Tomorrow night, Pat Barry steps into the Octagon for the 8th time as he faces Christian Morecraft on the UFC on FX show. Barry has had his ups and downs in the UFC, putting together a 3-4 record during his 3 year run with the company, so he is no stranger to adversity. But this time, he comes in on back to back loses, facing a tough 7-2 fighter in Morecraft. With a potential third straight loss looming, I have to ask - is Pat Barry fighting for his job?
Conventional wisdom says yes. A 6-5 fighter with a 3-5 UFC record and 3 straight loses seems like an obvious candidate for unemployment. But it's not a guarantee by any means. The last time I asked this question it was about Dan Hardy, then on a 3 fight losing streak and heading into a fight with Chris Lytle. General consensus was that Hardy was indeed fighting for his job - but he lost, and he's still here.
Like Hardy, Barry could find himself still employed even after a loss, and for many of the same reasons as Hardy. Both men have big, outgoing personalities, and have used those personalities to stand out from the crowd in their respective divisions. Both men have been in some tremendously entertaining fights - Barry has one Fight of the Night award under his belt (against Antoni Hardonk at UFC 104) and has been in some memorably fun fights with the likes of Mirko Cro Cop, Cheick Kongo, and Stefan Struve. Those two factors - personality and entertaining fights - go a long way. Add in the fact that Heavyweight is a somewhat thin division, and you have good reason to keep Barry around.
But the attribute that most stands in his favor is the same one that benefitted Hardy - potential. In Barry, you see a fighter with a world of potential. He's a K-1 striker, with killer kicks and stand-up skills. And he's been an MMA pro for less than 4 years. It's easy to forget that fact since Barry was fast-tracked to he UFC just 7 months after his MMA debut. This is a fighter with the potential to dominate on the feet who is still learning the game.
Or is he? There are two big knocks on Barry. The first is his lack of a killer instinct. People complained a lot about that after the Joey Beltran and Cro Cop fights, and it was a worthy complaint. Unfortunately for Barry, he showed that killer streak against Kongo, only to be stopped cold by a miraculous comeback. The second criticism is, in my eyes, far more damaging - his inability to develop a ground game. This has been the gap in Barry's game since his 2nd UFC fight, when Tim Hague took him down and effortlessly choked him out. It cost him again versus Cro Cop of all people. But despite these loses, Barry has not added the ground game needed to complement his stand-up.
That could change against Morecraft. Until now, Barry has been training under Duke Roufus - a fantastic stand-up coach, but perhaps not the most well-rounded. Now, he is training at DeathClutch, and has gone on record stating that his ground game is vastly improved. If it has, it will potentially close this gap in his game and allow Barry to more fully reach his potential.
And that may be necessary. Because while Hardy and Barry have many similarities, they also have some key differences that work against Barry. Barry is not a fighter who can be used to draw in a foreign market, and he's not a former #1 contender whose name can be used to build up another fighter. Those factors kept Hardy alive, and with their absence, a Barry loss could indeed mean the end of his UFC tenure.
If that happens, perhaps it will be the motivation Barry needs to tune up that ground game, find that killer instinct, and claw his way back to the UFC. If not, then Friday night could be the last time we see HD set foot in the Octagon.