Josh Barnett (33-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 37 Weight: 248 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: KO Loss / Travis Browne (12-28-13)
  • Camp: CSW (Fullerton, California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: B+

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC HW Champ
+   13 First round finishes
+   Accomplished No-Gi Grappler
+   10 KO/18 Submission wins
+   80% TD success since UFC return
+   Solid mount game/acuity
–    Leaves head forward/exposed on entries
+   Excellent clinch fighting/TD’s
+   Punishing GNP to open up Submissions
+   Mentally tough & Physically durable
+   KO power/Dangerous elbows
–    Does not mind exchanging


Roy Nelson (20-11)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 39 Weight: 249 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: Decision Loss / Alistair Overeem (3-14-15)
  • Camp: Country Club (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: C+

Supplemental info:
+   Former IFL HW & Grand Prix Champ
+   13 first round finishes
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   14 KO Victories
+   61% TD defense in UFC
+   4 Submission wins(last in 2006)
–    Leans forward in pocket exchanges/entries
–    Vulnerable to damage in clinch
+   Good Chin/Durable fighter
+   KO Power/Overhand right
–    Will take damage to deal it


For “The Fillet” of the evening, we have all the makings of an entertaining & high scoring Heavy Weight showdown. KO artist Roy Nelson, takes on the returning legend Josh Barnett. Although his last fight was 21 months ago, Barnett has stayed active in grappling competitions and looks to be coming into this camp/fight in good shape. Both men implement fairly consistent game plans with Barnett “having more ways to work” given his skill set. On the feet, neither man circles outside as much as they like to engage. Though Barnett has more tools in regards to a kicking variety with punches, he doesn’t necessarily manage distance intelligently(especially on entries). This is an important key to anyone standing with Roy, being that inside said distance is where he makes his money. With a limited reach & arsenal, Roy Nelson employs a “Take-one to give-one” style in which he’ll feint his way into the pocket,  and lean his head forward & low making his opponents uncertain to pop-shot or defend space. At which point Roy will look to come high and over the top with his big right hand.

Barnett shows to have similar defensive liabilities in his game, as he shows a tendency to leave his head a float when pocket transitioning to the clinch. If you believe Roy Nelson will emerge victorious in this contest, Then I can almost guarantee you it will happen in that specific space. However, once Barnett establishes the clinch, he will immediately look to overwhelm. Though it is important to note that Barnett has 2 specific clinches: When clinching in the open, Josh will look to secure a right under hook to open up “Dirty Boxing” and knees. In doing this however, he leaves himself exposed to opponents right handed attacks and has historically taken damage here. For obvious reasons Josh should avoid that option and continue forward(literally) with his second option of forward pressure to the cage clinch. From here, Barnett keeps a much tighter head position to his opponent and can control/unload damage.

It’s a safe bet that from here Josh should be able to wear down Nelson in route to victory. But 5 rounds is a long time for both men, so I see Josh eventually getting Roy grounded. Barnett has a good variety of clinch based leg trip TD’s that can be effective in disrupting Roy’s architecture. Given Josh’s Catch Wrestling style and Nelson’s body type/tendencies, I can see Josh “cooking” and eventually catching Roy via “Arm Triangle” for his first submission loss, but this is MMA.

Official Pick: Barnett – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Barnett – Unanimous Decision


Gegard Mousasi (37-5-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 30 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: Decision Win / Costas Philippou (5-16-15)
  • Camp: Red Devil International (Netherlands)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Good
  • Overall Fight Grade: A-

Supplemental info:
+   Former Strikeforce LHW Champ
+   Dream MW Grand Prix Champ
+   8-0 Pro-kickboxing/12-1 Boxing
+   21 KO wins/10 Submission wins
+   Good striking defense (71%)
+   Accurate measuring jab
+   Manages distance well
+   Underrated TD game
+   Good butterfly guard/sweeps
–    Lacks overall volume & urgency
+   Good elbows from top or bottom
+   Crafty submission game
+   Good chin/never stopped


