UFC #11 ranked heavyweight Roy Nelson will return to Japan on September 27th to take on former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett in the main event of UFC Fight Night 78 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Big Country in Small Nation

Nicknamed “Big Country”, the Las Vegas, Nevada native Nelson will be fighting for the second time in as many years at the Saitama Super Arena. Last year, he was knocked out in the second round by the Super Samoan Mark Hunt in the main event of UFC Fight Night 52 in the same arena. Hunt would go on to challenge Fabricio Werdum for the interim UFC heavyweight title at UFC in his next fight.

On the other hand, Nelson succumbed to another defeat at UFC 185 last March 15th, suffering a one-sided unanimous decision loss to Alistair Overeem. Big Country has gone 1-4 in the last two years, with two unanimous decision losses to Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier in 2013. His lone victory over this drought period has been a brutal one punch first round KO of Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera at the main event of UFC Fight Night 39 in April of 2014. With his recent struggles. a loss to Barnett on September could mean the pink slip for Roy Nelson, hence this fight should be a must-win for Big Country.

A Decorated Veteran

Like Nelson, Josh Barnett is in the twilight of an illustrious MMA career which included impressive runs in organizations such as Pride, Strikeforce, Pancrase and the UFC. Barnett beat the legendary Randy Couture via 2nd round TKO at UFC 36 in 2002 to capture the UFC Heavyweight title. However, he was stripped of the belt after testing positive for banned substances. Barnett then took his talents to Pancrase where he won and defended twice the Pancrase open weight championship. He then went on to reach the PRIDE 2006 Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament finals, beating Minotauro Noguiera and Mark Hunt along the way. Before coming back to the UFC, Barnett also competed in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament in 2012, losing to Daniel Cormier in the final round.

A Crossroads Fight

With Nelson at 38 and Barnett at 37, this should be a crossroads fight for both fighters. Because although Barnett is 1-1 in his UFC return, he looked “old” against a younger Travis Browne and got knocked out in the first round of their bout at UFC 168. Barnett hasn’t fought in the UFC since that December 2013 loss and instead appeared at Metamoris 4 last August to face jiu jitsu world champion Dean Lister. Barnett won that fight and became the first man to submit Lister in 16 years.

UFC Fight Night 78 will serve as the culmination of Road to UFC: Japan, a reality show in the mold of the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter series. Nelson and Barnett will be the coaches for the fighters and as with the TUF tradition, they will square off in the finale in what could be one of them’s final appearance in the UFC.

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