At the Aussie fights back in December, Pat Barry and Soa Palelei looked as if they were likely to blaze away standing. Contrary to expectations, Palelei took Barry to the ground and then clobbered him into unconsciousness in just over two minutes. This chain of events isn't by itself particularly notable.
However, Barry practically gifted Palelei with the opportunity to win with some very bad decision-making. That sequence of non-ideal choices and consequences is what brings us a collaborative Judo Chop from the Bloody Elbow team. Connor Ruebusch, Dallas Winston, T.P. Grant and Ben Thapa
To be clear, everyone has bad days at the office. Yet most people have the luxury of having their work days being along the lines of 9 am to 5 pm five days a week. Professional MMA fighters have a theoretical maximum of twenty-five minutes, with most actually having considerably less time, on one particular day to showcase their abilities. Combining that with the unique stresses of combat sports, pressure to perform, injuries, tactics and human variability creates a very tough situation for the athlete to perform anything close to an ideal form. Those who achieve spectacularly in the cage or ring are to be celebrated and those who do not do the same should still be accorded respect.
In short, to judge MMA fighters solely on one or two in-ring performances is to do a disservice to them. We have no doubts that Barry and Paleilei (among many others) are better than what they show in the cage and endeavor only to show what went wrong technically - not to ever denigrate a particular fighter.
Ben Thapa: I noticed two things that Barry did that were exceptionally wrong for the situation and at least one thing that was sort of strategically okay, but still contextually wrong. I'll keep my initial statements regarding the huge blunders very brief, as to invite further details and input from you all:
1) The keylock/kimura attempt, while commendable in its mentality of attacking via submissions, was an astoundingly bad decision.
2) The half-guard defenses prior to the mount
What specifically did Barry do wrong here and are there other things that he did not do right or do at all?
T.P. Grant: Well Ben, as you pointed out, the kimura attack was an amazingly bad idea. Barry committed to it hard, with the problem of not actually haing Palelei's leg trapped in the half guard. He had to both try to finish the submission and establish his half guard.
After the successful double leg by Soa, Pat reacts and starts to attack.
Barry abandons the guillotine very quickly and goes for a keylock/kimura, as Soa builds a pass.
Barry does connect his left arm to his right wrist, as per keylock form.
Soa defends by "hiding" his arm underneath and shifting to keep his balance over the arm.
Barry is strong enough to un-hide the arm with his own arm strength alone, but at the cost of allowing Palelei to slide nearly up into mount. The importance of the half guard here is that without it, Barry will have a hard time finishing the submission or restricting Palelei's movement should the submission fail.
Soa re-hides his arm and Pat begins to try to hip escape (push his own butt towards top of frame and sneak his legs out from underneath Soa's legs). Soa stops it by clamping down with the free arm and keeping his own legs tight to Pat's body. However, Barry is still able to get one leg free and work to half guard.
And when he was able to grab the half guard, Barry had already surrendered the underhook and allowed Palelei to establish a cross face [using the arm/shoulder to turn the head away, usually weakening defensive resistance and restricting the ability to move]. Instead of looking to set up a real defense from half guard, either clawing for an underhook or trying to go deep on the half guard, Barry simply tried to sit up and go for another kimura attempt. Due to this very poorly established half guard and re-commitment to the submission, it was very easy for Palelei to move to mount.
After getting the half guard in place, Barry re-commits to the keylock and due to the better positioning and Palelei's slight blunder, Barry almost gets things to work as a sweep or submission. Soa manages to recover and turn his arm within the grips, so that he can straighten and pull free the arm.
With the arm free, Palelei can shift into pure attack mode. Barry is left in a very bad position, as his shoulders are flat on the canvas, his hips are also flat and his left arm is stuck doing very little. However, Barry's right arm is moving to block Palelei's left arm from doing any punching or elbowing, which is good. There may be an opportunity for Barry to get on his right side, get the left arm over to the other side and to start working an escape or stall for a stand-up.
Soa takes roughly 30 seconds to pass Pat's half guard. No significant damage is done to Pat in those 30 seconds, which is good. However, Barry reacts badly to the mount emplacement. He dives his left hand down in the legs, as if he were going for a deep half sweep or to try and buck up and escape out the back door. But his legs are in a bad position to do any of this and Soa just clamps down, trapping the left arm.
