Heavyweight: Pat Barry (8-6 MMA, 5-6 UFC) [-144] vs. Soa Palelei (19-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) [+135]

UFC Fight Night 33 comes to you live from Brisbane, Australia this Friday night. Set to exchange some heavy leather are two heavyweights in Pat “HD” Barry and Soa “the Hulk” Palelei. Barry is known for his prowess as a kick boxer and putting on exciting fights that do not always go his way (currently has a record below .500 in the UFC) while his opponent, Palelei, is primarily a wrestler (and a very big one at that) who is looking to find his place in the UFC’s heavyweight division with a 1-1 record in the octagon.

Barry, 34, is a decorated kick boxing specialist who was signed to the UFC with just three mixed martial arts wins because of that back ground. Since signing in 2008, Barry has yet to string together consecutive wins having alternated between wins and losses (once losing two straight) for 11 fights. His most recent wins were over Shane del Rosario and Christian Morecraft (both by KO) with recent losses being to Shawn Jordan and Lavar Johnson (both also by KO) and while his fights have been largely entertaining he has yet to show that he is a serious contender in the division. What Barry does well is mix up his low kicks and his punches and create openings for a knock out blow. What he does poorly is defend take downs and submissions. He’s also shown to leave himself open standing which appears to of taken its toll on his chin with 3 of his 4 most recent losses coming by way of knock out.

At 5’11” with a 74″ reach, Barry is going to have a hard time using any sort of rangy tactics which unfortunately is what he is going to need to do if he wants the fight to go his way. If he is able to utilize his low kicks and create openings for power shots to the head while sticking and moving he may be able to run away with a stand up battle should he keep himself under control and not wildly engage or leave himself open.

What Barry should do:

  • Barry can utilize his superior striking and mobility to pick Palelei out with low kicks and an “in and out” striking method
  • Barry’s superior conditioning will allow him to maintain a higher pace

What Barry shouldn’t do:

  • Barry needs to keep his composure and not allow himself to get overzealous. We’ve seen him throw away fights in the past due to over aggression.
  • Barry should avoid any form of clinching and should fight from a distance by utilizing good footwork and circling.

Palelei, 36, has earned the moniker of “the Hulk” for a reason – Palelei cuts to 265 and is a very muscular wrestler and submission grappler. What he does well is exactly what needs to be done to exploit the holes in Barry’s game – he’s got the heart to make up for his cardio in the later rounds, and he has the technical prowess to get this fight to the ground. Palelei is a very experienced wrestler who was close to participating in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He also has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu which showcased itself when he took home gold at ADCC Australia. However, despite these grappling credentials 15 of 19 of his MMA wins have come by way of knock out with only four coming by way of submission.

Palelei does not possess the same level of striking as Barry but that isn’t to say he won’t be able to find any openings to test the questionable chin of “HD.” Palelei could show some serious well-rounded skills should he mix up his striking (and serious reach advantage with his 81″ reach) with his power take downs. He should look to end the fight early as his cardio is questionable, something we saw in his last win, his 10th in a row, over a very game Nikita Krylov.

What Palelei should do:

  • Palelei needs to keep Barry out of his element either by constant pressure on the feet, clinching when available, or by taking this fight to the ground where he has an advantage.
  • Barry is too good to throw single bombs and hope they land – instead, Palelei is going to have to throw strikes in combinations if he isn’t able to get the fight to the ground.

What Palelei shouldn’t do:

  • Palelei cannot stand in front of Barry and allow him to take out his legs from under him.
  • Barry needs to be pushed – allowing Barry to back you up and tee off on you will end in a short night for you. Palelei cannot allow Barry to get comfortable. Openings will be made when Barry is out of his comfort zone.

@MikalMMA ‘s Prediction: Soa Palelei defeats Pat Barry via TKO (punches) in round 1.

Three years ago I would have likely given Barry the nod in this fight. His striking is certainly on a different level than Palelei’s and I believe he would have had the discipline to employ a perfect strategy to pick apart the Australian. Today, however, it is very hard to bet on Barry with confidence. His chin appears to be diminishing and his discipline appears non existent. Palelei seems to have the tools that will allow him to exploit the holes in Barry’s game and put Barry away. Palelei should show his dominance in grappling, taking down Barry while they are both still fresh and immediately look to land some punishing ground and pound while using his Jiu-jitsu to maintain dominant positions. Barry will not be able to take too many of Palelei’s powerful punches should he be able to posture up and land effectively which I believe will result in a TKO late in round 1.