Heavyweights Pat Barry and Shawn Jordan see main-card action at Saturday's UFC 161: Evans vs. Henderson from the MTS Centre in Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada, while Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson headline the show in a pivotal light-heavyweight bout. The start time for the 5-fight pay-per-view is 10:00 p.m. ET after the preliminary cards on the FX Channel (8:00 p.m. ET) and Facebook (est. 7:00 p.m. ET) kick-start the evening.
Strikeforce crossover Shawn "The Savage" Jordan (14-4) will look to keep his UFC record on the plus-side after forging a 2-1 pace since his Octagon debut. The 28-year-old Jackson/Winklejohn product dropped a unanimous decision to Cheick Kongo betwixt 2nd-round TKO wins over Oli Thompson and Mike Russow, and entered the UFC on a 9-2 roll that was capped off by a submission win (keylock) over "Big" Lavar Johnson on the Strikeforce: Challengers 19 card.
Despite packing 250-pounds into a 6'0" tall frame, Jordan is a unique athlete with a freakish agility. He was 2-time state wrestling champion in high school, but since he was considered among the nation's top-10 fullbacks, opted to pursue a football scholarship with NCAA Division 1 powerhouse Louisiana State University, who won the 2007 national championships during his senior year. That achievement deserves emphasis: Jordan, who's wide as a house, continued his stint as a fullback at the D1 level, spent time on the gridiron throughout all four years and even started on occasion as a senior, which simply requires an exemplary level of athleticism for a man weighing an eighth-of-a-ton.
Kickboxing specialist Pat Barry (8-5) is one of the most lovable fighters in the game. His career record seems forgettable until you factor in that 10 of his 13 matches took place inside the Octagon and -- I think it's safe to say -- that "HD" is the type of fighter we watch for excitement and entertainment rather than with expectations for a title run. And I truly mean that as a compliment.
Barry's yin is his infectious humility, disarming humor and oft-venomous striking; his glaring deficits in the other key areas of hand-to-hand combat form the yang. He is virtually a one-dimensional martial artist who's stayed afloat because of his charisma, gameness, and willingness to acknowledge and improve his weaknesses. Whether he wins or loses, in this fight or any other, there should always be room for a guy like Pat Barry on the UFC heavyweight roster. Presently, he stands even in the UFC at 5-5 overall.
Both fighters notched promising wins in their last outings against opponents with the potential to exploit their weak spots.
Barry's recent victory over Shane del Rosario showed promise, as del Rosario, like Jordan, wields a two-dimensional arsenal of striking and grappling, and Barry persevered through a few of his known danger-zones (takedown defense, defensive grappling and allowing himself to be trapped in corners) to score the 2nd-round finish. While his goal of repelling takedowns and escaping from any and all ground encounters will remain in place against Jordan (and against anyone else, for that matter), Barry's UFC 161 opponent will present a different set of challenges.
Del Rosario is a rangy Muay Thai kickboxer with average wrestling and solid submissions, whereas the wide-bodied Jordan is a close-range boxer with solid wrestling and average submissions. Rather than hang out on the fringe and plunge long strikes with intermittent clinch attacks, Jordan will endeavor to pressure Barry at phone-booth range in order to jam his strikes and tie him up in the clinch, and also has the ability to drop levels for single- and double-leg takedowns from outside. While Jordan is lacking the distance tools and polished kickboxing technique of del Rosario, he'll bring a better wrestling acumen along with a superior set of footwork and feints required to get inside on Barry.
Jordan gutted out an impressive win over hefty wrestle-boxer Mike Russow in his last turn. After handily losing the opening frame by way of a steady diet of right hands, Jordan synchronized his offense beautifully in the 2nd round to mount a successful comeback. Instead of tossing hesitant, one-shot strikes while back on his heels, Jordan, a southpaw, marched forward and pieced together three- and four-punch combinations to back Russow up, then smoothly blended in takedown attempts and guard passing to set up the strike-stoppage from back mount.
To summarize, each fighter has certain traits that the other is known to struggle with but can also potentially capitalize on. Barry's route to victory is through quickly released and powerful striking while scurrying out of corners and into open space; Jordan's will be cycling between short and stiff boxing combinations with intermittent takedowns, all the while pressuring Barry to make him hesitant to plant his feet and load up power.
If things aren't progressing from the orthodox stance, Barry often switches to southpaw and starts busily plugging his right hand as a jab while occasionally uncoiling a vicious left kick to the body or upstairs. For some reason he's really relented on blasting his adversary with the bone-crushing low kicks he displayed early in his UFC stint -- that tool could be a highly potent weapon against Jordan, who's a bit heavy on his extended lead foot and generally stalking forward, but also bears a risk if Jordan can time the strike and counter with a takedown, or just barge in on Barry when he's off-balance to employ his grinding clinch and dirty boxing assault.
The betting lines reflect how this one could go either way with a tight edge for Barry, which, since Jordan could and should be construed as a bad match up, is probably attributed to Barry's gradual improvements and experience on the big stage. I'm entirely on the fence as far as a prediction and will lend a very hesitant nod to Barry for the same reasons, especially after seeing how Russow was able to penetrate Jordan's guard with punches, though it might change later in the week.
My Prediction: Pat Barry by TKO.