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UFC Fight Night 75: Barnett vs. Nelson Preview

Vinny Craig



We’re finally back in action fight fans! The UFC heads to Saitama, Japan for the first time since UFC Fight Night 52. The event follows the Road to the Octagon show where 8 Japanese fighters were trained by Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson for a chance to fight at this event. Barnett and Nelson will face off with in the headliner in front of 30,000 fans.

Mizuto Hirota vs. Teruto Ishihara

The Road to the Octagon seemed to go over well, and the finale starts off your main card. Mizuto Hirota (17-7-1 MMA; 0-2 UFC) and Teruto Ishihara (7-2-1; 0-0)* each fought their way through the pool of 8 guys to make it to the final.

Hirota was formerly in the UFC debuting at UFC on Fuel TV 8. He went 0-2 losing two decisions to Rani Yahya and Rodrigo Damm. After being cut by the organization he won 3 straight with 2 finishes in Deep. He is a Shooto veteran where he fought his first 8 professional fights, going 6-2. He has fought such guys as Shinya Aoki, Pat Healy and Katsunori Kikuno.

Ishihara was very extravagant on the show with his style. He has 1 loss in his last 6 fights with all finishes due to strikes. He also is a Shooto vet with his first 7 fights in that organization with 4 KO wins. He has only one win by decision which happened in his first career fight.

Katsunori Kikuno vs. Diego Brandao

In the Featherweight division Katsunori Kikuno (23-7-2; 2-2) and Diego Brandao (19-10; 5-3) is a great match up. Both guys are veterans of the sport with 61 combined fights overall with 12 UFC fights.

Kikuno last fought at UFC Fight Night 62 where he lost by KO to Kevin Souza. Since his debut at the beginning of 2014, he has traded wins for losses. He picked up wins over Quinn Mulhern and Sam Sicilia and losses to Tony Ferguson and Souza. He formerly fought for DEEP where he went 10-1-1 and 8-4 while in DEEP. Kikuno has 63% Striking Defense** and 76% Takedown Defense (TDD) while in the UFC.

Brandao is The Ultimate Fighter Season 14 winner. He beat Dennis Bermudez in a Submission of the Night and Fight of the Night win. Brandao picked up a win at UFC on Fox 15 with a TKO win over Jimmy Hetes after losing to now Interim-champ Conor McGrgeor in a headliner bout. ‘DB’ is 4-2 in his last 6 with 2 finishes. Brandao comes in with 60% Striking Defense, 3.34 Takedowns per 15 min. and 80% TDD.

Takeya Mizugaki vs. George Roop

The middle of the main card is a Bantamweight bout between Takeya Mizugaki (20-9-2; 7-4) and George Roop (15-11-1; 5-7). Both guys are coming off losses in their last fights and will look to get back on track. Between the two they have 23 career UFC fights with 12 wins.

Mizugaki is a Shoot vet like most of these Asian fighters. He went 6-2-2 while in the organization. He made his WEC debut at WEC 40 where he lost to Miguel Torres by decision. Since that fight he has gone 9-6 with 4 fights in the WEC and the rest in the UFC. From November 2012 to May 2014 he went undefeated in five fights with all decision wins. The Japanese fighter comes into the fight with 3.26 Significant Strikes Landed per Minute (SLpM) and 58% Takedown Accuracy.

Roop is a former Featherweight who switched to 135 at UFC 158 with a decision win. He has gone 3-2 as a Bantamweight with wins over Reuben Duran, Brian Bowles and Dustin Kimura. Roop has a striking defense of +1.19 with 61% Striking Defense.

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Chico Camus

The Flyweight division gives us a good matchup in Kyoji Horiguchi (15-2; 4-1) and Chico Camus (14-6, 1 NC; 3-3, 1 NC). The two have combined to fight in Japan just once since joining the UFC.

Horiguchi last fought for the title at UFC 186 in Montreal. He was dominated from start to finish and eventually lost the fight by Armbar with 1 second remaining. That was his first loss in three years spanning 8 fights. He finished 5 fights in that span with a decision win over Louis Gaudinot to solidify his title shot at UFC 182. He previously fought for Shooto and Vale Tudo Japan collecting an 11-1 record. Horighuchi is a defensive striker with only 2.03 Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute (SApM) and 61% Striking Defense. He did allow 14 Takedowns to the champion in his title fight in April.

Camus struggled in the Bantamweight division and moved down to 125. Since then he is 1-1 with a win over Brad Pickett and a loss to Henry Cejudo. He beat Yaotzin Meza at UFC on Fox 10, but the bout was overturned to a No-Contest when he tested positive for marijuana. His last fight at 135 was a decision loss to Chris Holdsworth. Camus is also a defensive striker with only 2.05 SApM and 64% Striking Defense.

Gegard Mousasi vs. Uriah Hall

The co-main event of Gegard Mousasi (37-5-2; 4-2) and Uriah Hall (11-5; 4-3) is an exciting matchup. Mousasi was originally expected to face Roan Carneiro , but Carneiro was injured and unable to make it to the fight. Hall stepped in around mid-August.