Uriah Hall (11-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 31 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 79.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO Win / Oluwale Bamgbose (8-8-15)
  • Camp: Team Tiger Shulmann (New York, NY)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: C+

Supplemental info:
+   2x Ring of Combat Champion
+   Regional Muay Thai accolades
+   KO power/Heavy hands
+   Switches stances well
+   Good Head movement
+/- Never fought in Japan/Overseas
+   Fast kick/Kick counters
+ Improved counter wrestling
– Does not check leg kicks well
– Will give momentum via inactivity
– Struggles with grappling pressure
+ Good chin/Recovers well


On paper this fight looks like two striking assassins preparing for war. Whether you’re in love with Mousasi’s technical skill sets, or you’re all in on the Hall hype, please keep in mind each fighters activity rate. Both men in victory & defeat have traditionally gave rounds/fight momentum due to inactivity. Mix in that both fighters are technically sound, durable strikers, and you have the potential ingredients for a high level staring contest. Mousasi’s best weapon standing against Hall will be his most consistent one.. the jab.

Gegard’s fast & accurate flick jab can really disrupt the offense(and even confidence) against Hall’s stance-switching/setting style. For Hall’s best chances of success here, he’ll have to stay active in keeping Gegard honest with power kicks. In Mousasi’s fight with Machida, we saw his vulnerabilities to a good kicking game, and though his chin has held up thus far in his career, I doubt he’ll want to play too much in the fire here. However, I have a feeling this fight will not be decided on the feet.

In Mousasi’s last fight, we saw him intelligently dust off his underrated TD Game to take out another talented striker(Philippou). I suspect he’ll do that here, and though Hall’s shown improved counter wrestling, I think their ground games are on different levels. Once established on the mat, look for Mousasi to use his systematic elbows/GNP to stack damage. If this doesn’t open up a sub/stop then it should be enough for Gegard to pitch a shut out on the cards.


Official Pick: Mousasi – Rear Naked Choke – Round 3

Official Outcome: Uriah Hall – KO – Round 2

Kyogi Horiguchi (15-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’5″ Age:24 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: Sub loss / Demetrious Johnson (4-25-15)
  • Camp: Krazy Bee (Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Karate
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: B+

Supplemental info:
+   Former Shooto 132 lbs Champion
+   2nd-degree Black Belt – Karate
+   9 KO wins(5 in first round)
+   KO power/good left hook
+   Strong positional Ground & Pound
+   Good TD’s off kick catches
+   Fast left body & switch left head kicks
+   Good footwork(in, out, & laterally)
–    Muscles double-legs, leaves neck out
+   Always looks to get up from bottom
+   Shows good chin & durability


Chico Camus (14-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 30 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Henry Cejudo (6-13-15)
  • Camp: Roufusport (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: B-

Supplemental info:
+   4 KO wins(3 in first round)
+   Scrambles well in transition
+   Consistent volume & combos
+/-Will time/lead with right uppercut
+   Follows up well with left hook
+   Good footwork(in, out, and laterally)
+   Times defensive/offensive right Teeps
+/-Will engage distance with flying knees
–    Struggles w/positionally sound grapplers
+   Improved counter wrestling/TD defense
+   Shows a good chin


In breaking down match ups like these, it makes me appreciate sports handicappers. You have one fighter in Kyogi Horiguchi, who looks great on paper and does certain things so well, it potentially inflates his overall value. Then you have Chico Camus, who doesn’t bring the on-paper accolades, but has fought/trained with top talent that all credit him as a well rounded “Dark Horse”. Both guys show good chins, cardio, and a similar footwork generality in regards of movement. Both will circle the outside laterally, until picking their spots to close the distance. Aside from their obvious styles, the difference here is their choice of entries/attacks.

