Heavyweight sluggers will light off the main card of Friday night's UFC on FX show, as Pat Barry meets Christian Morecraft in the show's opener.
Pat "HD" Barry (6-4) has the right mixture of talent, humility and a creepy sense of humor. He's lost three of his last four, but you don't hear too many people talking about a possible cut if he drops another. In a fairly shallow division, especially until some of the Strikeforce heavies meander over, Barry is the type of fighter fans never mind watching. He's a raw kickboxer with quick and powerful hands and feet, and a pretty likable and good natured guy overall.
The San Shou titlist was on the wrong end of 2011's best example of the "anything can happen" and "oh, sh*t!" factors that keep us helplessly addicted to MMA. After thwacking Cheick Kongo with a punch in the UFC Live 6 main event last June, Barry moved in for the kill and seemed on the verge of closing out the floundering Frenchman. Alas, Mother MMA would hurl one of her most glorious curve-balls yet. Like a bad zombie flick, the corpse-like Kongo suddenly lurched back to life and stuffed a leather-coated meatball down Barry's throat for an unforgettable comeback knockout.
The Minnesota-based striker debuted at UFC 92 with a hostile barrage of low kicks to stop Dan Evensen in the first, but yielded to a Tim Hague guillotine choke in his sophomore outing. That cycle would repeat again with a strike-stoppage of Antoni Hardonk and subsequent submission loss to Mirko Filipovic. Barry went on to out-point the hard-headed Joey Beltran by decision before he met Kongo and then was tapped with a triangle courtesy of Stefan Struve.
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Christian Morecraft (7-2) is a hulking 6'6", 260-pound ogre out of Team Bombsquad. He emerged in the UFC undefeated after six fights and was giving Struve the business in the first stanza, but the lanky Dutchman came out firing in the second and clipped him with a right cross. Morecraft showed promising grappling technique for a man of his size against Sean McCorkle, throwing up armbar and triangle attempts from his back and even rolling for a kneebar before ending things with a guillotine in the second.
A member of the supporting cast on the Barry vs. Kongo card, Morecraft jousted with Matt Mitrione on the feet and was tagged with a combo for a TKO loss late in the second. That was the deepest water the big fella had been dragged into, as all nine of his contests have concluded short of the third (4 subs, 3 TKO wins; 2 TKO losses).
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Pat Barry's low kicks are some of the most rugged and damaging in the industry. He stopped three of his first four opponents by mangling their legs with his low roundhouse. He used to employ the tactic early and often but has been much more reserved with it lately, perhaps due to the increase in size and counter-punching ability of larger UFC heavyweights.
Barry is also a boxing threat and has been slicing with his sharp hands for the bulk of his offense. A minor critique is that he rarely integrates kicks into his combinations and typically throws one at a time, or switches gears entirely and only relies on his hands.
The size and length of Hardonk presented some range and distance challenges for Barry, whose broad and stubby frame (5'11, 240-pounds) isn't ideal for a striker amongst the giants. His blazing speed more than compensated for the deficit, as Barry started to dart in and out of the pocket while working his hands, eventually flooring his former training partner with a plunging right hand from southpaw.
It's no secret that grappling with Pat Barry is a much friendlier environment than standing up with him. It's a clear Achilles heel and Morecraft is fully equipped to exploit it.
I was extremely impressed with how smooth Morecraft was off his back against McCorkle. We just don't see very many upper-end heavyweights pursuing leg locks, and an even fewer amount among the newer generation. That made it even more refreshing to see a leviathan like Morecraft not only avoid a panic-fueled scramble to escape from his back, but attack aggressively from the historically unenviable position.
Even though it looked deep, McCorkle slipped out but Morecraft was able to sit out and reverse to hammer ground-and-pound from the top.
Standing, Morecraft has average boxing fundamentals, a giant bear-swipe of a right hand and even throws a a halfway decent low kick. Morecraft moves well on the feet considering his substantial girth, relative inexperience (he's amidst his third year as a pro) and burgeoning fight skills (age 24).
That being said, his deficit against Barry in the agility department will be immense. In fact, speed and striking were salient factors in both of his career defeats and Barry is the quickest heavy in the UFC hands down.
While "HD" has ramped back on leg kicks and dialed in his punches to better suit past match ups, he might want to consider going back to his roots. Morecraft won't have the same level of footwork or timeliness with counter-punching compared to foes like Hardonk, "CroCop", Beltran, Kongo and Struve. What Morecraft will bring is the mentality of a stalker, enormous power in his right hand and the pressure of capitalizing on Barry's lagging ground game.
I'm in full agreement with the betting lines that average Barry by a narrow margin. His pace and polished technique should allow him to out-finesse Morecraft with a dedicated sprawl and brawl routine, but it's one of those cases where the slightest mistake will cost him dearly. Like Kongo, Barry stunned Hague and was punished for pouncing with too much vigor, and the same hazards apply here.
My Prediction: Pat Barry by TKO.
Barry vs. Evensen gif via MMA-Core.com
Barry vs. Hardonk gif via smoogy
All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com