A pair of Lightweight and Welterweight fights open a decent night of fights this September 26, 2015 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The Line Up
Preliminary Card 9Fox Sports 2)
Welterweight Keita Nakamura vs. Li Jingliang
Lightweight Nick Hein vs. Yusuke Kasuya
Lightweight Naoyuki Kotani vs. Kajan Johnson
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
Welterweight Shinsho Anzai vs. Roger Zapata
Keita Nakamura +175 Li Jingliang -225
Nick Hein -270 Yusuke Kasuya +210
Kajan Johnson -265 Naoyuki Kotani +205
Roger Zapata -110 Shinsho Anzai -120
Keita Nakamura vs. Li Jingliang
Jingliang is coming off a win over Dhiego Lima while Nakamura is making his UFC return after a brief stint involving losses to Brock Larson, Drew Fickett, and soulless Rob Emerson.
Nakamura spent the majority of his career in GCM and Shooto using his slick submission skills to dominate. He was actually undefeated when he made his UFC debut. He's only suffered three losses since getting the UFC pink slip despite 18 pro fights since. It's a good fight for both fighters.
Jingliang is a fighter that forces me to be really creative as a writer because how do I entice you to appreciate his journeyman work ethic otherwise? Do I engage in a philosophical discussion about the merits of blue collar pugilism? Or do I just shut up and tell you that this fight sucks?
Whatever the case, Jingliang doesn't separate himself from the pack in any meaningful way. He fights like he's part of an improv troupe, responding to his opponent's rhythm with whatever offense he can muster. K-Taro should be able to grapple his way to victory. Jingliang was swept in highly amateur ways against David Michaud so Nakamura having some success on the ground is mathematical certainty.
Nick Hein vs. Yasuke Kasuya
Kasuya is a 25 year old prospect out of the Akimoto Dojo Jungle Junction (what a name). Despite his age, he's a bit behind on the learning curve if only because he's been relatively inactive with just one professional bout since 2013 (a draw against Yoshihiro Koyama). Kasuya has some raw skills, and like a lot of young fighters, some guts:
Here he is taking a blistering combination only to come back for a nifty submission win.
This tells you a lot about Kasuya, who can grapple effectively, but has yet to wrap all of his skills into a real mixed martial arts morsel. Given his age, his skills should continue to develop. Unfortunately for him, Hein is an awful matchup for him. Hein will be able to successfully grapple Kasuya. The real x-factor here is Kasuya's development. With his inactivity, it's hard to predict, but he's got the raw materials to make himself a well rounded athlete. If he could better manage his left kicks into a rhythm on the feet, I could see him going somewhere. As is, this is just too much too soon for him.
Kajan Johnson vs. Naoyuki Kotani
Reading the words "Naoyuki Kotani" is like being stuck in Groundhog Day. I keep asking myself the same question over and over: "why is that ZST dude who never wins a UFC fight and always looks outmatched getting another fight in the octagon?"
Kotani must have a lights out manager. History repeats itself here, as Kotani is once again coming off a loss to a UFC fighter, which makes him the only fighter to start his UFC career 0-4, and still have a fight lined up. The funny thing about Kotani is that away from the UFC, he's managed some decent performances; especially earlier in his career when ZST had a few solid prospects in their system. But his style just isn't the kind of fight behavior you'd expect to earn him so many second chances. He's quite passive in general, which is what makes his appearance all the more confusing.
I mean, hell, just grab Kotetsu Boku and stick him on Fight Pass that way at least we can be entertained. Or do something eccentric, and pull Ganjo Tentsuku and Yusuke Endo out of retirement. Anything.
Apologies for wasting your time, readers, but my mind is still reeling from Kotani's presence here. To top it off, Kajan Johnson has experienced a late development growth spurt. Despite being 31, he's improved his game and become the well rounded threat he projects to be. Johnson won't be some kind of mainstay in the division. But he's good for the division. Kotani managed to gameplan his way into a split decision against Jorge Masvidal, so you never know if he'll avoid getting outclassed, but I like Kajan's striking and general pressure to rule the day in this one.
Roger Zapata vs. Shinsho Anzai
Shinsho Anzai is what would happen to T.J. Dillashaw if you took away all of the defense, movement, and athleticism away from him and stuck him in Manny Gamburyan's body instead.
He keeps that six shooter stance like he's ready to unload with both fists, and unload he does. However, this method ended up netting him a loss to Alberto Mina.
He'll be taking on Roger Zapata, who you might remember from TUF. His fight inspired one of the greatest natural reactions to a point deduction you'll ever hear, compliments of Mark Coleman.
Zapata is the equivalent of a microwave dinner; nothing fancy, very short-lived, but you won't complain in the moment. He had a very journeyman game in the show, displaying very little athleticism, more or less bouldering his way through with efficiency rather than actively manifesting it. I feel like this is as good a chance as Anzai will have given Zapata's plodding nature, but I don't see Anzai having the stature to be consistent in the UFC.
Nakamura by RNC, round 2
Hein by Decision
Johnson by TKO, round 2
Zapata by Decision