Chico will almost dance on the outside to set you up, and then close the distance with his patent flying knees. Where as Horiguchi misdirects more with his lateral movement to open up his blitzes(initially head hunting, then feinting high to open up body kicks). As far as Chico’s kicking game, he uses an effective right Teep kick to offensively gauge or defensively stifle. He will also use his right lead uppercut with similar intent, and that could be costly against Horiguchi. Especially when you consider Kyogi’s best punch & counter strike are both his left hook. Now couple Chico’s choice of lead with his love for left hook follow ups, and you get a strong collision availability that favors the faster/harder hitting fighter(who also shows good head movement in the pocket).

The “Key Junction” in this fight will happen in the clinch/wrestling exchanges. Both men have show vulnerability to being controlled by more technical ground fighters. They both have also made notable improvements in their TD defense, but I give the TD edge to Horiguchi. He poses some slick trips/TD’s but leaves his neck out on his double-leg attempts. He’s almost got caught speeding with this in past fights via guillotine threats, so hopefully Camus gave attention to this aspect. On the mat, Horiguchi has good ground & pound, but I give the submission edge to Chico slightly. All that said, I don’t see this match being a high scoring one. Given their solid durabilities, cardio, and styles.. this could very well go tight down the distance.

Official Pick: Horiguchi – Unanimous Decision

Official Outcome: Horiguchi – Unanimous Decision


Takeya Mizugaki (20-9-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 31 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 69.5″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Aljamin Sterling (4-18-15)
  • Camp: Hakkei Gym (Kanagawa, Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: B-

Supplemental info:
+   Shooto Rookie of the year ’05
+   Good power in both hands
+   Strong right lead/counter right
+   Excellent left hooks to head & body
+   Good TD’s from clinch
+   Consistent activity & volume
+   Good TD defense(70% success in UFC)
^   Strong base/under hook awareness
+   Effective ground & pound
+   Good defensive head movement
–    Neck vulnerable in transitions
+   Good chin/recovers well
–    Ineffective scrambler/gives back


George Roop (15-11-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 33 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: KO loss / Rob Font (7-5-15)
  • Camp: Apex MMA (Tucson, AZ)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: C+

Supplemental info:
+   Former RITC LW & BW Champ
+   Strong left switch kick
+   Effective right body Teep
–    Vulnerable on entries/throwing naked kicks
–    Head comes high/Stiff standing guard
–    Vulnerable to straight & overhand rights
+   Good elbows inside the guard
+   Consistently threatens the TD’s(63%)
+   Still shows fight to fight improvements
+/-Over 14 months inactive/1 W in last 2 yrs
?   First time fighting in Japan
–    Consistently hit/hurt standing(4 TKO losses)
+   Improved get-ups & scrambles

Both of these men are coming up on decade long careers, in which the majority being spent facing top competition. Well traveled Takeya Mizugaki will get home court advantage here against George Roop who’s fighting in Japan for the first time. In the striking department both men are more than happy to engage in striking ranges. Roop with a more traditional forward pressure, where Mizugaki will use more lateral movement & angles. Roop measures well with his right Teep, and will come forward 1-2 switch kicks in variating combos. His kicks are his best shot at hurting Takeya standing, but at the very least can’t keep his opponents head movement/angles in check.

However, Roop’s natural head/hand positioning often leaves him vulnerable to straight & overhand rights. This is accentuated with his striking transitions/entry movement. Right hands are also Takeya Mizugaki’s specialty whether he’s “pot-shotting” defensively off feints, or leading offensively with attached head movement. Although being stopped 2 fights ago(only career stoppage loss), I believe Takeya can still take/recover from shots and is the more durable fighter here. George Roop may only own 4 stoppage losses overall, but he consistently shows to get hurt in victory & defeat in his last handful of fights.

Couple that with the fact that he’s 33 and cuts a lot of weight to make Bantam Weight, and this can turn ugly. Despite said facts, Roop has actually shown fight to fight improvements(especially in the grappling dept.) George has upped his game/IQ by consistently mixing in shots out in the open, to cage pressuring to body locks/double-legs against the cage. On top he’s shown improved sub defense with some nasty elbows, where on bottom he uses good get ups and scrambles well. I would give Roop a slight advantage on the floor, but I’m not sure how much/long he can keep the fight here. Statistically these guys are within 7% of a wash in corresponding wrestling stats, so it comes down to the style match up.

