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UFC on FOX 18 fight card: Sage Northcutt vs Bryan Barberena full fight preview

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Sage Northcutt and Bryan Barberena will collide this Saturday (Jan. 30, 2016) at UFC on FOX 18 inside Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. In a match up of Karate fighter and scrapper, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Find out below!

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight strikers Sage Northcutt and Bryan Barberena will battle this Saturday (Jan. 30, 2016) at UFC on FOX 18 inside Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Northcutt is being presented as a future star, and it's hard to argue with his success thus far. Still just 19 years old, Northcutt has finished each of his seven opponents and will attempt to extend that streak this weekend.

Meanwhile, Barberena is still looking to make a name for himself inside the Octagon. He's fought just twice in his two years of being a UFC fighter, so a victory here could go a long way in separating "Bam Bam" from the pack.

Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter:

Sage Northcutt
Record: 7-0
Key Wins: Cody Pfister (UFC Fight Night 80), Francisco Trevino (UFC 192)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Northcutt undoubtedly has some great Karate skill, but what has stood out so far is his athleticism. The up-and-comer is an exceptionally large and strong Lightweight, which has been a great advantage for him thus far in grappling exchanges.

Which makes his short-notice jump to 170 pounds quite interesting.

Northcutt's most recent victory opposite Pfister revealed a lot about where his game currently stands. While he's not a bad wrestler or grappler, he's also far from an expert in those areas. At Lightweight, his size and physical gifts allowed him to work through those issues.

However, Northcutt may have to stick to a much more disciplined game plan if he's to find success at Welterweight as well. Barberena is a bruiser that throws heavy shots and will hunt for takedowns as well, so Northcutt absolutely has to make this an outside kickboxing battle.

Luckily, that's precisely how Barberena lost his most recent fight. If Northcutt remains focused on jamming his opponent's attempts to advance and remains mobile, he should be able to avoid a brawl and land the better strikes.

VS.

Bryan Barberena
Record: 10-3
Key Victories: Joe Ellenberger (UFC on FOX 13)
Key Losses: Chad Laprise (UFC 186)
Keys to Victory: Barberena is a bruiser. The Southpaw is more than willing to exchange, using strong striking instincts and solid power to overwhelm his opponents. So far, the MMA Lab product has finished eight of his opponents via knockout.

On the whole, Barberena is a well-rounded fighter with great conditioning, toughness, and aggressive. All of those traits will be important here, as Barberena needs to get in close and make this an ugly fight.

In fact, Barberena should look back a few years at another fight between an up-and-coming Karate specialist and rough-and-tumble Muay Thai brawler. When Matt Brown ran into Stephen Thomson, few gave the scrapper a chance. However, Brown mixed together forward pressure, clinch work and takedowns to create a grimy war of attrition, and he ultimately handed "Wonderboy" his first -- and so far only -- loss.

Sound familiar?

Barberena should be well-prepared to execute this game plan, as it's precisely what he tried to do opposite Chad Laprise. In fact, he actually had a lot of success in that fight with that strategy, and he could use it here to earn the most notable victory of his career.

Bottom Line: This should be an entertaining fight between strikers looking to move up the ladder.

Northcutt is already more well-known and doing more publicity than the majority of veteran fighters. However, he needs to keep winning fights in order to maintain that level of recognition. If he loses here, there's a decent chance that a fair portion of his hype will evaporate immediately.

On the other hand, this is a step up from both Trinaldo and Pfister. If Northcutt passes this test -- at a weight class higher than usual -- it will be a big moment for him and help justify all the attention he's been receiving.

Barberena is a massive underdog in this bout, but it's a bit difficult to see why from a technical point of view. Barberena is a skilled and dangerous fighter, and a solid prospect in his own right.

However, he's basically a complete unknown for most fight fans, which explains those betting odds.

This fight could really change that. Northcutt is a name, and beating him on the main card on FOX puts Barberena on the map. Alternatively, a loss keeps Barberena in his current position and threatens his job security.

High stakes for this curtain-jerker.

At UFC on FOX 18, Sage Northcutt and Bryan Barberena will throw down. Which man will have his hand raised?