UFC 168 is just one week away, and Fansided has coverage from every angle. Over the next few days, we will have GIF breakdowns of the last three fights on the main card. Today, we begin with the Heavyweight battle between Travis Browne and Josh Barnett.
Josh Barnett (33-6, 5-1 UFC), the former UFC Heavyweight champion, is coming off a successful return to the Octagon against Frank Mir. In a fight that pegged two of the greatest Heavyweight grapplers in MMA history, Barnett KO’ed Mir before the fight even hit the mat. Barnett has won 10 of his last 11 fights going into Saturday night.
Travis Browne (15-1-1, 6-1-1 UFC) is one of the last few prospects the Heavyweight division has. In his last fight, Browne showed incredible heart and resiliency by surviving an early onslaught from Alistair Overeem, before coming back and KO’ing him with a jaw dropping front kick. Browne’s only loss of his career came against former title challenger, Antonio Silva, in a fight where Browne tore his hamstring.
Both Barnett and Browne are on the doorstep of a title shot, and need a statement win next Saturday in order to cement themselves as the #1 contender. Unfortunately for both men, Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, will be on the shelf for sometime following shoulder surgery. It is likely that the winner of this fight will battle against Fabricio Werdum to determine the #1 contender sometime in 2014.
Josh Barnett is an elite level catch wrestler who loves to put the pressure on his opponents. One of his main strengths is the ability to bully his opponents with his grinding style. In the GIF above, Josh Barnett pressures Frank Mir up to the fence and pummels him with a few short uppercuts. Mir attempts to get his head out of the way, but Barnett forces his elbow into Mir’s face and neck, causing incredible discomfort. In an effort to alleviate the pressure, Mir makes a mistake by moving his head slightly down. Barnett capitalizes and uses both his hands to push Mir’s face down as he delivers the fight ending knee. Expect Barnett to employ a similar strategy against such a talented striker like Browne.
Barnett is also an world-renowned grappler. For a man of his size, he has incredible flexibility and speed on the mat. In the GIF above, Barnett is on the bottom as Pawel Nastula works in side control. Barnett pulls off an incredible sweep, flipping Nastula over, and locking in the toe hold submission for the victory. Barnett has 18 career submission victories in 33 wins. It is safe to say he will have a big advantage over Browne on the mat come Saturday night.
In order to utilize his submission game, Barnett uses his catch wrestling to get the fight to the ground. In the GIF above, Brett Rogers attempts a takedown, but Barnett transitions and flips Rogers onto his back. Incredibly, Barnett landed directly into full mount as well, and was able to get the arm triangle choke submission locked in moments later. The fight on Saturday night could be determined on whether or not Browne can thwart Barnett’s takedowns and keep the fight standing.
Travis Browne is one of the best strikers in the Heavyweight division. He utilizes every tool available to him in his fights, and every single one of them has knockout power. In the GIF above, Browne throws a front kick that lands clean on Alistair Overeem’s chin. Browne follows up the kick with some hellacious ground and pound to get the finish. If Browne is able to keep Barnett at distance, he should be able to pick him apart, and possibly pick up yet another violent KO.
This GIF above is crucial when breaking down the fight between Browne and Barnett. Barnett will look to pressure Browne up to the fence and bully him in similar fashion to the way he bullied Mir. Jiu-jitsu ace, Gabriel Gonzaga, employed a similar strategy against Browne, and the results were less than stellar. As Gonzaga attempts a double leg, he leaves his head in a precarious position. Browne lands 6 hard elbows and that fold Gonzaga completely. If Barnett wants to bully Browne up against the cage, he needs to keep his head above Browne’s waistline and away from his elbows.
Although Barnett holds the advantage on the mat, Browne is certainly no slouch when it comes to jiu-jitsu. In the GIF above, Browne slaps on a perfect arm triangle choke that forces Chad Griggs to tap out. Browne latches on the choke in full mount, but expertly transitions to side control to force more pressure on the choke, causing the finish. If Browne finds himself on the mat with Barnett on top of him, we will have to see how far his submission defense has progressed.
Final Thoughts: This fight is a classic grappler vs striker match up. The younger, faster, and more athletic Browne will need to keep Barnett at distance in order to get his strikes off. Barnett needs to close the distance, dirty box, or take Browne down in order to have his best chance at winning. Browne has shown time and time again that he will make his opponents pay if they stand and trade with him. In the Overeem fight, Browne survived the initial onslaught and was able to keep Overeem at bay on the feet with an array of kicking techniques. Ultimately, that led to the incredible front kick KO you saw earlier. Barnett is not nearly as good of a striker as Overeem is, so he probably will not want to test the waters on the feet. The question in this fight is whether or not Browne can avoid getting clinched or taken down by Barnett. If he does get taken down, can he get back to his feet before he is submitted? We will find out next Saturday.