This Saturday (May 31, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Luke Barnatt and Sean Strickland will face off on the main card of UFC Fight Night 41, airing live on Fight Pass from O2 World in Berlin, Germany.
After finishing Mats Nilsson with an impressive technical knockout at UFC Fight Night 37 in March, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Barnatt is undefeated in eight mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts. With a three-fight UFC win streak intact, "Bigslow" will look to keep his surge rolling against another undefeated challenger in Strickland.
"Tarzan" recently made his UFC debut with a first round submission of Bubba McDaniel at UFC 171. The dangerous King of the Cage (KOTC) veteran has been racking up wins and finishes as of late, but he'll receive a (literally) huge step up in competition in Barnatt.
One of these fighters will suffer their first-ever loss in Berlin. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Barnatt vs. Strickland:
Record: 8-0 overall, 3-0 UFC
Key Wins: Mats Nilsson (UFC Fight Night 37), Andrew Craig (UFC Fight Night 30)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: The 6'6" Barnatt uses his excellent reach and kickboxing to keep his opponents at bay and frustrate them with a high volume of Muay Thai strikes. He's finished his opponent in five out of his eight wins and could become a force in the talented UFC middleweight division if he can do the same to Strickland.
Fighting near his home country of England, Barnatt can't let the pressure get to him or become overconfident. Despite his relative inexperience in UFC, Strickland actually has almost twice as many fights as Barnatt.
The ease with which he dispatched veteran McDaniel as a late replacement proves that "Tarzan" is dangerous, so Barnatt has to be on his best game.
That includes using his jab and kicks to pepper Strickland and disrupt his rhythm on the feet. Low kicks will sap his power, but Barnatt has to be careful he doesn't get taken down when throwing them.
Despite his decent mat skills, Barnatt's best chance of winning this fight is to stay standing and push the pace in a patient manner to let another finish unfold.
If he can keep his cool and pick up the win when the pressure is on, big things should be on the horizon for "Bigslow."
Record: 14-0 overall, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Bubba McDaniel (UFC 171)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: The 23-year-old Strickland has been quietly destroying each and every opponent put in front of him recently, but the hype will begin should he get past Barnatt in impressive fashion.
With 7 knockouts and 4 submissions in 14 wins, it's safe to say that Strickland is a relentless finisher with a well-rounded skillset.
Even though he's not short at 6'1", it's still going to be difficult to deal with Barnatt's reach advantage. Strickland has to make sure he doesn't get caught with a big counter or knee while rushing in.
Possessing the confidence of having never lost, Strickland will most likely have faith in his power, which could help or hurt him in Germany.
Securing a takedown will help him neutralize Barnatt's range. If he can mix up his strikes with level changes and drag this fight to the mat, an opportunity for a submission may present itself. It's a small chance given that Barnatt has been very difficult to put away, but it's a more efficient gameplan than trying to win a kickboxing match.
He may throw caution to the wind and attempt to make a statement by knocking out Barnatt. It wouldn't be the most prudent of gameplans, but it would be the most surefire way to get his name out there fast.
Overall, Strickland has the chance to make a big splash at UFC Fight Night 41. Making this fight ugly is his best chance to do so.
Bottom Line from Berlin: The bottom line here is that we're going to see a strong prospect emerge at 185 pounds. Truthfully, both already are, but the winner will have a big leg up in the crowded division.
Four straight wins at middleweight would go a long way towards making Barnatt one of the UFC's most marketable European fighters. He's shown excellent composure in his previous two bouts and has the size and technical ability to occupy the middleweight rankings for some time to come.
The jury's still out on Strickland.
He dispatched McDaniel without much problem, but Barnatt has shown much more promise, so this fight will be an excellent gauge of where Strickland is at in terms of facing world-class competition.
Even if he loses, the future looks bright for the developing "Tarzan." He might actually learn more with a loss than if he just runs through Barnatt, but the same could be said for "Bigslow."
It's always entertaining when two undefeated fighters square off in the Octagon, and these two have only gone to decision six times in 22 fights.
That translates to what should be an excellent contest between two of UFC's best prospects. Enjoy the fight.
Undefeated middleweights Luke Barnatt and Sean Strickland are looking to build on their considerable momentum at UFC Fight Night 41. Which one will taste defeat for the first time in their career?