Two heavyweights with their backs against the wall will duke it out this Friday night (January 20, 2012) as fan favorite Pat Barry takes on Christian Morecraft in the opening bout of the first free show of the year, UFC on FX: "Guillard vs. Miller," in Nashville.
Pat Barry has won over the fans with both his fighting style and great personality, but the results have been mixed in the cage. He's yet to put together two consecutive victories in the UFC and is now coming off two straight losses in his last two fights. He likely needs a strong performance on Friday night if he wants to remain employed.
Christian Morecraft has also had a very up and down UFC career, however brief it may be. After two strong showings in his first two fights, he was crushed by Matt Mitrione this past summer, resulting in a second round knockout. He will need to impose his will against "Hype or Die" to prove he belongs in the promotion.
Will Barry return to form with a blistering knockout of his bigger but slower opponent? Can Morecraft take advantage of his opponent's deficiencies on the canvas? How does each man earn a victory on Friday night?
Let's find out:Pat Barry
Record: 6-4 overall, 3-4 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, the first of his career. His rebound fight was against Stefan Struve, a man over a foot taller than him. Barry hung with "The Skyscraper" for over half the fight but was eventually put into a triangle choke and despite an impressive powerbomb, he was forced to tap.
He'll likely be fighting for his job against Morecraft on Friday night.
How he gets it done: This one is blatantly obvious. Pat Barry needs to get inside and punish Morecraft with his punches. Barry has proven that he has significant power in his hands in his last few fights while Morecraft has shown deficiencies in his striking defense as well as an inability to handle a big shot to the chin.
Barry also has terrific dexterity and might be one of the few heavyweights that could catch the 6'6 Morecraft with a head kick despite such a large 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 Morecraft'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 potentially ground and pounded or submitted. He still doesn't have a very good ground game so he absolutely needs to keep this fight standing.
Record: 7-2 overall, 1-2 in the UFC
Key Losses: Stefan Struve (UFC 117), Matt Mitrione (UFC on Versus 4)
How he got here: After blowing away every opponent on the local circuit with no one even lasting three minutes with him, Morecraft made his UFC debut at UFC 117 against fellow tough prospect Stefan Struve.
Morecraft obliterated Struve in the first round, beating him senseless with ground and pound from top position and not only busting his face wide open but nearly splitting his lip in half. He may have spent a little too much of his energy going for the finish, thought, because he came out in the second frame sluggish and was knocked out cold just 22 seconds in.
Morecraft bounced back against Sean McCorkle in his next fight, escaping "Big Sexy's" ground game in the first round and choking the 6'7" fighter out cold with a standing guillotine late in the second round.
Against Matt Mitrione, Morecraft was clearly inferior in the stand-up portion of the fight and ate some heavy shots. His takedowns were effective but he was stood up almost immediately by the referee before getting an opportunity to work and eventually, he was put down for good by "Meathead."
He'll get one last shot against fan favorite Pat Barry.
How he gets it done: Morecraft is a half decent striker, but he's absolutely nowhere near Pat Barry's league. He's most effective from top position on the ground and has some impressive top control includes brutal ground and pound if he can posture up.
If and when he can put Barry on his back , he'll be in the perfect position to pummel the former kickboxer with his powerful fists.
Morecraft also possesses some decent submissions of his own. While his last standing guillotine against McCorkle was more due to inexperience on the part of his opponent, he also boasts a few legitimate submissions wins with armbar and rear-naked choke finishes in his fight history. The key will be for Morecraft to wrap up Barry in a submission as that has been his Achilles heel in his MMA career thus far.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is Pat Barry's confidence right now. He's lost via strikes and via submission in his last two fights and to make matters worse, the two heavyweights he's specifically been working with in their training camp to help prepare them for their fights, Mirko Filipovic and Brock Lesnar, both got beaten so badly that they retired from the sport afterwards. That has to be completely undermining his confidence right now. Will he be the same aggressive self that fans have come to know and love, or will he be completely full of self doubt? Depending on his attitude and mind-set heading into this fight, he could be a lion or a lamb.
Bottom Line: Both men are coming off losses and because of that, both now have losing records in the UFC. How will each man fight with their backs against the wall? Will they fight incredibly safe, fighting "not to lose," or will they go balls to the wall and push an incredible pace in an effort to keep their jobs regardless of the outcome? With how much better Barry is at striking and how much stronger Morecraft is on the ground, this could be a very one-sided fight for whoever actually ends up winning. On paper, at least, I'm not seeing many fireworks. We'll have to wait and see, however.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FX: Guillard vs Miller? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!