Unless you have Dominic Cruz like timing, Takeya has very good sprawls/hips in the open. He also has a good base against the cage and will actually score his offensive TD’s from defensive clinching/under hooks. If Roop wants success here, he’ll have to adjust his TD game to single-leg attacks like Caraway & Perez did to him. Takeya has underrated power and given the stylistic info, I have a feeling he can get a stop here. Factoring in his lone finish in the last 7 yrs & Roops style adjustments, this fight could also see the cards. No matter which fighter comes out on top, this may be a decent scoring bout to add to your radar.

Official Pick: Mizugaki – TKO – Round 2

Official Outcome: Mizugaki – Unanimous Decison


Norifumi Yamamoto (18-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’4″ Age: 38 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: No-Contest/ Roman Salazar (2-28-15)
  • Camp: Krazy Bee (Tokyo, Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: C

Supplemental info:
+   K-1 MW Grand Prix Champ (’05)
+   3x Highschool State Champ (AZ)
+   All-Japan Freestyle Wrestling Accolades
+   10 first round finishes
+   13 KO wins
–    Very inactive (2 fights in 3 yrs.)
+   Measures with left & engages with right
+   Circles outside left
+   Fast feints & explosions forward
–    Keeps hands low
–    Cardio bares watching past the back half

MMA: UFC 181- Pettis vs Hobar

Matt Hobar (9-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 28 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Sergio Pettis (12-6-14)
  • Camp: Octagon MMA (Dallas, TX)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good
  • Overall Fight Grade: C

Supplemental info:
+   Former Legacy BW Champion
+   Purple Belt Judo & BJJ
+   2x State Champ Wrestler (TX)
+/-Leads with his head on ground
–    Head comes up & forward in exchanges
+   Strong clinch work
+   Good positional grappling
–    Vulnerable to right cross & straight punches
+   Strong left hand & left body kick
+   Shows durable chin
–    Cardio bares watching past back half

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto is an MMA legend who at 38, is still searching for his first UFC win. Tasked in front of him is Matt Hobar, who brings in his own set of grappling/MMA experience. In Kid’s last fight earlier this year(lone contest in last 3 yrs) Kid showed a little more interactive distance in his striking ranges. Traditionally however, Yamamoto will circle left on the outside, feinting & exploding forward using his athleticism. Despite being 38, Kid should have a speed and even athletic advantage in this contest. With Hobar’s willingness to push forward striking to the fence, I see Kid playing his usual outside game of measuring/catching his opponent coming in with his left cross, or exploding forward in attack with his right hook.

It is very plausible that he can catch Hobar here, being that Matt will lead with his head when he comes forward to strike. Although he’s also been stopped officially twice(once by injury)  he shows a good chin and ability to take/recover from shots. Although power is the last thing to go, Yamamoto has only scored one TKO/KO in 8 yrs.(This is also his lone victory in 8 yrs.) and it came to lower level opposition. Hobar’s technique isn’t the prettiest but he consistently comes forward with a volume that should output more than Kid here. Matt’s best strikes on the feet are his left body kick & left cross, and though Yamamoto has never been KO’d, he’s shown a susceptibility to getting hurt/giving momentum shifts in fights.

Whether or not that plays out here, I do see Hobar eventually getting Kid to a cage clinch in this contest. Though nothing in particular to write home about, Hobar has a solid clinch game that should be enough to wear down/get Kid to the ground. Despite high wrestling accolades, Yamamoto tends to give TD’s to his opposition in the back half of his career. If this fight is on the mat, Hobar’s positionally sound top game should dictate the pace. Depending on how fight momentum transpires, I could also see RNC’s & Arm Triangles becoming available given styles. As a long time MMA fan, it’d be nice to see Kid Finally get a UFC win, but unless he can catch/stop Hobar coming in, then I don’t see it happening here.

