UFC Fight Night 75 Main Event Preview: “The Warmaster” vs “Big Country” in Japan

UFC Fight Night 75 Josh Barnett vs Roy Nelson
UFC Fight Night 75 Josh Barnett vs Roy Nelson

UFC Fight Night 75 is coming up September 27, 2015 at the Saitama Super Arena in the Land of the Rising Sun. This event is headlined by a heavyweight tilt between Road to UFC: Japan coaches Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson.

The current ownership is delivering their fourth installment since they returned in early 2012 to Saitama. This will be the conclusion of the inaugural Road to UFC: Japan which is the Japanese edition of The Ultimate Fighter. Just like other seasons of the past the coaches will clash on the same card as the finalists.

Josh Barnett has had a long, rollercoaster career spanning many different continents over almost 20 years. Back in 2000, he made his UFC debut and within a year and a half he went from obtaining the title by destroying Randy Couture to getting stripped of the belt due to testing positive for banned substances. Being unable to make a living in the United States, Barnett decided to go across the Pacific and compete in Japan.

From 2004 to 2006, “The Warmaster” had a turbulent few years fighting for Pride Fighting Championship. His first two matches were losses to Mirko “Crocop” when he was decapitating opponents with both legs. Then, Barnett went on a good run in the Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix along the way defeating Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueria and Mark Hunt making it to the finals. However, he was met by “Crocop” again and was finished in the first round.

Once Pride FC was folded and sold to the UFC, he jumped around to a few different organizations until Strikeforce announced their own Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2011. It was deja vu, Barnett made it all the way to the finals and then was dominated by Daniel Cormier in a five-round beatdown.

Eventually, Strikeforce was purchased by the UFC and he finally made his return to the promotion. Barnett made a successful return against Frank Mir at UFC 164 by dispatching him with knees. His second fight, four months later at UFC 168, was another story when Travis Browne elbowed him to unconsciousness while trying for a takedown on the fence.

Stepping in on the other side of the Octagon is Roy Nelson. He is an iconic figure in the world of mixed martial arts with his big belly and long mullet. Many people can relate to his physical features but don’t be hoodwinked, “Big Country” has dynamite in his hands and has a phenomenal ground game.

Since the beginning of his career in 2004, he stayed under the radar while jumping around promotions until the International Fight League was formed and Nelson started to build some steam. In 2007, he entered the IFL Heavyweight Grand Prix and eventually won the title. He went on to defend it twice yet the IFL was disbanded as a result of financial troubles.

In the middle of 2009, Nelson was selected to participate in The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights season 10. He ended up finishing two out of three opponents on the show and then in the finale knocked out Brendan Schaub to win the tournament.

“Big Country” is 7-7 in his UFC career including his win at the Ultimate Fighter Finale. He has KO’d some big names such as Mirko “Crocop”, “Minotauro” Nogueria and Stefan Struve. All the same, most of his wins have been to subpar heavyweights or past their prime fighters. Whenever he has faced potential title contenders, Nelson has been outsmarted by the likes of Fabricio Werdum, Junior dos Santos, Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier leading to unanimous decisions not in his favor.

Barnett vs Nelson: Fight Analysis

UFC HW Josh Barnett - Courtesy of UFC.com
UFC HW Josh Barnett – Courtesy of UFC.com

Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett
Age: 37 years-old
Years Pro: 18 years
Team: CSW Training Center
Measurements: 6’3” (1.91m) Tall, 78” (1.98m) Long
MMA Record: 33 Wins (8 KO/TKOs, 20 Submissions, 4 Decisions, 1 DQ), 7 Losses (2 KO/TKOs, 2 Submissions, 3 Decisions)
Last 10 Contests: 8-2
Current Streak: 1 Lose
MMA Titles Held: Pancrase Openweight Champion, UFC HW Champion

Ways to Win: The formula to getting his hand raised involves speed, pressure, clinch work and catch wrestling.

Making Nelson work from the start of the fight with constant pressure and clinch work will force him exert a lot of energy. It would also help to take the fight into the later rounds since he is most likely to fade after the first frame. Nelson will have a harder time defending against takedowns and submissions if he is gasping for air.

