UFC Fight Night 33: Pat Barry vs. Soa Palelei Dissection

The rundown on the heavyweight tilt between bruisers Pat Barry and Sao Palelei on the UFC Fight Night 33 main card.

WHO: Pat Barry vs. Soa Palelei
WHAT:
UFC Fight Night 33
WHERE:
Brisbane Entertainment Center in Brisbane, Australia
WHEN: Friday, December 6

Pat Barry vs. Soa Palelei -- Heavyweight bout

Lovable marksman Pat Barry (8-6) is set to throw hands with Soa "The Hulk" Palelei (19-3), a quarrelsome and experienced Australian of Tongan descent.

After a one-and-done stint in the Octagon in 2007 (TKO loss to Eddie Sanchez at UFC 79), Palelei won eleven of his next twelve with respected Olympian Daniel Cormier accounting for the only mishap. The 6'4" wide-body has an 11-year tenure in MMA and boasts a sturdy 15 TKO stoppages in 19 turns. "The Hulk" is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and won the Australian ADCC tournament as a heavyweight, yet that grappling know-how translates more to positional awareness than submission venom in the cage.

Barry, a unanimous fan favorite, has persevered through an up-and-down rollercoaster ride through the UFC. He's never been able to piece together two straight wins and has a known Achilles Heel in his wrestling and submission defense, but manages to compensate with a million-dollar smile, infectious humility and making sure his wins are all highlight-reel worthy.

Unfortunately for "HD," many of his losses are highlight-reel worthy as well. He's made gradual strides with his grappling but nothing will change the fact that he's deadly on the feet and vulnerable on the mat. Barry's one of the smallest heavyweights competing at the top level and therefore locked into a disadvantage in height, strength and (in most cases) reach. He's grown accustomed to tangling with heftier opponents by relying heavily on his quickness, agility and hand speed. Actually, since he's conspicuously abandoned his debilitating low kicks, Barry's speed, footwork and boxing seem to be his best and only tools.

Palelei is a basic striker who prefers to swallow the open space in the cage and unload at close quarters. The bulk of his TKO wins have been a prolonged battering after he's either steered his opponents into a corner, buried them on the fence or taken them down. He's not a pretty striker who'll out-finesse you in open space or land the single-swing homerun, but he gets the job done with a finite array of short-range jackhammers and his chin has been highly reliable.

You could say that Palelei is a bad match up for Barry but, considering his shortcomings, there aren't many heavyweights that aren't a bad match up for Pat Barry. For example, even though Palelei, who sneaks in just under the 265-pound heavyweight limit at the weigh-ins, is not amongst Barry's most threatening competition, he'll probably out-weigh Barry by close to 30 pounds. Nevertheless, that's (insanely) nothing new and he's made a career out of competing with the top dogs and dusting everyone of a lower status.

The question then becomes whether Palelei is an A-list fighter or not. His best career wins are Bob Sapp and Sean McCorkle, neither of whom are elite by today's standards. Regardless, Palelei has the size, skills and intellect to exploit Barry's quasi-allergies to submissions and grappling.

The lurking X-factor here is the battle of cage motion: Palelei must first get his filthy mitts on Barry to impose his advantages and Barry is lightning-fast and tends to ricochet around the cage whilst expelling fight-ending combinations with his hands. He's learned to keep his larger adversary at bay with a focus on lateral movement, circling and pivots to complement his devastating counter-striking and switching back and forth between traditional and southpaw. In fact, switching to southpaw and spearing deep with a right jab seems to have been Barry's trusty formula to dictate range, and he mixes in a hard left body kick when his opponent increases his forward momentum.

The betting lines favor Barry by a slight margin, which I think is fair. Considering the predictability of the match up, Barry could catch Palelei off-guard by shooting for takedowns just like Palelei could surprise Barry by willfully engaging him on the feet. However, the match-up parameters are the same here as they are for every Pat Barry fight, and I think Palelei is a winnable but formidable test for him.

My Prediction: Pat Barry by TKO.

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