heart and dedication. Both surprised by the result, Ishihara said that he felt sure he had won the fight, whilst Hirota simply said, “I consider this a loss, that’s all.”
For all the results and coverage from the day, head to the UFC site.