UFC 168: Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne preview and the prognostication

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Heavyweight Josh Barnett looks to reclaim the UFC crown he once held briefly at UFC 168 against the still improving, but still deadly Travis Browne. Will Browne justify his hype, or will Barnett prove he belongs once?

Josh Barnett (33-6) vs. Travis Browne (15-1-1) Heavyweight

When we last left our heroes...Josh Barnett could reasonably call himself an MMA firebrand. But like the punk rocker who defied conformity at least during his high school years and into middled aged adolescence, fans who think he's still that guy now call him a sellout. "You hated and articulated so well why you don't want to ever fight for Dana and now here you are...what gives Josh?"

Reality, money, and Dana's vice like grip on the MMA economy I guess. Josh has always been one of the more charismatic individuals battling on the MMA circuit. He's similar to Chael Sonnen in the way he's interested in verbal theatrics to promote himself, but it never comes off as phony or gratuitous like it does with Chael. Barnett always sells himself with a hint of playfulness and snarl. His theatrics are an extension of who he is rather than a wholesale invention.

He's also a great HW who hadn't lost until 2006 prior to the Daniel Cormier bout in Strikeforce last year. He's 5-1 in the UFC overall, and was their long lost champion until he got popped for steroids; an event that has become a trend throughout his career.

As for Browne, it's a little hard to believe he's only lost once in the octagon. I don't mean that as an insult; I just had to do a double take when I look back at his record. He's 6-1-1 in the UFC with five wins by way of TKO or submission. And he's coming off an incredible comeback victory that saw Alistair Overeem do what he does when the fight exceeds 3 minutes: lose spectacularly. Which a front kick knockout certainly qualifies as...

What both men can do: This is Browne's strength; fighting the way Stefan Struve should. He doesn't have a real persistent way of producing offense, but he picks his spots and keeps his distance with his imposing 6'7 frame.

The other important note is that he continues to improve. Obviously for any prediction, it's hard to be certain when a fighter gets dramatically better from fight to fight. While I don't think Browne has dramatically improved on the feet, he is adding weapons to his arsenal that make him unpredictable for opponents who believe the tape tells the tale.

Browne's front kicks were lethal, and not something he was thorough with prior to the Overeem bout. His striking is what will win him the fight if Barnett fails as he does a good job of punching with his shoulders squared up with his opponent which keeps him from being out of position or getting punished with a counter.

Barnett has always been an underrated striker as well. He boxes the way a student of the game does...his straight right does a lot of work, but he's got everything from knees to kicks, all of which is supported to what i consider to be one of the best chins in the business (literally and figuratively). His catch wrestling is well known...just ask Big Nog about Barnett's kneebars.

What both men can't do: I say this a lot, but inertia is a real problem for some fighters. If judges actually did their jobs, the following statement may sound like a proper observation, but MMA can punish inactivity. The sport moves so fast in so many different ways that you can't afford to think too much.

Browne can be very hesitant to engage, as he showed against Cheick Kongo in what I thought was one of the worst fights of 2010. Browne is anything but a point fighter, but he can get stuck into the habit of moving like one minus the points. In addition, he keeps his hands low and his chin up. With a different referee who very well loses that Overeem fight. I've never been sold on Browne personally Until recently his competition was highly questionable, and he just doesn't fight with the type of tenacity that will be required to beat an intelligent fighter like Barnett.

The only knock on Barnett is that he's still not quite a specialist. In other words, a brilliant wrestler with submission defense, or a brilliant striker with great wrestling might beat him, but nothing in between. Browne is neither of those.

I like Barnett who score punches on the feet for what will be a very clean but not completely pretty victory.

X-Factor: Drostanolone, Boldenone, Nandrolone, Fluoxymesterone....all of the stuff Josh Barnett denies was ever in his system that inspired modern day UFC drug testing...

In-Fight Soundtrack: Death or Glory (because punk is not dead).

Prediction: Josh Barnett by Decision.

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