Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweights Warlley Alves and Bryan Barberena will face off this Saturday (May 14, 2016) at UFC 198 inside Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil.
Alves is a pretty major prospect in the 170-pound division. He won The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil 3," has won four straight inside the Octagon, and is undefeated overall. On the other hand, Barberena flew under the radar until he derailed the hype train of Sage Northcutt. Prior to that, Barberena did establish himself as an aggressive brawler with solid finishing ability.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Colby Covington (UFC 194), Nordine Taleb (UFC 190)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Alves is a well-rounded and very dangerous fighter. While he's certainly capable on his feet, Alves is extremely opportunistic on the mat and has finished six of his opponents via submission.
In this bout, it's important that Alves fights smart. He's the bigger man with the more refined grappling attack, so it's fairly clear that the intelligent move is to throw his opponent to the mat and hunt for the choke.
If Alves pursues that strategy, he really shouldn't have any problems. His opponent is better off at Lightweight, and Alves has already proven himself a submission threat to even durable Welterweights.
That makes him a serious threat to Barberena.
However, if Alves chooses to brawl with his opponent, the odds become much closer. He hass fatigued in the past, and Barberena is more than comfortable in a scrap.
Key Wins: Sage Northcutt (UFC on FOX 18), Joe Ellenberger (UFC on FOX 13)
Key Losses: Chad Laprise (UFC 186)
Keys to Victory: Barberena is an MMA Lab product and very much fights like one. He's got good conditioning, aggression and chains together offense at range and in the clinch very well.
In this bout, Barberena has to pull off a difficult balancing act. To defeat the talented Brazilian, Barberena has to stay in his face and make this an ugly battle.
However, he also has to stay off his back. That's a difficult task, as it requires Barberena to move forward without over-committing and giving up an easy shot.
To that end, I'd like to see Barberena go to his opponent's body often. In addition to causing his opponent to fatigue quicker -- and thus making it easier to defend the shot and land punches -- it ensures that his center of gravity is low and he'll likely have an underhook.
If his opponent slows down and cannot finish his shots, things suddenly get very interesting.
Bottom Line: It's an entertaining bout that will tell us much about both men's future.
Alves is a hot prospect at the moment. He's been winning and finishing consistently, and "Slingshot" already seems to have some elite skills at the age of 25. If he continues his winning ways here, Alves is in line for a shot at a ranked opponent before long.
On the other hand, a loss would be pretty shocking. Alves has defeated more established Welterweights than his opponent and shown serious promise. It would be a serious setback, and Alves would need a significant win streak to rebuild momentum.
Barberena played the role of spoiler in his last bout, and he definitely has the style to do it again. Barberena thrives in ugly fights and is quite tough, which always make him a live dog.
Really, this bout will also show whether Barberena is a legitimate Welterweight. He's still young and was actually a reasonably solid prospect in the division below, and frankly I'm not sure if his shift in weight class made sense. If Barberena wins, he's definitely earn his place. While a loss is not the end of the world, it does show that he's likely better off at 155 pounds.
At UFC 198, Warlley Alves and Bryan Barberena will throw down as the new opener of the main card. Which fighter will have his hand raised?