Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, an unstoppable force meets an immovable object at UFC Fight Night 75 when Josh Barnett takes on Roy “Big Country” Nelson in the main event. It’s Nelson’s second time headlining a UFC card in Japan, as he previously suffered his first knockout loss in the promotion when he fell to Mark Hunt there a year ago. Since then, he has dropped a decision to Alistair Overeem which saw him suffer a broken hand, while Barnett is returning to the ring for the first time since a December 2013 knockout loss to Travis Browne.

This is a rather compelling, if inconsequential, heavyweight match-up featuring two fan favorites. There are a lot of questions about both fighters: is Barnett, who took a lot of time off and seems to have shifted focus to other endeavors (his podcast, competing in Metamoris), still relevant in the heavyweight division, or is he slowly heading off into retirement from the sport and towards other things? Is Big Country ever going to amount to more than a gatekeeper in the division? Two years ago, Nelson was on a three-fight win streak and looking like he might break through as a serious contender; a short notice fight against Stipe Miocic was the beginning of a downward spiral in which Nelson has dropped four of five, with his lone win coming against Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira.

This is a fight that will likely determine the future of both men as far as relevance in the division. If Barnett wants to compete at a high level, he needs a win here — and he simply cannot take another eighteen month plus break from the sport. Nelson needs a win just as badly: he’s one of the few fighters not at risk of being cut from three straight losses, but that sort of losing streak would seriously drop him in terms of relevance in the heavyweight division.

What does Josh Barnett need to do to come out on top in Japan Saturday against a presumably motivated Roy Nelson?

Shake Off The Ring Rust

This is going to be a big one for Barnett. While he has stayed active by competing in Metamoris, it has been almost two years since his last MMA fight. That’s a long time between octagon trips, especially for a healthy fighter. Has Barnett been too focused on other activities to succeed Saturday night? It’s a valid question. However, chances are The WarMaster, who has been in the game a long time, will be able to overcome this.

Do Not Circle Into That Crushing Right Hand

Nelson’s biggest weapon continues to be his crushing right, and that continues to be a symbol of his one-dimensional nature. It’s not that Nelson lacks skills in other areas; his proficiency at jiu-jitsu is well known. He simply doesn’t use his other skills enough, and fights a one-dimensional style basically by choice.

That gives Barnett plenty of options — he just needs to avoid circling into Nelson’s right. It should go without saying, but plenty of fighters do it anyway.

Wear Him Down, Make The Fight Ugly

As much as fans want fireworks from the heavyweight division, Barnett would be best served to make this an ugly fight, employing his catch wrestling skills to wear Nelson down. While neither men have fantastic physiques (this fight has been referred to as the Battle of the Bulge and both fighter’s pudgy frame has been pointed out), this is the rare time where Barnett is the fighter in better shape. Nelson tends to tire as fights wear on, and Barnett should look to take advantage of this.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.