So what do you do when a 265 lb heavyweight and black belt in BJJ is sitting on top of your belly firing bungalows into your skull? Every possible escape is tremendously hard to achieve at this point for just about anyone, even another sizable heavyweight. Maybe Andre the Giant or an NFL lineman could fling Soa off with ease, but Barry isn't blessed with those particular physical talents.
T.P. Grant: I personally do not like the kimura from bottom half guard 90% of the time. It can be done correctly, but Barry, like many MMA fighters, made it a power move. Frankly, unless that arm is behind the back in less than a handful of seconds, trying to power a kimura from the bottom of half guard is fool's gold. There are just too many defenses. The attack saps the attacker's arms and, as was the case here, it leads to a very weak half guard position when it fails. Barry attempting it on the much larger and more experienced Palelei was a horrific decision.
Going with a point Zane Simon pointed it out in his Hindsight article soon after the event, this kimura attempt, combined with the flying knee counter to a charging Palelei that got Barry on the ground in the first place are signs that Barry is not fighting like he is an undersized heavyweight.
The fact that he went for that kimura at all says to me he either mixed a couple things together or it is something he is able to get away with in the gym against smaller or less skilled training partners. In my experience, that type of kimura attack is one of those situations most people learn to avoid in their first year of grappling, especially with larger training partners.
Dallas Winston: First time caller, longtime fan here. :)
Barry's first mistake was the knee that Connor mentioned, but it was literally the worst possible choice of a knee. It wasn't even a flying knee, which is ultra-high risk but actually probably would've worked in that scenario. He chose a light-in-the-shoes jump knee: it doesn't pack enough power to KO or even really dissuade the takedown artist much, the airborne trajectory is straight up (instead of the more powerful linear trajectory of a flying knee), and the killer is that it entirely sacrificed his footing and balance. Any flying technique is high risk in that scenario, so you might as well load up a shit-ton of power if you're going to give up your footing. That knee would've had to land perfectly on the chin.
From the get-go, Palelei knew exactly how he was going to set up his takedowns. The first time out, Barry defended it very well and without taking any damage.
Palelei's penetration step is far enough away from Barry that he has the time he needs to duck out of the way of the left hook, swim for underhooks and be mindful of his feet positioning.
At this point, that takedown is almost totally shut down, barring any glaring mistakes from Barry.
Barry made no mistakes and begins wallwalking in superb fashion. He's even benefiting from Palelei expending energy on a failed takedown. It's a great start to the fight for Barry. However, the next time Soa tried for a takedown...
Patrick knows he's dealt successfully with this same takedown from even closer in last time, so he likely figures that he'll take a chance with a potential fight-ending strike.
As Dallas says, Barry isn't moving forwards with his knee. He's moving upwards and Palelei's head is already moving out to the other side from the knee being thrown. This is going to have to be a knee-based marvel of anticipation to land on the button.
The knee does not land on the chin. It lands somewhere on the chest and gives Soa both legs within easy grabbing distance. Furthermore, Soa is big enough and moving forwards enough that the knee barely moves him (despite it probably still hurting as it landed).
Dallas Winston: Once on the mat, I'm assuming you guys would agree that a kimura from the bottom with anything but full guard should really only be used as a distraction, a sweep or a set-up transition. The whole time he was pursuing it, Barry kept his hips flat on the mat and never tried to get full guard nor was he prepared to create space and scramble free when Palelei passed to full mount. He just sat there and fought for a half-ass sub using only his upper body.
IMO, it was the grappling equivalent of being a punching bag on the feet.
Connor Ruebusch: I don't have much to say about the grappling, though I did notice that Pat completely failed to frame with his left arm at all while Soa was moving to mount, but as far as the flying knee counter goes... I really think that uppercuts are a wiser choice against takedown attempts, particularly for big dudes.
Someone like Anderson Silva can throw a flying knee and scramble back to his feet after connecting or failing to connect because he's lanky and spry. Someone with different attributes like Pat Barry is basically screwed if his one strike doesn't end the fight, as we saw against Palelei. He'd have been better served to go the JDS route, and counter Palelei's takedown with an uppercut.
This is better for two reasons: 1) you can sink your weight down while throwing an uppercut, whereas any knee strike requires the weight to be moving up and forward--bad news when defending a takedown; 2) an uppercut does not even need to be very hard to hurt a charging opponent. The less commitment you need to give to a strike the better your chances of staying on your feet are. See Nate Diaz's first knockdown of Gray Maynard in their TUF 18 fight--okay, it's a straight left, not an uppercut, but it was a half-committed strike that had a huge effect by virtue of the fact that Maynard all but dove chin-first into Nate's fist.