Official Pick: Hobar – Unanimous Decision

Official Outcome: Bout cancelled due to injury.


Mizuto Hirota (17-7-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 34 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 67″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Kyu Hwa Kim (12-31-14)
  • Camp: CAVE (Nagasaki, Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: C

Supplemental info:
+   Former Sengoku LW Champ
+   10 wins via KO/TKO
+   Wrestling base
+   Improved submission defense
+   Good chin/recovers well


Teruto Ishihara (7-2-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’4″Age: 24 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: N/A”
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Jung Hwan Jo (6-28-14)
  • Camp: Chokushinkai (Osaka, Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: N/A
  • Risk Management: N/A
  • Overall Fight Grade: N/A

Supplemental info:
–    Inflated record
^   Only 2 names are only 2 losses
+   Spent time with Krazy Bee this camp
+   Previous time spent at Team Alpha Male
–    14 months inactivity

With a lack of fight footage/information, it diminishes an honest breakdown here. Even with footage, the variables of a young fighters improvements in 14 months inactivity is difficult in it’s own(especially given the inflated record) Looking for the durable vet to use this wrestling & boxing skills to dictate this fight.

Official Pick: Hirota

Official Outcome: Draw


Katsunori Kikuno (22-7-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 33 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 66.5″
  • Last Fight: KO loss / Kevin Souza (4-18-15)
  • Camp: Alliance-Square (Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Karate
  • Risk Management: Poor
  • Overall Fight Grade: D

Supplemental info:
+   DEEP LW Tournament Champion
+   Karate & Judo base
+   13  first round finishes
–    Stopped in last 2/3 fights
–    Hands low/Head high
+   Strong left body kick
+   Good counter right left hook
–    Poor defensive & cage movement


Diego Brandao (19-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 28 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 68.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Jimi Hettes (4-18-15)
  • Camp: Team Brandao/Jacksons MMA (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: C+

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 14 Featherweight Winner
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   10 wins via KO
–    Stopped in last 2/3 fights
+   KO power
+   Accurate striking variety
+   Underrated TD game
–    Susceptible to fatigue

On paper this has the potential to be one of the more exciting/high scoring match ups on the card. Brandao has the distinct advantage on the floor, and the TD abilities to get it there. However, I’ll maintain my reservations on those scenarios for now. Given these fighters taste for the striking show, That’s where this one will be decided. Both men have been stopped in their last 2 of 3. Despite havng fewer stoppage losses on his record, the older more experienced Kikuno seems the less reliable here. Kikuno also hasn’t had any notable KO stoppages in years, where as I feel Diego is still very dangerous. Diego’s in fight struggles seem to stem from mental/physical preparation and fatigue. That aside, I feel his aggressive variety on the feet will be too much. Given the nature of this event/being a huge Wanderlei Silva fan, I’m counting on Brandao showing up here.

Official Pick: Brandao – KO – Round 1

Official Outcome: Brandao – KO – Round 1


Keita Nakamura (30-6-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 31 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Yuta Watanabe (7-20-15)
  • Camp: K-TARO DOJO (Tokyo, Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: C-

Supplemental info:
+   Former Shooto MW Champion
+   13 wins vis RNC(rear naked choke)
+   Good composure
+   Accurate knees
+   Manages distance well
+/-Gets hurt/recovers well
–    Ineffective offensive wrestling
+   Underrated counter wrestling
+   Good scrambler
+   Puts together combos well


Jing Liang Li (10-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 27 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Dhiego Lima (5-16-15)
  • Camp: China Top Team (Beijing, China)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: C-

Supplemental info:
+   Former LFC WW Champion
+   BJJ Brown Belt
+   Sanda & Wrestling base
+   Active jab & hard leg kicks
+   Grinding body lock game
+   Improved hand combos
+   Strong forward pressure & volume
+/-Will brawl in pocket
–    Leaves head high & vulnerable
+   Never stopped or submitted

