Soa “The Hulk” Palelei (19-3, 1-1 UFC) vs. Pat “HD” Barry (8-6, 5-6 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 33
The other heavyweight scrap featured on this card should be a fun fight between entertaining UFC vet Pat Barry and Australian big guy Soa Palelei making his 2nd run in the UFC. These 2 fighters have a combined 36 MMA fights and all but 1 have ended in a finish, I think we can safely say that the judges can take a bathroom break during this one.
Most aspiring MMA fighters will never get a chance to fight on the world’s biggest stage, and even fewer will get a 2nd chance 6 years after disappointing in their first one. But Soa Palelei is one of the few. Always a promising prospect on the global MMA scene, at 36 years old if the Hulk is ever going to make a run in the worlds leading MMA promotion he has to do it now. He won his UFC re-debut in August this year and his chances for UFC success are dependent on the following:
-Standing 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing in right at the top of the HW limit of 265 lbs they don’t call him the Hulk for nothing, Soa Palelei is a beast! Outstanding size and physical strength are the cornerstones of Palelei’s game and honestly he probably wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous without them. However he does have some considerable skills on top of his size and the combo works quite well.
-Benefitting most from being a big guy is Palelei’s top game. Coming from a wrestling background and adding in a BJJ black belt has made him very effective at not only getting the fight to the floor but getting in a dominant position and doing some good work when down there. When he opens up with ground n pound hard punches and nasty elbows soften guys up for the submission or get Hulk a nice (T)KO.
-The Hulk also moves remarkably well for such a big dude, especially early in a fight where he has scored 14 finishes in round 1. He is deceptively quick and has good hand speed to compliment being pretty light on his feet.
Some weaknesses have reared their ugly head in a few of Palelei’s losses and poor performances and they are:
-Conditioning; in both of his UFC fights Soa has ended up looking exhausted. Injuries, UFC debut jitters, and the challenge of simply consuming enough oxygen to fuel a 265 lb body do not made things any easier on this front, but it is still a cause for concern. Things don’t get easier as you progress in the UFC and legitimate excuses do not erase a loss.
-There is also the old hammer and nail analogy, some fighters are downright devastating when they are controlling the fight but not nearly as much when faced with a true challenge. Soa deserves a chance to confirm whether he is one of those fighters or not, but it is entirely possible that the Hulk will break when in tough fights. His fight in PRIDE for example; he was battering Mu-Bae Choi for the entire fight but when Choi weathered it Palelei was tapping seconds later.
Facing the Hulk is fan favorite striker and Octagon veteran Pat Barry. Competing in the UFC for 5 years straight now, Barry is always good for a fun fight. He has worked hard to round out his game but he still has one skill that clearly outshines the rest and that is:
-Striking- Pat Barry comes to knock people out, plain and simple. He has very heavy hands and even heavier kicks (especially leg kicks) and coming from a pretty varied striking background (Sanshou/Sanda & K-1) makes Pat a bit different from your average boxer or Muay Thai practitioner. Pat has pretty much blended his favorite aspects of the striking arts and formed his own game. He throws beautiful overhand rights and left hooks and is uniquely dangerous on both the outside and in close, transitioning between ranges incredibly fast with those lunging punches he throws.
-Pat is also very, VERY, explosive and a great finisher. He can play the patience game and gradually set guys up for the big shot (Del Rosario, Morecraft) or he can hurt them out of nowhere (Antoni Hardonk) and a split second later be pouncing on them for the finish, very good killer instinct. Even in loses to Mirko Crocop and Cheick Kongo these skills were displayed nicely.
Despite all the highlights reel finishes and entertainment that Barry has dished out over the years, the fact is he has a losing UFC record. Even in traveling to multiple gyms to sow up the holes in his game, Pat’s weaknesses are still there:
-Grappling has always been Barry’s kryptonite, responsible for half of his losses. This is not uncommon for converted strikers entering MMA but Pat was not afforded much of a learning curve, having all but 3 of his MMA fights in the UFC. We saw in his fight with Christian Morecraft that Pat Barry’s ground game has improved, but it is still not quite good enough.
-Though he’s not what you would call a small man, Barry has been taken out by the bigger fighters he has faced. At 5 foot 11 inches tall and usually around 240 lbs, Pat has been overwhelmed by taller, thicker, guys who cut weight to make 265. Tim Hague, Stefen Struve, Lavar Johnson, and Shawn Jordan are an average size of 6 foot 4 and 258 pounds and all of them used this size to defeat Barry.
This should be a very fun and very violent fight considering both men’s history; I would recommend staying put for this one because it could end at any moment. These 2 guys are very different animals in the cage and honestly either could win, but I’m leaning toward Pat Barry winning because he has the more proven one punch KO power, it’ll be Pat Barry by 1st round KO!
Front-Page Photo Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports