Just like The Terminator, Phil Baroni will be back. This is from the One FC twitter feed yesterday:
One FC are believed to be in the process of locking their fighters down to long term deals and Baroni appears to be firmly on the wanted list despite his disappointing decision loss to Yoshiyuki Yoshida. So The New York Bad Ass is guaranteed to feature on future cards which begs two questions:
What is Baroni going to do to improve on a series of recent lacklustre performences?
Who are One FC going to find to fight him?
The answer to the first question appears to have already emerged, Baroni is desperate to go and train at Evolve MMA in Singapore. He came and trained there a couple of times prior to his fight at One FC and was supposedly so impressed with the facility and the trainers that he is considering relocating to Singapore.
AKA, where Baroni currently trains, is one of the top camps in the US but judging from comments which Baroni has made on facebook and twitter, as well as the things I have been hearing from people here in Singapore, it appears he feels that Evolve MMA, which is widely viewed as the top camp in Asia, can offer him something which perhaps AKA can't.
At this stage of his career I don't think that improving his wrestling or Muay Thai or BJJ should be a priority for Baroni, although it obviously won't do him any harm. What he urgently needs to address are his issues with endurance and stamina which seem to stem from trying to make the drop down to welterweight comparatively late in life.
When I look at Baroni he does not strike me as being a natural middleweight and I think the 170 lbs division is a much more natural home but the problem is his unnaturally large muscles. Hardly any of the top fighters in MMA have those 'weight lifter arms', look at Anderson Silva, Georges St Pierre, Jose Aldo, none of them look like they spend too long lifting very heavy weights whereas Baroni seems to have more of a weight lifters physique.
I'm not sure how easy it would be for him to lose that muscle so late in his career but I think it is something he needs to look at. If he could get to the point where he was walking around at 180 lbs I think he would be much more explosive and have much more endurance as a welterweight. At the moment I think he probably cuts something like 20 lbs and it was obvious from the Yoshida fight how much that takes out of him.
Baroni seemed to have concerns about his stamina right from the start against Yoshida. The much anticipated early burst of aggression, which pretty much everyone agreed would be his best chance of winning the fight, never materialized. Instead he paced himself which allowed him to last the full fifteen minutes but also handed the initiative to Yoshida and allowed the Japanese fighter to consistently outwork him.
If Baroni had only cut a couple of pounds I think he would have fought with much more confidence and would at least have been willing to take a chance and let his hands go. A few people are suggesting he is finished as a fighter but I don't think he fought at anything close to his full potential against Yoshida. If he fights his best and looks bad then maybe it will be time to call it quits but there are enough obvious areas for improvement to encourage One FC to give him at least one more shot.
I suspect one of the reasons that Evolve MMA appeals to Baroni is that they are very scientific in their approach to weight cutting. Zorobabel Moreira was fighting at middleweight last year but his team have now found a way to somehow squeeze his 6"3' frame into a 155 lbs body with no ill effects.
His team mate Brian Choi, a Korean wrestler who is unbeaten in MMA and looks an outstanding prospect, made his debut at middleweight last year but is set to drop down to featherweight for his next fight. There is a lot of emphasis on healthy weight cutting at Evolve MMA and Baroni could definitely benefit from being in this environment.
The other alternative for the New York Bad Ass would be to go back up to 185 lbs and simply stop cutting so much weight, this might be a better option but One FC don't have a lot of fighters in the higher weight categories and I would be much more interested in seeing a leaner, less muscular Baroni who at least had the stamina to really let his hands go and hurt opponents.
It appears that Baroni will definitely be fighting again so the One FC matchmakers must already be considering their options when it comes to potential opponents. A fight with Gregor Gracie, who defeated Seok Mo Kim at One FC 1, would be an obvious option and would certainly attract a lot of global interest. Stylistically it wouldn't be a great match up for Baroni as Gracie would probably just look to take him down and keep him down which wouldn't make for the most entertaining spectacle.
If Gregor doesn't fancy it than maybe Igor Gracie will. He's already signed with One FC and him and Gregor would be pretty much interchangeable as potential opponents for Baroni. The other option would be Seok Mo Kim who looked pretty impressive despite losing a lopsided decision loss to Gregor Gracie at One FC 1.
A quick google search of Seok Mo Kim revealed that he is facing another One FC fighter, Adam Kayoom, at Dare Championships 2/11 in Bangkok later this month. The winner of that welterweight fight would be an obvious candidate to face Baroni and I think putting him in with a less experienced local fighter would make sense for One FC.
Kayoom is a former Muay Thai world champion and a BJJ black belt from Malaysia who has won way too many tournaments, belts and medals to be listed in one article. I think an opponent like this would be perfect from One FC's point of view, either the New York Bad Ass wins and gets his career back on track or he loses and they have a local super star on their hands all of a sudden.
Another welterweight, Ray Elbe, was at One FC 1 but him and Baroni have trained together at Tiger Muay Thai so I doubt they would fight each other. Akihiro Gono was also in attendance but his last fight was at lightweight which probably rules him out of contention. If Baroni does decide to move up to 185 lbs the landscape starts to look even barer although there are a few potential opponents in Korea and Japan.
I am convinced that Baroni's size has become an impediment and that he needs to lose a lot of muscle if he wants to resurrect his career. Yoshida was a very tough opponent and there is no shame in losing to him but it is imperative that he doesn't go 0-2 fighting for One FC and to give himself the best chance of winning his all important next fight Baroni should look to start systematically losing weight.
A lot will depend upon who One FC find for an opponent but if the New York Bad Ass is going to get back to his best he will need to do something differently with his body and with his training. Moving to Singapore to train with Evolve MMA could be the perfect move and it will be interesting to see whether Baroni does decide to make it.
He will definitely be back, the questions is will he be better?