A heavyweight fist-fight between Pat "HD" Barry and Strikeforce crossover Shane Del Rosario The Ultimate Fighter 16 FinaleBefore the main card begins on the FX channel at 9:00 p.m. ET, the preliminary card line-up will launch the evening on Facebook (5:30 p.m. ET) and then spill over to Fuel TV (7:00 p.m. ET).
So ... good ol' Pat Barry (7-5). He's a drastically under-sized heavyweight at 5'11", second only to 5'10" Mark Hunt (why haven't we seen that fight?). The numbers on his fight record are fairly unimpressive, especially for being a staple in the rotation for featured UFC cards, and he's even afflicted with a little bit of the Melvin Guillard Syndrome, i.e. a one-dimensional striker plagued by a glaring weakness in the grappling department.
Yet "HD" remains one of the most infectiously charismatic characters in all of MMA: perhaps on account of the cringe-inducing violence of his leg kicks, his unabashed humility, his warped sense of humor, or the fact that he's merely a super-talented fan still dazzled by the honor of being an appreciated UFC mixed martial artist. Whatever the reason may be, Barry is one victory away from breaking even in his Octagon tour with a 4-5 pace, but you don't hear any fans or media calling for his release based on that sub-standard track record because everyone just flat-out likes Pat Barry.
Regardless of his admirable personality, we're talking fisticuffs here and Barry is aligned with a dual-pronged juggernaut who was once considered to be a rising phenom in the heavyweight class. Team Oyama's Shane del Rosario (11-1) is a 26-year-old southpaw who holds the honor of becoming the first American WBC Muay Thai champion. While that honor is highly impressive, such accolades are not unheard of. However, it is quite extraordinary for a striking-based fighter with those credentials to be pulling off armbars or the still-rare omoplata submission off his back against legit competition.
But del Rosario has, and doing so branded him with the potential of becoming a future superstar, or at least led many to believe he could progress to greater heights and rock the boat in the upper-end of the heavyweight division. After building a name for himself with 3-piece stints under the ShoXC and M-1 Global banners, del Rosario signed with Strikeforce and attracted serious attention by extending his undefeated record to 11-0, having finished each opponent with 8 TKOs, 3 submissions and, most importantly, dusting all but one within the first stanza.
Tragedy struck on the heels of del Rosario's 1st-round armbar over current UFC barbarian Lavar Johnson: he was struck by a drunk driver and incurred a smattering of bumps of bruises, the most perilous being a herniated disc in his back that kept him sidelined for more than a year. The accident coincided with the UFC's absorption of Strikeforce and del Rosario's return came against then-undefeated Stipe Miocic at UFC 146. Amidst skepticism pertaining to his re-emergence after such a burdensome injury, del Rosario picked up his first career loss via a series of elbows for a 2nd-round TKO.
Del Rosario's pre-fight interview on UFC.com touches on many of the questions we're all asking:
Training: Training's been very intense for this fight. I have finally recovered fully and have been able to train like I used to for every one of my fights. I have been spending my mornings doing my strength and conditioning at the Sports Science Lab. I then go to my gym, Team Oyama MMA, and hit pads and do bag work. I also spar nightly at my gym. Twice a week I wrestle at the California Republic Academy of Wrestling. Every Saturday I run sprints with my team.
Thoughts on opponent, Pat Barry? Pat Barry is going to be a great opponent and a good test for me. We are both dominant standup fighters and both have knockout ability. I think it is going to be a very exciting fight and we are going to put on a good show for the fans. We are both coming off losses so I'm sure as I am he is training very hard and we are gonna leave everything in the cage come December 15th. I definitely think there's a good chance somebody is getting knocked out.
Whereas del Rosario encountered an equally diverse adversary in Miocic (All-American wrestler and talented kickboxer) for his Octagon debut, Barry represents a pretty straight-forward and predictable opponent. This should be a simple case of a rangy, well-rounded martial artist relying on his bigger bag of tricks versus a one-trick pony.
Of course, any one-trick pony in the UFC is going to be a raucous domineer in that single aspect, and Barry is no exception. He had a run in K-1's World Grand Prix from 2005-2007, scored a spot on the US National Sanshou team and also competed in the Wushu Kung Fu World Championships. Rather than complement his striking with fluid BJJ like del Rosario, Barry augments his handiwork with explosive quickness and striking power.
Those traits will be pivotal in combating the comparable striking and further rounded arsenal of del Rosario; in fact, they stand as imperative necessities. In addition to the threat of being taken down and having his grappling weakness exploited, Barry is charged with overcoming a significant deficit in range from del Rosario, who stands at 6'3" with a 78" reach (compared to 5'11" with a 72" reach for Barry).
Miocic unhinged Barry dually: he was able to get inside of his long reach on the feet and bang away because of his ability to sprawl and eventually implemented his takedown prowess to pound him out with nasty top-side elbows. Barry will have neither of those tricks up his sleeve, which leaves his physical attributes and fighting spirit as the only complements to his marksmanship.
Barry has been hit or miss in applying those auxiliary aspects: his speed and power were directly responsible for his premiere wins over Antoni Hardonk and Christian Morecraft, but he was punished at close range by Stefan Struve (triangle choke), Cheick Kongo and Lavar Johnson (1st-round TKOs). The scariest factor is that del Rosario is probably a better striker and definitely a more proven submission grappler than anyone of those names except Struve. In plain terms, this is a nightmare match-up for him, which is clearly responsible for the lopsided betting odds against him.
My Prediction: Shane del Rosario by submission.