Mousasi is the former Strikeforce and DREAM Light Heavyweight champion and DREAM Middleweight champion. From November 2006 to December 2009 he racked up 15 straight wins with victories over Hector Lombard, Melvin Manhoef, Ronaldo Souza, Mark Hunt and Sokodjou. He also won the Strikeforce title with a KO of Renato Sobral in that time frame. He is 9-3-1 since then including 4 UFC wins. He made his debut in a headlining bout against Ilir Latifi with a decision win. He has been either a main or co-main in every one of his UFC fights. Over his career, Mousasi has some incredible stats with 3.43 SLpM, 1.13 SApM and 70% Striking Defense. His UFC stats of 1.27 SApM is good for third all-time in the Middleweight division.

Hall was a finalist on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter. He breezed through the tournament with 3 finishes, including a vicious spinning hook kick KO of Adam Cella. He was a heavy favorite in the final, but ultimately lost to Kelvin Gastelum. He started his UFC career off rough with the loss to Gastelum and a decision loss to John Howard. He went on a 3 fight win streak starting at UFC 168 with a TKO win over Chris Leben. He won his last fight by TKO against newcomer Oluwale Bamgbose. He comes into the fight with 3.20 SLpM and 54% Striking Accuracy. His TDD has improved and he is at 76%.

Josh Barnett vs. Roy Nelson

The main event is a Heavyweight matchup with finish written all over it. Josh Barnett (33-7; 5-2) returns after 21 months off to face Roy Nelson (20-11; 7-7). The two have plenty of experience in Japan with Barnett having the majority.

Barnett is the former Heavyweight champion when he beat Randy Couture at UFC 36. He was stripped of the title after testing positive for PED’s and was cut from the organization. He would later become the Pancrase Heavyweight champion and fight in the Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix final. He was 5-4 while in Pride with wins over Mark Hunt and Minotauro Nogueira. After leaving Pride, he won 8 straight before losing to Daniel Cormier in the Strikeforce Heavyweight tournament final. His return to the UFC came at UFC 164 where he beat Frank Mir by KO in the first round. He would get KO’d in his next fight against Travis Browne at UFC 168. During his career, Barnett has racked up 1.94 SApM and 1.6 Submission Attempts per 15 min.

Nelson is the Ultimate Fighter Season 10 winner. He won with a KO over Brendan Schaub. He is 1-4 in his last 5 with the lone win coming over Minotauro Nogueira in Abu Dhabi. All 7 of his UFC wins have come by way of KO/TKO, but he has only been stopped by strikes once (to Mark Hunt). He was the IFL Heavyweight champion before joining TUF. ‘Big Country’ gets hit a ton (4.87 SApM) while waiting for his one big shot to land. He can sustain the fight on the feet with his 60% TDD.

*All records come from

**All stats from

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Fight Announcements

Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum Official for UFC 224



Brazils second UFC event of the new year added another middleweight contest. UFC officials announced, Kelvin Gastelum will face Jacare Souza in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 224.

The inevitable main card booking of Souza comes after headlining UFC on Fox 27. The Brazilian fighter is 3-2 in his last 5. His recent contests only look worrisome in comparison to the entirety of his long career. Prior to his past 5, Souza held an eight fight win streak. In that period of time, he defeated Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson (for the first time), and Chris Camozzi twice. Despite the drama words and numbers on screens create, his recent record is nothing to have concern over. A split decision loss to Yoel Romero in 2015, and a 2017 TKO loss to division champion, Robert Whittaker is manageable. Defeating Derek Brunson in the opening round of their main event bout kept him deep in the milky opaque froth that is the middleweight title picture. Clearly his position in that photo lies upon the upcoming match up.

Looking ahead for Jacare Souza, assuming he wins, becomes interesting, just as it devastating for Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is 3-1 since returning to middleweight, technically his record sits at 2-1 and 1 No Contest. He tested positive for marijuana in a sample collected the night of his bout against Vitor Belfort by USADA in March of 2017. Originally, the outcome of the bout read the way viewers remembered it; a 1st rd. TKO in favor of Gastelum. On May 7th, 2017, the win was officially overturned and changed to a No Contest. He also received a 90 day suspension, adjusted to the day of the failed test (March 11th).

In the aftermath of the failed test, his scheduled contest against Anderson Silva. He then split his next two contests, losing to Chris Weidman and defeating Michael Bisping emphatically, yet under odd circumstances. A win for Gastelum certainly muddies the waters of middleweight contenders, while adding to a good 185 lb. resume.

UFC 224 takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 12th, 2018 at the Jeunesse Arena. A battle betwen Brazilians is set for the date as Lyoto Machida takes on Vitor Belfort. Other featured bouts include; Aleksei Oleynik vs. Junior Albini*, Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson*, Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev, and Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein*.

*Bouts reportedly set for UFC 224

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Fighter to Watch

Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”



In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.

Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.

It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.

In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”

He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.

Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.

When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.

“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.

The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”

“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.

When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.

He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.

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UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega



UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.

This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.

The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.

Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.

For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.

UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.

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