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UFC on Versus 6: Pat Barry Walks the Fine Line Between Sport and Entertainment

Should Pat Barry be released from the UFC following his loss to Stefan Struve on Saturday night? <em><strong>Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC</strong></em>
Should Pat Barry be released from the UFC following his loss to Stefan Struve on Saturday night? Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Former K-1 kickboxer and Roufusport fighter Pat Barry is considered one of the most personable characters under the UFC banner. His propensity to wage war with opponents by way of comic relief breeds a different kind of hype in the lead-up to his fights. Saturday's main card bout with Stefan Struve at UFC on Versus 6 in Washington D.C. was solely promoted by the fact that Barry was over one foot shorter than the giant Dutch submission artist. Barry, standing on the scale after he weighed in on Friday afternoon, jokingly stayed on the scale for the staredown, making their heights somewhat comparable. Laughter echoed through the halls of the D.C. Armory., a reaction that Barry has induced in fans since his debut in the UFC.

According to UFC President Dana White, Pat Barry is also "one of those guys", meaning he's a fighter who strives to win, goes for the kill, throws caution to the wind. There isn't any "lay n' pray" mentality in Barry's style. He fights to knock out his opponents, or faces the consequences if he's unable to fulfill his self-assigned job requirement. He has been on the end of the latter in his last two performances, which includes a submission loss to Stefan Struve on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.

During the post-fight scrum with the media, White commented on Barry's future with the UFC. He reiterated what many fans already knew. Barry likely won't be going anywhere because he's an exciting and entertaining fighter.

White's answer, and if we really think about it -- White's philosophy on fighting in general, fuels the debate of sport vs. entertainment in a different way. In the past, we've talked about how Jon Fitch is heavily position on the sport side of the topic, but the UFC gives more opportunities and second chances to many fighters who play to the entertainment side of the issue. Both Chris Leben and Matt Brown were given opportunites despite meeting the normal criteria for termination.

Sport vs. entertainment debates normally involve arguments about pitting the best vs. best versus creating stylistically fan-friendly match-ups. In this case however, it's more of a micro topic to that macro issue involving a single fighter. Pat Barry fits the bill as an entertaining fighter, but his skills, as we saw against Struve on Saturday night, are far from what one might expect to see in the UFC. Maybe we should get used to it. After all, we sat through two abysmal heavyweight performances at UFC 135. 

I imagine my opinion that Pat Barry should be sent packing will be met with stiff resistence, and I won't deny the fact that there is plenty of evidence to suggest he stick around in the UFC. Obviously, the division is one of the most shallow in the entire world, why cut a man with some potential? Barry is also an entertaining fighter who put some hype into a fight with Stefan Struve. Enough hype, in fact, that the heavyweight bout gained more interest than the UFC bantamweight main event showdown between Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson on the same card.


What about the sport side of the argument? Barry has spoken in great lengths about how he needs to improve his overall game, yet we haven't seen the improvements we've hoped for from the former K-1 fighter. His striking, while heralded as the elite of the elite, isn't first-class. He was never a highly successful K-1 fighter. There is a difference between "K-1 level" striker and "elite striker". The two terms aren't synonymous.

Barry hasn't transitioned those skills well to the Octagon. He's understandably hesistant at times due to the threat of takedowns and completeley defenseless in other instances due to his propensity to go for the kill. Barry can't compete with anyone who has the know-how to work from their back and threaten with submissions.

The most glaring weakness for Barry is his fight IQ. Even in early fights, it was apparent that he needed guidance. Remember Tim Hague? Footage exists of Hague being dismantled by leg kicks, yet Barry attempted to show off an improved ground game in their battle at UFC 98. Barry got choked out in one minute and forty-two seconds. How about the bull charge at a stunned Cheick Kongo at UFC on Versus 4 in June? Keeping your hands down is a recipe for disaster, even if the perception is that your opponent is close to finished. He found that out the hard way.

Despite all of these problems, Barry is rewarded for his exciting style and comic relief. I get it. The UFC needs fighters like Pat Barry to maintain interest. What's best for Pat Barry though? This is a business, and the UFC wants to make money with fan-friendly fights. But is the best action here to keep rewarding Barry and pitting him against stand-up fighters? It seems like it would be more beneficial for Barry to improve in the minor leagues and work his way back into the mix with more confidence and consistency.

Wishful thinking, I guess. The division is too shallow to waste time allowing Barry to improve in the regional circuit. He's 32 years old, and he doesn't have loads of time to capitalize on his popularity. Keeping around heavyweights who can't hack it because the divisional numbers are lingering is against the sport side of the argument however. Barry, for everything he brings to the table, is barely skilled enough to succeed in the UFC. I personally love Pat Barry's mentality toward the fight game, but it would be nice if he followed it. He needs to improve by leaps and bounds, and that isn't happening when he's getting large checks to throw caution to the wind and dive right into power hooks and triangle chokes. 

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