By Zach Arnold | September 26, 2015
Main card results from the UFC Fight Night show at Saitama Super Arena:
- Josh Barnett defeated Roy Nelson after 5R by unanimous decision (48-47 twice, 50-45).
- Uriah Hall defeated Gegard Mousasi in R2 in 25 seconds by TKO.
- Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Chico Camus after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Takeiya Mizugaki defeated George Roop after 3R by unanimous decision.
- Diego Brandao defeated Katsunori Kikuno in R1 in 28 seconds by TKO.
- Teruto Ishihara and Mizuto Hirota went to a draw after 3R.
The Sunday afternoon Dentsu-promoted UFC card in Japan gave some momentary glimpses of the glory days of Japanese MMA in terms of emotion and fun. I miss it very much. I still believe that MMA can be a viable sport in Japan but it’s entirely dependent on professional wrestling star power and New Japan is the only major player in Japanese professional wrestling.
I’ve long been a crusader again yakuza influence in Japanese combat sports and believe it’s the right position. However, I cannot and will not deny the crippling impact that the yakuza crackdown over the last decade in Japan has had on combat sports. Once the dark money vanished, then sponsors & television networks became reticent. It’s easy to push the cash flow when there’s already another source of cash flow being piped in. Once the dark money dried up, so did national interest. Without the criminal syndicates using old-school pro-wrestling extortion tactics to buy tickets at discounts from event promoters in order to push other businesses into buying tickets from the gangs, it became a lot harder to promote events on a regular basis.
The challenge for someone like Nobuyuki Sakakibara to make a second run in Japan is enormous. Let’s assume that his new money marks are foreigners and have a lot of cash to burn. Let’s say that he is able to buy TV access on Fuji TV or other television networks. That still doesn’t address what he’s going to do about attracting Dentsu-level sponsors. It still doesn’t address what he’s going to do about building real Japanese mainstream stars. It doesn’t address the fact that Sakakibara is a marked man in Japan who has as many powerful enemies as he has as powerful friends. The scandal that brought down PRIDE was a national disgrace that played out in Shukan Gendai magazine and amongst Fuji TV stockholders. It was a scandal that involved police investigators from the country’s largest Metropolitan police force.
Color me skeptical that the return of PRIDE is coming any time soon. I would love to see a new boom period in Japan but the ingredients that made combat sports successful in Japan do not exist right now and may not exist in the future.
As for UFC’s efforts with the sold show Dentsu affair in Saitama, it was a delightfully polite & respectful audience. Takeya Mizugaki went emo. Josh Barnett’s mic performance, Rusher Kimura-style, was more pleasing than watching his five-round gutty & grizzly unanimous decision win over Roy Nelson. To Josh’s credit, I was utterly dumbfounded by two judges scoring the fight 48-47. I had it comfortably 50-45 even though Nelson absorbed some savage rib roasters in the process.
I loved the reaction from the Japanese fans on the Mousasi/Hall fight. Mousasi was viewed as a legitimate home town star. They were intensely focused on his ground game, which looked excellent. And then Hall blew up the proceedings with a picture perfect back kick and a flying knee that should have stretchered the poor guy out of the arena.
— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) September 27, 2015
And then there was Ishihara and Hirota. They fought to a majority draw. Hirota drew laughs for talking about a crooked tooth. They went to the hospital together and were both given “six-figure UFC contracts.” If only there was a
sudden victory sudden death round PRIDE-style…