Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Pat Barry and Soa Palelei are set to throw down on the main card of Friday night's (Dec. 6, 2013) UFC Fight Night 33 event from Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, Australia.
Decorated kickboxing champion Barry has experienced an up-and-down run in mixed martial arts (MMA) since making his UFC debut in 2009. He's put forth some amazing knockouts but has been on the receiving end of quite a few, as well.
Barry was last seen losing to Shawn Jordan at UFC 161. He was finished in under a minute and never got the chance to get his trademark offense going. Prior to that, he notched his second "Knockout of the Night" bonus against Shane del Rosario at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 Finale. History dictates that Barry is due for a win against Palelei.
However, that's far from a sure thing against "Hulk," who'll be fighting in front of his homeland fans.
Palelei returned to the Octagon at UFC 164 last August, stopping Nikita Krylov via strikes in an uninspired performance. The former Australian Fighting Championships (AFC) heavyweight champion is currently on a nine-fight win streak. His blend of power and technique makes him a very tough out for any UFC heavyweight, but he's yet to fully prove himself against the top fighters in the world.
That makes Barry a perfect litmus test for Palelei. There's not much doubt that this one will end with a finish when two sluggers like Barry and Palelei collide. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Pat Barry vs. Soa Palelei:
Record: 8-6 overall, 5-6 UFC
Key Wins: Shane del Rosario (TUF 16 Finale), Antoni Hardonk (UFC 104)
Keys to Victory: Barry is a crushing striker who may possess the most powerful kicks in MMA. His extensive kickboxing background enables him to mix up his kicks and punches effectively. Barry's nickname "Hype or Die" proves true in his fights.
He's only won one fight by decision and all six of his losses have come by way of stoppage.
To avoid being on the wrong end of a finish against Palelei, Barry will need to keep his distance. He doesn't exactly have the most range at 5'11", so he'll need to pick his spots carefully rather than carelessly rushing in to look for the knockout.
Barry's takedown and submission defense have always been his weaknesses. That could be a big problem against Palelei. "Hulk" nearly competed for Australia in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Summer Olympics and he has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Palelei also won gold at ADCC Australia, proving that he's no joke on the ground.
Obviously keeping this fight standing will play to Barry's strengths, but that in no way guarantees a win. Palelei has more than enough power to knock out a fighter with a questionable chin like Barry. To combat this, Barry will need to stay very active by getting in and out quick with his strikes. He should utilize his leg kicks to chop down the power of Palelei.
If "Hype or Die" can avoid Palelei's takedowns and dictate the pace of the striking game, victory will be within reach. Palelei appeared to gas against Krylov at UFC 164, so Barry will be well served to show up in peak physical condition. This kind of fight, like all of Barry's bouts, is unpredictable due to the flash knockout potential from both fighters.
It's going to be interesting to see if Barry is dealing or absorbing the punishment at UFC Fight Night 33.
Record: 19-3 overall, 1-1 UFC
Key Wins: Nikita Krylov (UFC 164)
Keys to Victory: Australian-born Palelei has carved out a solid career fighting mainly in his homeland. He has an extensive background in wrestling, taking home an Australian Freestyle Wrestling championship. His aforementioned submission skills are sharp as well, but Palelei has mostly used his fists to dispatch foes in MMA.
The owner of 15 knockout victories, Palelei will be anxious to prove that he can outstrike a kickboxer like Barry. But that's far from the best way to ensure victory in a pivotal UFC bout.
Looking to stand and trade with Barry may get the fans fired up and it just may lead to a huge win for "Hulk." A much safer strategy would be to implement his well-rounded ground game.
Although Barry has been training extensively in submissions and wrestling, those skills are still light years away from his striking. Palelei should look to either take Barry down or push him up against the cage to neutralize his power. If he can score a double leg in the first round, it will go a long way in the eyes of the judges.
However, it's improbable that this one goes to the scorecards, so Palelei needs to look for the finish.
Barry's background suggests that a submission in the best way to go about this. "Hype or Die" will be out of his element if he gets put on his back. If Palelei can lock up a tight choke or an armbar, it will be met with little resistance from Barry.
Palelei has the experience and talent to make a name for himself in UFC. This bout is going to prove whether or not he will be a true force to be reckoned with.
Bottom Line from Brisbane: The bottom line for this fight is that it's going to largely come down to how prepared Palelei is. He'll have the added support of his Australian fans behind him, but that will also add to the pressure he feels.
"Hulk" has just two UFC fights under his belt compared to Barry's 11. That experience edge will come into play once the going gets tough. Palelei also gassed after the first round of his UFC 164 win over Krylov, citing an injured rib as the reason.
If any of the effects of that injury are lingering, there's a good chance that Palelei will be staring up at the lights. Barry is a motivated fighter who just hasn't been able to get over the hump in UFC, failing against top competition.
Despite Palelei's long list of accomplishments, he has yet to show that he can defeat the best heavyweights in UFC. That's not to say that he can't, because he is a big, strong, and skilled martial artist. "Hulk" needs a sharp gameplan to keep his name off Barry's list of victims.
Barry would benefit from making his all-around game more complete, but at this point in the game, it's unlikely. He simply hasn't had the time to refine his wrestling and submission skills to match the level of Palelei's. That means he'll have to win this fight on the feet. That's just fine with the powerful kickboxer.
A win here won't have either fighter knocking on contender status, but it will be a big step in the right direction. Palelei has more to prove because win or lose, Barry's job is most likely secure thanks to the highly exciting fights he puts on.
"Hulk" has a chance to announce his presence in the shallow talent pool at heavyweight. A win over the biggest name of his career is near, but Palelei needs a concise gameplan and a clear head to do so.
This one should be entertaining if nothing else. Enjoy the fight.
Soa Palelei has a long list of grappling accomplishments to go with 15 knockouts in MMA. Will all that matter when he meets up with the power of "Hype or Die" in Brisbane?