Pat should just retire already. He's never actually been that great of a striker in boxing terms, and his grappling doesn't seem to have improved at all. Do you guys see any improvements in the ground game of Pat today compared to Pat three years ago?
Ben Thapa: There are ways to finish the kimura from the bottom, but as you all say, 99% of those are going to be from within some form of guard. Barry spent a long, long time without even going for the retention of the half guard, keeping his hips flat and so on. Pat was trying to power through a submission that - in this context - requires a tremendous amount of strength on a much bigger, much more experienced grappler who had a modified mount (usually called S-mount) position on him. That's either tremendous conviction in one's ability to pull off a technique or a brain fart that a HW who has fought in the UFC for five years should basically never have.
I understand Barry was eating ketchup sandwiches until his Hardonk fight and basically couldn't pay anybody to train him in this stuff, but that was more than four years ago. If I commit the sin of judging Barry solely on his groundwork in his fights, I see someone who did improve his basic positioning and understanding of how to attack for submissions, but I don't see the refining of instincts, small movements and timing that separate a competent grappler from a good one.
That's four years of time not spent ironing out the tactics needed to survive on the ground against bigger, stronger heavyweights he's fighting in the blinkin' UFC. For sure, that is a difficult task to accomplished, but an older and probably less initially motivated person in Mark Hunt did exactly that in less time.
Hunto went from having a ground game as bad as Melvin Manhoef's back in 2010 to actually getting up from underneath Bigfoot Silva, who is the largest heavyweight in the UFC and a black belt of many years to boot. Hunto doesn't futz around with kimuras. He gets his frames up, he starts scrambling and he prevents takedowns with his footwork and timing of strikes.
I really like this Kesting tutorial on the kimura from the half guard because it shows what Barry was probably trying to do, even with Paleilei's counter of hiding the arm under.
How to Finish the Kimura Armlock Submission from the Half Guard by Stephan Kesting
I believe Barry's ideal course was was to stall Soa in the half guard as his primary goal (to get stood back up), then secondarily to shove the arm/leg outwards (widening Soa's base and forcing more time to elapse) and then fall to his back with the grips still on, which would yank the arm out and yield either a sweep or a submission (tertiary goal). However, Barry really seemed to flip the goals, going after the submission first, which is somewhat commendable, but hard to execute against Palelei. Soa was not in the half guard, was much stronger, knew exactly what he had to do to keep the arm safe and was patient enough to wait for Barry to give the opening for the pass.
Once securely in mount, just about any heavyweight will knock another out and Palelei did exactly that. Preventing the mount or knee on belly should have been Barry's highest priority once the pass started. Instead, he seemed to try to "go with the flow" and accept the mount.
Does anyone have an idea what Barry was trying to do when Paleilei mounted him? He shoved a hand down there real quick - perhaps to start a scramble or something specific?
I also think Barry used the wrong leg for the knee, but as the stand-up guys said, throwing that knee in the first place was ridiculous.
T.P. Grant: Does anyone have an idea what Barry was trying to do when Paleilei mounted him?
Was he trying for the deep half guard escape from mount? Only thing I can think of why you'd be under hooking a leg from mount bottom.
Ben Thapa (conclusion): The outcome of the fight between Pat Barry and Soa Palelei was decided by Barry's non-ideal choices, but Palelei still had to win it. His patient groundwork, although not without flaw, allowed him to use his superior strength and experience to their fullest to take a knock-out win without damage or injury. That type of win is basically a fighter's optimal outcome.
Barry did retire from MMA after this fight and will re-start his kickboxing career with a fight against Ed Burris at Combat Sports Challenge 39 this Saturday and with a May fight in the Glory heavyweight tournament. He also appears to be in tremendous shape for this and training hard. I have little doubt that he is a better grappler than he showed in that cage and has already made a similar post-mortem of the fight on with his team on this match. Sometimes, bad days happen and when they happen during a fight, things get ugly.
We commend Barry for beginning serious combat sports training at the relatively late age of 21, traveling the world as a fighter, signing with the UFC at 28 after about one year of MMA training, providing us with some of the more memorable moments in recent UFC heavyweight history (although too many at his cost) and wish him all success in his future.
Also, we are huge fans of the way Barry corners Rose Namajunas.