In this classic “Japan vs. China” match up, we have the veteran Nakamura taking on Chinese prospect Li. Fighting since 2005, Nakamura has seen a lot in this sport. Although losing to most of the name fighters he’s come across(including an 0-3 previous UFC run) Nakamura has shown he has technical skill & staying power to compete with most. On the feet, he maintains a consistent proding boxing style as he sharp shoots with knees.This is all conducted by fairly decent footwork. Here however, is where I feel his opponent Li will overwhelm him. Nakamura has shown to give to forward pressure, that in which Li has plenty. Li will also be the bigger stronger man, who can give & take a shot much better than his more shop worn opponent.

Although Li’s game was stiff & rigid early on, he shows fight to fight improvements each time out. As far as the wrestling dept. goes, I also give an advantage to Li here. Offensively, his grinding body lock TD’s can get it done should he choose, and I dare say his improved TD defense should hold up. It’s ” Fight IQ” that will determine where the fight momentum will shift. If I were in Li’s corner for this one, I’d advise him to stay off the mat and engage in no more than a clinch(being aware of Nakamura’s guard pulls). Despite having a grappling base of his own, Li tends to make less-than intelligent choices on the floor. This could lead to momentum damning transitions, or being stuck on bottom(which Li has show to succeed to) That all being said, I’m siding with Li’s youth, pressure, and uncanny chin to get it done here.

Official Pick: Li- Split Decision

Official Outcome: Nakamura – Submission – Round 3


Nick Hein (12-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 66.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision Win / Lukasz Sajewski (6-20-15)
  • Camp: G.I. Sports / Tiger Muah Thai (Thailand)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Good
  • Overall Fight Grade: C+

Supplemental info:
+   Accomplished National/International Judoka
+   Circles the outside/moves laterally well
+   Manages outside/kick range well
+   Powerful counter left hand
+/-Very conservative work rate
–    Leaves head up in pocket exchanges
+   Strong in clinch/Looks for outside trip
+   Improved striking arsenal(kicks)
+   Good cardio & Athleticism
+   Amateur Boxing Experience
+   Good Chin/rarely stifled


Yusake Kasuya (9-1-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 25 Weight: 154 lbs Reach: N/A”
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Frank Camacho (3-13-15)
  • Camp: Akimoto Dojo (Kanagawa, Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: C

Supplemental info:
+   Quick transitions when passing/advancing
+   2011 Shooto Rookie Tournament Champ
+   Subtle stance switching
+   Powerful left kicks(Body-SP)(Switch-Orthodox)
+/-Doesn’t mind being on bottom
?   Questionable TD defense
+   Will attempt TD’s from body lock
+   Active from bottom w/strikes, sweeps, & subs
–    Hands lower/head is high when exiting range
–    Struggles in volume exchanges
+/-Takes damage but recovers well

In this match up “The Sergeant” Nick Hein is tasked with facing another dangerous UFC newcomer in Yusuke Kasuya. After winning the 2011 Shooto Rookie Tournament(a credential shared with Japanese legends: Kid Yamamoto & Takanori Gomi) he’s established himself as one of the better prospects coming out of Asia. Although known for his guard game, he does a few things well on the feet. Primarily a southpaw he will switch stances subtly to set up different kick attacks. From southpaw he has a mean left body kick, where as in orthodox, he’ll set up left switch kick to the head. Other than that he mostly paws/plays with his right hand to gauge distance, but essentially throws no more than a few strikes at a time.

It’s generally after exiting the initial 1-2 exchanges, that Kasuya’s hands drop & head lifts leaving him vulnerable to shots. He’s shown to recover well from said shots, but clearly struggles with volume punching. Despite his opponent Hein not being a volume striker, I feel he still has the advantage standing. Hein also throws in primarily 1-2 strike bursts, but is much more efficient. His natural athleticism allows him the speed & power to leap in & out offensively, or defensively circle/move laterally. Nicks Mainly shown a conservative Boxing-centric attack, countering or offensively angling with is left hand. Since spending his last couple camps with Tiger Muay Thai, he’s mixed in kicks to his arsenal and more finely tuned his “stick & move” style.

