Flaunting MMA's longest winning streak with twenty-six straight, Barao, a member of the notorious Nova Uniao team in Brazil, will look to continue his climb up the contender ladder against his best opponent to date. Kicking off his MMA career with a defeat, Barao ripped through twenty-three opponents on the Brazilian circuit (with one No Contest) to attract the WEC's attention.
Pickett has been sidelined for almost a year after a back injury forced him to withdraw from his UFC 130 bout with Miguel Torres. "One Punch" splits his training time with American Top Team and Team Titan, currently standing as the ninth-ranked bantamweight in the world.
His four-piece WEC stint resulted in one decision loss to Scott Jorgensen and three victories: a slick Peruvian necktie on Kyle Dietz in his debut and decisions over the reputable Demetrious Johnson and Ivan Menjivar.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Brad Pickett started off as a boxer and, though he's also a threat with takedowns and subs, that's the true heart of his style.
He's a hard-nosed brawler who loves to trade heavy leather in the pocket, but that's not meant to imply he's sloppy with his stand up.
Throwing with a lot of heat and maybe a little wild at times, Pickett still has technical boxing and unleashes a wide array of nicely blended and accurate combos with his quick hands.
Pickett's plentiful volume of punches and high paced aggression typically sets the tone for the fight.
This forces his opponent to kick things up a notch to match his level of activity, and Barao is one of the rare few who can likely mirror his frenzied clip, leaving this match up as a good candidate for Fight of the Night.
The only striking weapon that's not prevalent in his repertoire is kicking. Anchored by a stout left hook (fired upstairs and down) and a wicked right cross, Pickett intertwines uppercuts and short-range knees to stack up as many six- and seven-punch sequences.
Not unlike Takeya Mizugaki (a fight that has to happen), Pickett throws his hands with reckless abandon but proves that you can still brawl and stay composed and on balance.
Pickett threatens with takedowns to instill hesitancy and keep his opponents guessing, knowing that planting their feet to match his tenacious assault puts them at risk for being planted on the mat.
This is what we see to the right versus Menjivar. The sequence opens with Pickett knifing a long jab and bobbing low with good head movement.
The catch is that it's nearly impossible to tell if he's ducking under to set up a crisp left hand or changing levels to explode for a double leg.
The natural tendency for the defender is to back out of range and reset (which lets Pickett dictate the momentum), stay in the pocket and sling counters (Pickett's best spot; also exposing foes for a takedown or tie-up), or drop their own center of gravity to match Pickett's (perfect for his uppercut or straight knee).
All of these actions and reactions are displayed in the gifs to the left and above.
Even though we all knew he trained at ATT and had a few past submission wins, Pickett seemed to fit the basic wrestle-boxer mold until he pulled off the silky smooth Peruvian necktie on Dietz.
The catch warranted a Bloody Elbow Judo Chop and further defined Pickett as much more than a barbaric slugger.
Offensively, he'll knock your head off standing, beat you up in the clinch or throw you on your ass, and also hammer with elbows and punches on the ground while seeking out submissions.
We have, however, seen Pickett struggle underneath Jorgensen's wrestling and tap to a Hideo Tokoro armbar.
Barao did show a surprisingly thorough wrestling game against Escovedo, but I don't think he'll be able to do the same to a spark plug like Pickett.
Like almost all Nova Uniao fighters, Barao is a BJJ black belt with fiery and tenacious kickboxing.
His boxing skills are also quite impressive, as he mixes up a wide array of fierce punches to the head and body.
As I mentioned, the appeal of this fight is that Barao is extremely technical yet unfurls his strikes with relentless fervor.
Barao found success against Escovedo by captaining a hypersonic strategy of lightning fast combinations and alternating with clinch and takedown attacks.
His left hook and straight/overhand right is excellent and he spliced in a spinning back elbow at close range.
Barao handles most of his business with his hands and is usually the one to control the pace -- just like Pickett -- but he definitely throws more kicks.
He unfurled a few low kicks, a nice front snap kick and even the spinning round kick shown below.
Barao has also thrown knees but they're more of the flying variety rather than the controlled and short knee that Pickett tends use.
If he upholds that trend, Pickett has a particular knack of catching kicks and scooping up knees and either transitioning to a takedown or lancing a stiff right hand to the jaw.
While I'd assess Barao's ground game as a touch more diverse than Pickett's, it's unlikely that he'll be on top and playing guard is dangerous against a such a powerful puncher and top player.
If he does pursue takedowns against Pickett, he'll have to protect his neck and be careful not to penetrate too deep.
Pickett's strength, balance and low center of gravity allow him to stay upright and hunt for guillotines and other chokes from the front headlock position.
I was initially leaning towards Barao in this one, but I think that Pickett is more than just his first taste of elite competition. Pickett's boxing is fast, crisp and powerful and I envision him getting the better of most clinch and takedown scenarios.
While Barao's guard might be something to avoid entirely, I feel Pickett can still score with double legs without being forced into a protracted grappling match where Barao can work his magic. The standing match up is close yet I'm giving Pickett the slight edge there as well.
My Prediction: Brad Pickett by decision
Pickett vs. Dietz gif via Fightlinker
All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com