The UFC returned to the Saitama Super Arena on Saturday morning - the legendary venue that hosted a multitude of PRIDE events over a decade during the sport's peak in Japan - and brought with it an exciting fight card packed with memorable stoppages and enticing action.
The compelling Fight Pass card is the third event that the UFC has hosted in Saitama, Japan, and comes up against hefty competition since the previous event, UFC on Fuel TV 8, saw the final career fights of both Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann in the main event, while the card before that saw Benson Henderson dethrone longtime lightweight champion Frankie Edgar to reign atop the lightweight division.
While UFC Japan did not have the rich storylines that its predecessors enjoyed over the past couple of years, it made up for it will old-fashioned, tantalizing excitement.
As expected, the main event saw a combined 500+ pound collision between Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson, where each heavyweight attempted to separate their opponent from his senses with menacing combinations. They went toe-to-toe for the better part of two rounds before Hunt landed a vicious uppercut to serve Nelson the first knockout loss of his UFC Tenure.
Hunt, who fought some of his most memorable matches in the Saitama Super Arena, has now earned his first victory in 17 months and his fifth overall under the UFC banner. His emphatic stoppage over a durable Nelson will likely lead him to another Top 10 match-up in the near future.
- Myles Jury picked up his sixth victory under the UFC banner and proved he is a legit contender in the lightweight division when he knocked out Takanori Gomi in 90 seconds of fight time. Jury appeared poised and confident throughout the performance and finished the Japanese legend off with pinpoint precision. He also tied Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest win streak in the lightweight division.
- Following a four-fight losing streak that dates back to 2009, Yoshihiro Akiyama finally returned to the win column with a victory over the returning Amir Sadollah. ‘Sexyama' looked in peak condition for this fight, while Sadollah appeared hampered by the extended layoff and potentially the medical issues he has had to deal with over the past year.
- While many predicted a swift victory for Miesha Tate against Rin Nakai, the ‘Queen of Pancrase' proved to be a durable and crafty competitor with keen survival instincts during rounds. Tate would eventually win the fight via unanimous decision but it was far from the one-sided beatdown everyone expected. It is safe to say that Tate's hopes for a trilogy fight with Ronda Rousey have been extinguished for the foreseeable future.
- The touted Kyoji Horiguchi lived up to high expectations and produced some outstanding stylistic violence to defeat Jon Delos Reyes via first round TKO. Horiguchi now moves to 3-0 in the UFC and will likely get a significant step up in competition for his next flyweight match-up.
- In one of the more surprising results of the evening, Masanori Kanehara defeated Alex Caceres via unanimous decision, where he thoroughly dominated the first two rounds of the match-up. The win marks his first under the UFC banner and sends Caceres tumbling back down the bantamweight ranking.
- Hyun Gyu Lim summoned his inner Travis Browne in his bout against Takenori Sato and ended the fight with a violent barrage of elbows that left his opponent dazed and confused after a total of 78 seconds of cage time.
- Kyung Ho Kang and Michinori Tanaka took part in a fantastic contest that featured some exceptional grappling displays. Both men showed acute knowledge of the ground game and used intelligent scrambles and smooth transitions to wow the crowd for the better part of 15 minutes. No matter the outcome, this was a prime example of what MMA grappling should look like at an elite level.
- Maximo Blanco and Daniel Hooker kicked off the night's action with an curtain jerker slugfest that helped work up the crowd's excitement. While Hooker came back strong to close out the fight, it was ultimately Blanco who walked away with the victory.