Two of the most entertaining and violent heavyweights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will duke it out this Saturday night (May 5, 2012) as kickboxer Pat Barry takes on heavy-handed Lavar Johnson in the opening bout of the UFC on FOX 3 main card in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Barry has long been regarded as one of the most lethal strikers in the UFC, earning all four of his victories in the promotion with his hands and feet. The ground game has been his kryptonite, but he's got nothing to fear in that department with his upcoming opponent, Lavar Johnson, who will only be looking to knock his block off.
Johnson might have the most powerful hands in all of mixed martial arts (MMA). He's never been to a decision and has won via strikes in 15 of his 16 career victories. He's going to be looking to land flush on Barry and he knows that if he could knock out Joey Beltran in his UFC debut, "Big" can knock out anyone in this entire division.
Will Barry's technical striking skill be too much for Johnson? Can "Big" Johnson find a home for that lethal right hand and potentially end this fight with one blow? What's the key to victory for both heavyweights on Saturday night?
Let's find out:Pat Barry
Record: 7-4 overall, 4-4 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 was potentially fighting for his job against Christian Morecraft the last time out, but showcased some improved submission defense, escaping a precarious position to knock the big man out in the first round.
How he gets it done: Barry has some terrific kickboxing skills, and if he wants to win this fight, he's got two options. The first is to keep his distance and work his technical advantages with kicks, feints and set-ups. The second option is to test his improving ground skills by surprising Johnson and putting him on the ground.
Barry's done this before against opponents with no ground game, taking down Antoni Hardonk and beating him up on the canvas. Don't be surprised if he tries it again here as Johnson has one of the worst ground games of any fighter in the UFC.
When the bout is standing, expect to see Barry try to just destroy Johnson's legs and body with kicks. The more blows he can land early, the slower Johnson will be and the less "oomph" he's going to have in his lethal hands. He needs to avoid brawling or letting Johnson close the distance in the clinch at all costs.
Record: 16-5 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
How he got here: A big, powerful athlete, Lavar Johnson was a former standout football player, getting into MMA at 26 years old. Despite an early setback in his debut against Doug Marshall, "Big" Johnson would bounce back in a huge way, winning his next eight fights, all by stoppage and all but one being ended in the first round.
After an injury suffered mid-fight took away over two years of his career, Johnson finally returned, blasting five straight opponents with five first round knockouts. He would be sidelined in 2009 after getting shot in the abdomen at a family reunion, but surprisingly returned to action just nine months later, scoring a second round knockout against Lolohea Mahe.
Johnson crushed Virgil Zwicker in just over two minutes, but he would have issues dealing with the wrestling and submission games of his next two opponents, who both took advantage of his lack of ground game by scoring submissions against him.
Despite a two fight losing streak, Johnson made his UFC debut this past January where he did the impossible, stopping Joey Beltran via strikes for the first time in "The Mexicutioner's" career and sending him down to 205 pounds. With that victory, he earned a shot on the big stage this weekend.
How he gets it done: Johnson doesn't have the best technique, but good god almighty does he have power! He's never gone to a decision in his career and that's for good reason. All it takes is a one big shot and no one can stand in his way, not even the infamous iron chin of Joey Beltran.
Johnson can't out kickbox Pat Barry so he needs to do what worked in his last fight, which is to close the distance, get inside, even though he has a bigger reach, and work his uppercuts. Johnson has the most powerful uppercut I've ever seen and Check Kongo was able to knock Barry out with a hook/uppercut combination last year so it's definitely doable.
The uglier and less technical that Johnson can make this fight, the better odds he has of winning it. He absolutely should not sit back and try to use his reach advantage or he'll get his legs, body and potentially his head kicked to high heaven.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor for this fight is simply technique vs. power. Pat Barry is definitely the more technical striker, likely able to land better counters, use footwork, throw more diverse strikes and can hurt his opponent from all kinds of angles while Johnson is much more obvious in his efforts to land that huge fight-ending uppercut.
Both have their merits, but whoever is able to impose their will, whether it be Barry trying to keep his distance and turn this into more of a violent sparring session or Johnson trying to turn it into a life-and-death brawl, that is likely the biggest factor in determining the outcome of the fight.
Bottom Line: This fight is tailor-made for entertainment. The second that UFC on FOX 2 ended with a boring night of decisions, this was the first fight booked for the UFC on FOX 3 event and with reason. Pat Barry has one decision in his career (against the iron chinned Beltran) while Johnson has zero. This fight is not going to go all three rounds. Both men are too powerful and dangerous for that to happen. This is going to be violent. It could last 10 minutes or 10 seconds, but someone is going go down, plain and simple. Excitement potential: guaranteed.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FOX 3? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!