Additionally, Barnett has to use his speed advantage to close the distance and to dodge the big overhand right. Once he gets in close and locks on double under hooks, he will either press his opponent against the cage or use trips to take it to the mat. If he keeps it standing then he can pepper them with short elbows and knees to the body or head like he did to Frank Mir at UFC 164 eventually leading to the KO finish in the first.

In spite of his capabilities on the feet, in all likelihood he is going to put Nelson on his back. Barnett has a bevy of trips and throws in his toolbox that he can utilize at any time. Once there, he will be looking to take home a limb. “The Warmaster” has 20 submission victories of all kinds from leglocks to arm-triangles. Two perfect examples of him putting this into action are against Sergei Kharitonov (Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix) and Mark Hunt (2006 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix). Both times he got in tight and dictating where the fight would go and finished both of them after dominating on the ground.

UFC HW Roy Nelson - Courtesy of UFC.com
UFC HW Roy Nelson – Courtesy of UFC.com

Roy “Big Country” Nelson
Age: 39 years-old
Years Pro: 11 years
Team: Country Club, American Top Team
Measurements: 6′ (1.83m) Tall, 73” (1.85m) Long
MMA Record: 20 Wins (14 KO/TKOs, 4 Submissions, 2 Decisions), 11 Losses (2 KO/TKOs, 9 Decisions)
Last 10 Contests: 5-5
Current Streak: 2 Losses
MMA Titles Held: IFL HW Champion

Ways to Win: Nelson has one main strategy and that is to decapitate his opponent using the least amount of energy. Therefore, he will be throwing that canon of an overhand right over and over again. One option would be to put pressure on Barnett and have him fight with his back to the cage. In this situation, he just has to wait for Barnett to start circling toward his right hand and just let it rip at the right moment. He showed that this is effective when he faced Cheick Kongo at UFC 159 for a “Knockout of the Night” performance.

For a more adequate result, the key to landing that bomb to the temple will be the setup. He cannot telegraph the punch because his adversary is too smart and will duck under every time. Instead, he needs to throw combinations and implement faints. He can launch the lead left hand to grasp distance and then come under with the right uppercut. He did this perfectly to “Minotauro” Nogueria (UFC Fight Night 39) dropping him and then ending the contest with an overhand right.

In addition to this, takedown defense and staying out of the clinch will be beneficial. If he can stop Barnett from accomplishing his goal of taking the fight to the ground then he has no other choice but to stand and trade. This is where Nelson thrives and has the best chance of closing out the night early.

Final Thoughts

Even though both combatants are coming off losses, they can get right back into the contender race with an impressive showing. It is imperative for them to go in there and go for broke since both are at the tail end of their careers. Barnett, 37, and Nelson, 39, are not spring chickens and do not have many years left competing against high level competition.

The last time “The Warmaster” competed was at UFC 168 when he was KO’d with elbows by Travis Browne which was almost two years ago. Having such a long break in-between fights can have an adverse effect on a fighter. Although he has been keeping busy with grappling matches for Metamoris, it pails in comparison to the big stage of the UFC.

On top of that, he is going to battle in Japan which has it pros and cons. This will be his fifteenth time competing in that country and his ninth time at the Saitama Super Arena. He probably will not feel any added pressure to perform since he knows the area like the back of his hand. Nonetheless, he still has to fly all the way from California which is a 12-hour flight. Dealing with jet lag, all the media obligations and dietary needs will not be fun for the former UFC HW champ.

“Big Country”, likewise, is not coming off of the best performance of his life. He is 1-4 in his last five and was KO’d the last time in was in Saitama by Mark Hunt at UFC Fight Night 52 a year ago. It is safe to say he does not have fond memories of Japan and would like to erase any recollection of that event by starching Barnett in the main event.

Nelson will have to face the same conditions of acclimating himself to the time zone, dealing with media and watching his weight. Since he has gone through all the same barriers a year ago, he should be better prepared to adjust himself and compete to his full potential.

The UFC heavyweight division is probably the shallowest for the promotion, therefore their next fight could be for a title shot against one of the other top ten fighters. There are a number of heavyweight matches in the coming months that will dictate who will move up in the rankings. Considering that Cain Velasquez and Champion Fabricio Werdum are projected to collide early 2016, the division is in limbo so in the meantime more fights can happen to determine the next contender.