Free fights? Don't mind if I do.
UFC returns to FOX on Saturday night featuring four competitive fights, capped off by a lightweight showdown between Nate Diaz and Jim Miller.
However, before Diaz and Miller will have a chance to demonstrate their fistic prowess, two of the UFC's hard-hitting heavyweights will meet in the Octagon to throw down. Pat Barry and Lavar Johnson are sure to be potential candidates for Knockout of the Night; the two fighters have a combined 20 wins by knockout out of 23 total combined wins.
With both fighters coming off of spectacular knockout wins in their last fights, each will be looking to continue their winning ways and get a win streak going as 2012 unfolds. Barry, 4-4 in the UFC, needs to prove himself capable of climbing the UFC heavyweight ranks, and the Strikeforce import standing across the cage provides no small hurdle.
The way I see it, Barry has three questions to answer through the course of Saturday's fight:
Just how good is his striking?
We often hear Barry's striking abilities referred to as "K-1 level," though that isn't an altogether helpful description, nor does it speak to his MMA striking abilities.
Barry most certainly has solid kickboxing, mixing his powerful punches and kicks well, though he has a troublesome tendency to get hit just as often as he hits his opponent, if not more so. Against Johnson, who I'm convinced could knock out a brick wall, that could be disastrous.
According to FightMetric, Johnson lands 3.7 more strikes per minute than Barry, and gets hit only marginally more per minute.
Can Barry find his range and keep Johnson from utilizing a sizable reach advantage?
Does he have a ground game?
Let's be honest, nothing would shock Johnson more than Barry shooting for a double leg, using ground and pound or even working submission attempts.
Will Barry do any of those things? Most likely...not. But, given that four of Johnson's five (really only three since one submission was due to knee injury) losses have come by submission, it might not be the worst idea.
Presumably in all of his time training with Team DeathClutch, Barry has learned how to properly shoot and land a takedown, and I'm not sure he has anything to lose by doing so. Adding another facet to your fight game is only ever a good thing.
Could we possible see Barry intentionally bring the fight to the ground?
Just how good is Barry's chin?
Barry has fought several very solid strikers, and he's only ever been knocked out once, but I think it's safe to say that Barry's chin hasn't met a fist quite like Johnson's.
Who wins tonight?
Between his height and reach advantages, it's a foregone conclusion that Johnson will land shots on Barry, but it remains to be seen if Barry can survive several hard shots. The uppercuts Johnson hit Joey Beltran with were frightening, and I'd be shocked if we don't see at least one just like those in this fight.
Just how tough is Barry? Can he get rocked and keep his composure?
Only one way to find out.
As the adage goes, there's only one way to find out...and we're about to.