If Kasuya is looking for success in this fight, his best changes are on the ground. As far as offensive wrestling goes, Kasuya favors clinching to a body lock and looking for the outside trip. This however, is also Nick Hein’s “go to” move, which I see I’m being able to negate here(never taken down in UFC). But let’s not forget, you don’t have to offensively wrestle to get a fight to the floor. Kasuya has shown to succeed TD’s & positions and not fear being on bottom. In fact he’s effective from here, using striking off his back to open up sweeps & scrambles in which makes fast & dangerous transitions. It’s in these situations where Hein will have to be careful, and not be tricked into following his opponent to the mat.

On the ground, Hein shows the grappling trademarks of a Judoka. He plays his top game high with a focus on head pressure/control which is a key habit in facing dangerous scrambling submission artists. Although having a strong base, Hein has been timed & swept but lower caliber ground opposition, and could that could spell trouble of the German. Overall I believe “The Sergeant” will make himself unavailable on the ground, and control the acton on the feet. Given his law rate of activity & high rate for decisions, I’d avoid plays here unless you feel strongly about Kasuya.

Official Pick: Hein – Unanimous Decision

Official Outcome: Unanimous Decision


Naoyuki Kotani (33-12-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 33 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 66.5″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Yan Cabral (10-25-14)
  • Camp: Rodeo Style (Kanagawa, Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: D+

Supplemental info:
+   Judo Black Belt
+/-Will pull guard
–    Succeeds positions in scramble
+   15 yr. veteran
–    Vulnerable to elbows in close/on bottom
–    Lacks urgency in bad positions
+   Strong in clinch
+   Shoots/Enters off left cross
–    Head high & stiff while striking
+   Improvement hand position on strikes
?   Battled chin/6 stops by strikes


Kajan Johnson (20-11-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 75.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision Win/Lipeng Zhang (5-16-15)
  • Camp: Tristar Gym (Montreal, Canada)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: C+

Supplemental info:
+   Effective elbows on top & off breaks
+   Positionally controls & catches
+   Always looks for the back
+   Actively & Aggressively passes
+   Transitions intelligently
+   Utilizes body lock for TD’s/Back takes
+   Good head movement
–    Defense sloppy’s as rounds endure
–    Leaves kicks out to be countered
+/-Shows consistent leg attacks on ground
?   Battled chin/5 stops

In this fight we have 2 very experienced fighters who have seen a lot outside the UFC. Both guys have show to evolve their game overtime in trying to avoid high risk striking exchanges, and instead funnel fights toward their perspective grappling strengths. Though known for his ground game, Kajan Johnson shows some good tools on the feet. He shows good head movement with fluid counters, and has emphasized improvement on range & distance control. He has strong leg kicks but can get lazy in leaving his head kicks extended, opening him up for counters. In the past we’ve seen his technique fatigue as rounds endure, leading to his recorded stoppage losses(which to his defense where freakish hard shots by good strikers).

That being said, I don’t feel Kotani is much of a threat on the feet. Although he’s shown improvements on his hand positioning, he lacks the technique to threaten powerfully or efficiently. Captain spends most of the standing time circling/fighting off the cage. And given Johnson’s propensity to get his opponent body locked against the cage, I see this as the “Key Junction” for the fight. Captain will show his Judoka clinch strength in defending initial TD’s, but has also shown to be grounded by lesser caliber TD artist due to consistent pressure. It’s that grappling pressure that I believe is the strongest part of Johnsons game. Johnson who is a sub artist in his own right, showman aggressive leg lock game that leads me to think he’ll be safe in that dept.

