Is Josh Barnett a Legitimate Heavyweight Threat?

Clinton Bullock@@clintonbullockFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2013

Josh Barnett at Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine
Josh Barnett at Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. SaffiedineUSA TODAY Sports

At UFC 164, former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett out-struck and pummeled another former champion in Frank Mir. The latter fighter was once one of the most feared heavyweights in his division. However, with his third consecutive loss, UFC president Dana White stated that Mir’s career would be in jeopardy with another defeat.

On the other hand, Barnett, after 11 years away, returned to the UFC on August 31, 2013. He scored a technical knockout win over a formidable Mir, and reestablished himself as one of the best heavyweights in the world.

By defeating Mir, Barnett earned a No. 6 ranking on the UFC’s Top-10 heavyweight list. Given the opponents who occupy the No. 1 through No. 5 slots, the former world champion appears to have a legitimate shot at capturing another UFC world title before retiring.


Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne

Barnett (33-6) and Browne (15-1-1) are slated to fight on December 28, 2013, at UFC 168. Although Browne is the No. 5 contender, a matchup against a seasoned opponent in Barnett will most likely lead to his undoing.

Aside from the tremendous in-Octagon experience advantage Barnett possesses over Browne, the former world champion is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace. 20 of Barnett’s 33 wins have come by way of submission. His grappling will most likely be on display and employed to contend with Browne’s height (6’7’’) and reach advantage (80”) at UFC 168.


Josh Barnett vs. Fabricio Werdum

Werdum is the No. 3 heavyweight contender, according to the UFC. In this matchup, experience would again play a factor in determining the outcome of this fight. However, it would also be of great interest to witness the way in which these two world-class grapplers engage one another in the Octagon.

Both are highly skilled on the ground and possess the ability to submit anyone in the heavyweight division. Barnett, however, has illustrated boxing talents that appear slightly more advanced than those of Werdum.

A Barnett/Werdum matchup would redefine the heavyweight division and more than likely grant the victor the opportunity to face the champion. 


Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier

A Barnett/Cormier matchup would have been a must-see event. The two fought to a decision at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier in 2012. The former came up short in securing the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix title. Therefore, a second matchup between would have seemed logical in determining the division’s No. 1 contender.

However, following his bout against Roy Nelson at UFC 166, Cormier plans on moving to the light heavyweight division. The move appears to benefit Barnett, as Cormier’s current No. 2 slot will need to be filled. In that case, besting one of the aforementioned fighters should prep Barnett for a title shot.



Josh Barnett’s Heavyweight Title Hopes

At 35 years old, realistically, Barnett has just one opportunity to attempt a run at the title. In an interview with Fight Magazine, Barnett stated:

Logically, if I’m going out there and crushing everybody, then I’m going to get a title shot; and I really don’t see it as something that’s avoidable for my opponents or for the company at some point….Not to mention, I’ve already got a pretty gold belt. It’s also a matter of me showing like, ‘Hey, I’m still the champ. I’m gonna take that belt back and put it in its right hands.’

Barnett has already beaten a variety of former world champions in the form of Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Randy Couture and Semmy Schilt. The Warmaster's focus, experience and world-class grappling make the former UFC champion more than a legitimate threat to the heavyweight title.