Before two of the most anticipated title rematches in mixed martial arts history unfold, opposing heavyweights will do battle at UFC 168 this Saturday.
In what many consider a colossal collision of momentum, conflicting skill sets and overall bravado, resurgent Josh Barnett will take on red-hot Travis Browne in a true barnburner.
As two of the biggest heavyweights in the division who possess unforgiving power and precision, "Hapa" and "The Warmaster" have a chance to put on a Fight of the Night performance.
So, for a showdown that holds ultimate title implications, here's a head-to-toe breakdown for one of the most intriguing fights of the year.
Blessed with speed, height, athleticism and precision, Travis Browne is one of the most versatile strikers the UFC heavyweight division has ever encountered.
He can attack in the clinch, launch vicious front kicks or snap blistering head kicks at any opponent unable to equal his 6'7" frame.
Now, this isn't a direct knock on Josh Barnett, but the veteran simply can't do what Browne does inside the Octagon. He just doesn't possess that type of dexterity and form.
Come Saturday, look for the Hawaiian to stay flyin' on his feet.
MAJOR ADVANTAGE: BROWNE
In the recent past, Travis Browne has been an exceptional knockout artist. His come-from-behind stoppage over Alistair Overeem back in August was unworldly.
However, you can never count out a polished gamer like Josh Barnett when his back is against the wall—or, in this case, the cage.
Even though "Hapa" is the one who sports 11 knockouts spanning 15 career fights, Barnett's storied past and ability to land big shots when they count most make it closer than you think.
SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: BROWNE
In today's sport, especially as a heavyweight, possessing an iron chin sometimes make up for lost talent.
Now, while neither Josh Barnett nor Travis Browne lack distinctive skill sets, they're even more dangerous when you factor in their thick skulls.
As two of the gutsiest performers in the division, both fighters practically have to have good chins.
Luckily, they do.
It's going to take a lot of effort by either man to finish the other. Just look at the damage Browne walked through opposite the titanic Alistair Overeem.
Barnett has had his own unlikely survival stories, too.
It's no secret that Travis Browne likes to stand and bang. It's his bread and butter.
However, as good as he is standing, "Hapa" has to be tough to keep on his back considering his innate build and overwhelming athleticism. With that being said, we've never seen him fight an opponent capable—or willing—to bring the war to the canvas.
Josh Barnett is willing to do that. As a matter of fact, he'd prefer it.
While Barnett's wrestling prowess was ripped to shreds opposite Daniel Cormier last year, it's unfair to gauge his effectiveness solely on that fight. Cormier is on an entirely different level than anyone in the sport.
With that said, Barnett is still very good at taking guys to the ground when he wants to. Whether he opts to do that against Browne or try to out-point the kickboxing dynamo on the feet has yet to be determined.
This is pretty much a gimme slide in favor of the 36-year-old Josh Barnett.
As one of the toughest submissions experts in heavyweight history, Barnett corrupts opponents on the ground with relative ease. Frank Mir and Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira may be the only other fighters better off their back.
With that in mind, Travis Browne's long limbs are going to look like a tasty turkey dinner this Saturday when Barnett's submission skills seek a bone to pick.
Finding a way to drag this war to the ground and pester Browne with constant grappling pressure is no doubt Barnett's biggest key to victory.
MAJOR ADVANTAGE: BARNETT
They don't call Josh Barnett "The Warmaster" for nothing. The guy is a bona fide cage admiral.
Throughout the years, Barnett has made a living out of out-classing and exhausting more effort than his opponents. He just so happened to sprinkle in world-class jiu-jitsu and brass cojones along the way.
However, when Barnett steps inside the cage opposite a long, strong and game Travis Browne at UFC 168, he's going to need more than effort.
Just like himself, Browne possesses endless heart and the ability to push through the most monumental adversity imaginable. That means Barnett is going to have to utilize his experience to out-point, out-pursue and out-manage the younger heavyweight.
If there was ever a fight to factor in tenured cage time, especially when it's between a grizzly bear and a tiger, this is it.
SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: BARNETT
Nobody would be in shock if Josh Barnett did massive damage on his feet and found a way to finish Travis Browne.
However, considering how good the 31-year-old Browne has been when it comes to throwing punches and kicks in perfected concession, he's going to win this fight if Barnett opts to stand.
It's that simple.
If Barnett wants to manage this fight and implement some deadly ground-and-pound, then he needs to do just that. He can't play around with Browne and allow him to loosen up enough to the point where those penetrating front kicks and head kicks fly freely.
With that said, it's truly difficult to say Barnett will win if it goes to the mat because we've never really seen Browne defend the takedown or fight off his back. Therefore, until he displays the inability to stay on his toes, the smoldering "Hapa" gets the nod.
VERDICT: BROWNE VIA SECOND-ROUND TKO
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