Captain spent a lot of his career in an organization that didn’t allow “Ground & Pound”. This I feel has handicapped his ability to effectively MMA grapple, and in particular is very susceptible to elbows. Johnson not only has an aggressive passing game, but also elbows very effectively from on top & off breaks. If you’re noticing a point/counter-point pattern in this summary, it’s no coincidence I assure you. I don’t see this one being quick, exciting, or high point scoring, but I do see the above sequences having ample time to play out. Even with a dominant performance, I’m hesitant if Johnson can make Kotani tap at home, But I can see a damage/accumulation stoppage late.

Official Pick: Johnson – TKO – Round 3

Official Outcome: Johnson – Unanimous Decision


Shinsho Anzai (8-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 29 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: TKO Loss / Albert Mina (8-23-14)
  • Camp: Team Climb (Tokyo, Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: D+

Supplemental info:
+   Amateur Japanese Wrestling Accolades
+   2011 & 2013 ADCC Asia Trial Winner
+   6 first round TKO/KO victories
+   KO Power/Looping punches
–    Doesn’t show to adapt well
+   Good TD transitions when he wants
–    Fights wide open/susceptible to damage
+   Mixes level changes/feints w/strikes
–    Only went 3 rounds once(Loss)


Roger Zapata (4-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 29 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: N/A”
  • Last Fight: Decision Win / Chip Pollard (6-8-13)
  • Camp: Bruno Tostes BJJ (Albany, NY)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: D+

Supplemental info:
–    TUF 19 Alumni(1 TKO & 1 controversial dec. win)
–    2 yrs. official inactivity due to TUF / Injuries
+   Catch-counters leg attacks
+   Good Chin
+   Shows improved TD defense
+   Good TD’s against cage(especially ending rounds)
+/-Gets hit, gets angry.
+   Decent striking variety & volume
+   Shows decent pace & cardio


In the cards opening match up we have TUF 19’s Roger Zapata facing Shinsho “Animal” Anzai. As the name suggests, “Animal” is very much an action-fighter. Coupled with his adoration of Wanderlei Silva, he possesses a style reminiscent to a previous era. He fights with a wide open style, keeping his stance nearly square to his opponents. From here he’ll consistently lower his level, faking a level change for a shot and unloading standard right-left hooks. Although he does slightly move his head off center as he lowers & loads, he takes a lot of damage with this style. That said, it can bode poorly for Shinsho facing a heavy handed opponent with a better chin on paper. Aside from his only/latest stoppage vis TKO, Anzai has shown to take damage & recover fairly well. That said, not only has Roger Zapata never been stopped, I don’t think I saw him hurt in any of the footage I viewed.

Roger hails from a BJJ school, but what will immediately stand out about him is his striking. Although unclear, he has a background in Boxing and this comes through naturally in his MMA game. He throws a great variety & volume of straights, hooks, and uppercuts which he’ll involve nice subtle head movement. When he does get hit, he tends to get emotional. This is what could play into Shinto’s style, giving away TD’s and fight momentum advantages. If  “Shinsho” can exploit this, he may find weaknesses on the ground being the better man on paper, or at the very least steal rounds. That being said, “Animal” has only been to round 3 once(His only loss outside the UFC) and with his fight style, his cardio bares to watch. As far as wrestling goes, Zapata show’s improvements defensively each time out. Even seems to have a propensity in looking for his own when clinched against the cage(especially to end rounds).

In summation: this fight looks like it may be a wild & sloppy affair, but I feel Zapata’s size, Athleticism, and power should edge out this styles clash. I will say it’s difficult to predict improvement rates on young guys with limited fights/footage and a big time between contests. Zapata is also a guy who carries a fair amount of body fat, so if he tips the scales looking good, it will be a good sign he’s done the right things on the way to his debut. This potentially is one of the more “finish friendly” fights on the card, but it will be a close & ugly road if you’re chasing high points here.

Official Pick: Zapata – TKO – Rd. 2

Official Outcome: Anzai – TKO(Injury) – Rd. 3

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