UFC Fight Night: Barnett vs. Nelson wasn't a spectacular card on paper. There were some interesting match-ups, but what made the night interesting were the come from behind finishes and the underdog performances. While the main event fight between Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson didn't end in a finish, neither fighter gained or lost a lot from the fight. Here are the fighters that took great strides in their career or saw themselves taking a couple back.
Uriah Hall was undoubtedly the biggest winner of the night. Hall has been heavily criticized for being a stand-out TUF fighter that couldn't execute his highly entertaining style against higher competition. That all ended when Hall placed a perfectly timed jumping spinning back kick to the face of Gegard Mousasi. For good measure, in case you missed the back kick, Hall threw in a flying knee before finishing the fight on the ground. Hall can now move on from being considered a TUF bust to now challenging the best of the Middleweight division.
Beautiful! #UFCJapan @UriahHallMMA pic.twitter.com/2EVta3AhyG— UFC (@ufc) September 27, 2015
Kyoji Horiguchi did an excellent job of showing fans and the UFC that he is improving at a great pace. Although he couldn't get the finish against Chico Camus, Horiguchi displayed great speed, footwork and timing in a unanimous decision win. At only 25 years old and in a division that lacks contenders, Horiguchi will never be too far away from another title shot. he still has plenty of time to develop and if he continues to do so at the current rate, will no doubt find himself against the best of the division again.
Diego Brandao didn't get a whole lot of time to display his skills tonight, but what we saw was impressive. The Ultimate Fighter 14 winner was 1-2 in his last three fights before entering the cage against Katsunori Kikuno. Those two loses came against Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, two very talented fighters. Brandao showed that he still the skills that won him the TUF crown in 2011 with the 28 second thrashing.
We see you @DiegoBrandaoMMA! #UFCJapan pic.twitter.com/4HGTXOLUdq— UFC (@ufc) September 27, 2015
Keita Nakamura was getting lit up by Li Jingliang for two rounds. The ref could have stepped in several times to stop the fight, and not too many people would complain about the stoppage. Instead, Nakamura persevered and made it into the third round where he pulled off the stunning upset. Nakamura took Jingliang's back, quickly sunk in the rear naked choke until Jingliang fell face first to the canvas. A spectacular come from behind submission win for the Japanese fighter.
Other winners: Mizuto Hirota, Teruto Ishihara and the Japanese fans for being a great crowd.
Gegard Mousasi looked like he wasn't going to have a whole lot of problems with Uriah Hall. Mousasi took the first round easily by smothering Hall on the ground, repeatedly moving to side control and mount. Mousasi took Hall's back within the final 30 seconds of the round but was unable to finish a rear naked choke. Of course, you know what happens next, as you can see above. Whether it was a fluke on Hall's part or a mistake on Mousasi's, getting KO'd by a sizable, unranked underdog isn't what Mousasi wanted. The loss puts Mousasi at a 4-3 UFC record.
George Roop has been around the MMA game for 9 years and has fought 16 fights between the UFC and WEC. Roop came into the fight looking very skinny, and his performance was reflective of his body shape. Since coming back to the UFC, Roop has amassed a 4-6 record, with three losses in his last four bouts. The 33 year old now sits further back than ever at gaining a top 10 position at Bantamweight. Takeya Mizugaki did not look good in the fight either, but he was still able to pull out the unanimous decision win to keep his place in the division.
Naoyuki Kotani is probably a name you aren't too familiar with, but the Japanese does share a unique UFC record. Kotani is one of two fighters to lose their first five UFC fights (John Alessio being the other) It's very doubtful that Kotani will be able to go for a record breaking 6th loss as his performance against Kajan Johnson was less than impressive.
The officiating for the card deserves a big acknowledgement in the loser column for tonight's performance. The judges did an alright job, with no complete screw-ups on the scorecards. The referees though, were incredibly unprofessional. From cage grab warnings that didn't result in point deductions, to quick stand-ups, to a late stoppage and even an odd injury timeout. It was obvious right off the bat that the event had the third string lineup working the event.
Other losers: Katsunori Kikuno, Yusuke Kasuya and the UFC officials who didn't insist on a 4th round for the Road to Japan finale fight.