Pat Barry will enter the cage standing a foot shorter than his opponent, Stefan Struve (right). | Photo: Sherdog.com
Stefan Struve (21-5, 5-3 UFC) vs. Pat Barry (6-3, 3-3 UFC)
The Matchup: Welcome to the freak show, and do not go to the fridge when it starts. In a match between the promotion’s tallest heavyweight -- the 6-foot-11 Struve -- and the diminutive, 5-foot-11 Barry, one can safely assume there will be a feeling-out process but probably for less than a minute before they start throwing bombs. Barry is a talented striker forever cursed by his lack of size and still-developing ground game. Thankfully, Struve has shown a willingness to mix it up and usually ends up on the mat because he is taken down himself.
Both have had exciting bouts in the UFC, win or lose. When Barry is in his groove, he harnesses ridiculous power in thudding leg kicks with impressive speed and dexterity. Despite being abnormally short for a heavyweight, he manages to handle himself in the pocket just fine with most of the opponents who want to trade with him. In his last bout, he had veteran Cheick Kongo seemingly out, only to get caught and knocked out himself. That is precisely why this match was made. It is one thing for a talented heavyweight striker like Barry to lose a second consecutive bout in an exciting brawl and a far less meaningful use of him to pit him against a grappler who will simply take him down and tell us what we already know.
Struve, like Barry, has engaged in thrilling fights with mixed results. His jiu-jitsu is excellent, and he uses his long frame and toughness to compensate for lack of heavyweight core strength in tie-ups and on the ground. He can stand and bang, too, and will certainly present a lanky, inviting target for Barry, who must drift off some nights wondering what it would be like to have an opponent that long to unload upon.
Barry probably has the better chin, but Struve has shown an ability to get bloodied up and rally back. However, despite what the fans want, Struve also needs to remember to get the win in this fight and look exciting in the next one, if it comes to that. He can always try for a trip takedown on the stout Barry, given their disparate frames, or even pull guard, which in pure visual terms would be a treat to see. It may be beneficial for Struve to use push kicks and similar distance-based attacks to frustrate Barry with his vast range advantage. Barry, meanwhile, will literally be chopping down a tree and will be best served by smashing at Struve’s legs and midsection with every shot that is available. Get in, get out and do it again, all while not getting caught by the longer but slower Struve.
This is not a fight one can feel confident in predicting. Barry has an enormous target on which to unload, and yet, the reach advantage for Struve means “HD” will have to close an enormous distance. On the feet, Barry has a slight edge because of consistent power and great combinations. However, this one will hit the mat at some point if Struve is getting whacked on, and that is where the tables turn. Struve can use his length and positioning to manhandle the relatively green Barry and wear him down with strikes. Plus, Struve’s underrated submissions are going to be very available in an extended ground battle, since his limbs are freakishly long and Barry’s compact torso and limbs will be that much easier to control.
The Pick: Look for some rollicking back-and-forth action, with Barry landing enough bone-jarring leg kicks to prompt the Dutchman to take it down to the ground and change the momentum of the bout. There, he will win via rear-naked choke in the second round of a bloody affair.
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