Two vastly different heavyweights will combat each other this Saturday night (October 1, 2011) in the co-main event of UFC on Versus 6 as Pat Barry takes on Stefan Struve in a clash that will feature one of the greatest height differentials of all time.
Barry is a strong kickboxer who answered questions about his killer instinct by going ballistic on Cheick Kongo in his last fight only to be caught and knocked out by a Hail Mary pair of desperation punches. He'll be looking to get back on track against Stefan Struve, a man who's a full foot taller than he is.
Struve, at 23 years old, is still considered a prospect in the promotion despite this being his ninth fight in the UFC. The 6'11 Dutchman has come up short all three times he's been matched up against top heavyweights in the division and he's hoping he can turn things around against Barry, a solid striker with a weakness on the ground.
Will Barry get inside and topple "The Skyscraper?" Or will Struve finally utilize his tremendous reach advantage and keep "HD" at a distance? Which of these men will live up to the glimmers of promise that they've shown in their UFC careers thus far?
Record: 6-3 overall, 3-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Pat Barry got his start in kickboxing and Sanshao. He competed in the striking arts for nearly six years on the international level before finally making the transition to mixed martial arts in 2008. After fighting professionally for seven months, he was already making his UFC debut against Dan Evenson that same year, winning violently with leg kicks in the first round.
Barry would suffer his first defeat against Tim Hague, showcasing his serious lack of a ground game in the process but rebounded nicely against veteran kickboxer and former training partner Antoni Hardonk with a TKO victory at UFC 104. He would fight his former hero Mirko Filipovic at UFC 115 and despite dropping the Pride legend twice in the first round, eventually succumbed to a rear naked choke in round three.
Barry rebounded with a dominant performance against the hard-headed Joey Beltran earlier this year and was moments away from finishing French kickboxer Cheick Kongo in the UFC on Versus 5 main event before suffering a stunning knockout of his own.
How he gets it done: This one is blatantly obvious. Pat Barry needs to get inside and punish Struve with his punches. Barry has proven that he has significant power in his hands in his last few fights while Struve has proven that he can't absorb big strikes very well.
Barry also has terrific dexterity and might be one of the few heavyweights that could catch Struve with a head kick despite the full foot height differential. If he can't hit him with a head kick, Barry also possesses some of the nastiest leg kicks in the division and Struve's giant tree trunks that he calls legs are some pretty easy targets.
They key for Barry will be getting inside without exposing himself to the point where he can get tossed to the canvas and submitted. He still doesn't have a very good ground game so he absolutely needs to keep this fight standing.
Record: 21-5 overall, 5-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Stefan Struve built his résumé on the European circuit, testing himself against many of the toughest guys in circulation at the time. Due to his ridiculous height, he had to develop a strong ground game as his opponents were rather easily able to put him on his back.
After compiling a 16-2 record, he found himself on the UFC 95 undercard, during which he proceeded to get knocked out in less than a minute courtesy of Junior dos Santos. Despite the setback, Struve fascinated fans because of his crazy size and balls-to-the-wall fighting style.
Since the loss in his promotional debut, Struve has gone 5-2 in the promotion. The young Dutchman has steadily progressed and added some bulk to his frame. He's still still relatively wet behind the ears, but has tons of time to develop his craft as long as he can protect his chin.
Of Struve's 21 career victories, only one has been a decision. His two fights against Christian Morecraft and Sean McCorkle both underscored what he's all about as a mixed martial artist: Absorbing punishment or being in bad positions and then roaring back in crowd-pleasing fashion. Of course this backfired against Travis Browne at UFC 130 when "The Skyscraper" got toppled after an ill-advised flying knee attempt directly into the big right hand of his opponent.
How he gets it done: First thing's first, Struve absolutely needs to learn to utilize his range properly. Hopefully that's a lesson he learned from his fights with Travis Browne and Roy Nelson. Hell, he had a similar issue with Paul Buentello at times. Struve needs to learn to keep people on the end of his jab instead of stooping down and leaving his face as an open target.
Kicks are also his friend, although considerably less so against Pat Barry because he's probably been kicked at so much in his career that he can do more damage by checking them than Struve could do if he landed a strike flush.
With a near 10 inch reach advantage, "The Skyscraper" should put an effort into keeping Barry on the end of his jab. Hopefully, this will force the American to get reckless and leave openings to allow this fight to be taken to the ground.
The ground is 100 percent Struve's friend for this fight. Everyone knows about Barry's issues on the canvas so it is vital that the Dutchman takes this fight to the canvas. He doesn't have great takedowns, but whatever he can do to bring "HD" down, he needs to do it. His submission game is pretty high level especially when he's not getting punched in the face repeatedly. If he can bring Barry to the ground, he'll prove plenty of fight-finishing opportunities without risking getting KTFO.
Fight "X-Factor:" There are two key X-Factors for this bout. The first will be how Pat Barry responds to the first knockout loss of his career. He's competed in at least 25 kickboxing matches and now nine MMA bouts, but getting blasted by Kongo was the first time he'd ever had his lights put out. The stand-up is his realm so that could be particularly demoralizing for him. If he shows up with a lack of killer instinct, it could cost him.
The other factor is Stefan Struve and his reach. No fighter has been worse at utilizing their reach than "The Skyscraper" in the UFC. He has an 83 inch reach, second in the UFC to Jon Jones. Perhaps he watched Jones defend his belt this past weekend and jotted down some notes. If he can't keep his distance and allows Barry to get inside on him, Struve is going to be in some serious trouble.
Bottom Line: This bout has the potential to be incredibly entertaining. Both men normally bring it at a high pace and aren't afraid to throw down if they feel they'll get the better of the striking. There is a high likelihood that they trade bombs until someone goes down. The only cause for concern is the fact that both fighters suffered pretty nasty knockouts the last time around and that could be weighing in the back of their minds and forcing them to be tentative. With they way they've been joking about it in interviews and conference calls, though, I'm going to assume they're going to have clear heads coming into this fight.