How would Josh Barnett fare in the UFC?
April, 7, 2012
By Josh Gross
Ric Fogel for ESPN.comJosh Barnett, left, could prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the UFC.Alistair Overeem hasn't spoken publicly since news broke Wednesday that he tested positive for an increased testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio. He probably doesn't have to for Josh Barnett to understand what the 31-year-old Dutch heavyweight is feeling right now.
Barnett, of course, paid a heavy price when he failed a prefight drug test in California almost three years ago. Lost was a huge payday against Fedor Emelianenko, then ranked No. 1 in the division and widely considered among the best competitors in mixed martial arts. The loss of the fight was also the impetus for Affliction Entertainment going under, a situation that rattled the business, fostered the growth and subsequent decline of Strikeforce, and eventually led to Zuffa's move to consolidate the industry.
It's unclear what penalties Overeem will suffer, but similar to Barnett (32-5) he could easily surrender a huge payday as well as the most important fight of his career -- a UFC title tilt against Junior dos Santos. Hey, at least he doesn't have to worry about bringing down a promotion, though he might not be around to partake in UFC's continuing prosperity.
Still, with dark clouds currently hanging over his head, Overeem should take solace in the notion of Barnett's return the UFC for the first time in a decade -- the message being: No matter how badly someone messes up, Zuffa is prone to forgive under the right circumstances.
Barnett's new lease on a UFC life is incumbent on defeating Daniel Cormier on May 19 to cap off the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix tournament. If that happens, UFC president Dana White has suggested that the 34-year-old American could enter the Octagon for the first time since stopping Randy Couture in 2002 to claim the promotional title.
How would he fare against the men ranked above him (which for the time being continues to include Overeem)?
At stake would be the title of best submission grappler in the heavyweight division. Mir, 32, may have usurped that title by breaking off a piece of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and you know Barnett would love the opportunity to make a point against the former UFC heavyweight champion.
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesFrank Mir has the submission skills to compete with any heavyweight.
On the floor it's essentially an even fight, though Barnett is much better when he fights from the top. Mir's strength comes in attacking arms. Barnett can do that too; he just prefers the leg techniques born out of catch-wrestling. I can't help but think a grappling-heavy fight between the two would be incredibly appealing.
Both have shown the ability to hurt opponents while standing, but Mir (16-5) owns a slight edge here based on recent results.
If they fought 10 times ... they'd split.
Barnett would carry a significant experience advantage over Velasquez (9-1) and he wouldn't get pushed around by a mid-sized heavyweight.
AP Photo/Hermann J. KnippertzCain Velasquez, top, would be keen to stay on top of Josh Barnett.
Barnett utilizes his size and athleticism to squash other grapplers, and if Velasquez winds up on his back he may not stand up or get a reversal. You do not want to face a situation where Barnett establishes top control. He is much more dangerous from the top than Brock Lesnar ever was because he'll string together submissions, is very adept at guard-passing, and is happy to grind away at someone's facial features with his elbows.
Barnett cedes ground in this matchup when it comes to speed, striking technique, and pure wrestling. Velasquez, 29, would have to keep moving against Barnett, never let the bigger man tie him up in the clinch, especially along the fence, and stay off bottom. That's obviously the key.
If they fought 10 times ... Velasquez wins 6 of 10.
Filling a column full of "ifs," Overeem's status remains the largest. So in this scenario, the reprieve Barnett could receive from Dana White extends to Overeem.
Esther Lin/Getty ImagesWould Alistair Overeem, left, be able to keep up the pace with Josh Barnett?
Now to the matchup. Overeem is a different class of striker, and while Barnett might be tempted to engage the Dutch fighter's strength it would be a mistake. Getting Overeem (36-11) to the floor isn't easy. Toying around in the clinch, which Barnett does not mind doing, might result in a rocket of a knee puncturing his midsection. Barnett does not react well to body shots, as proven by Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, so that could be a major factor.
Barnett has to put the fight on the floor and push the pace against Overeem, whose stamina can be a question mark.
This is a violent matchup, one that surely wouldn't last the distance.
If they fought 10 times ... Barnett wins 6 of 10.
Junior dos Santos
The current UFC heavyweight champion is all about speed, movement and anvil-like punches. He's as tall as Barnett with about 25 less pounds to move around.
AP Photo/Tom HeveziJunior dos Santos has the kind of power to render any heavyweight unconscious.
Barnett would lose if he stood with dos Santos, simple as that. The question is, can he take the 27-year-old Brazilian champion down without absorbing too much damage?
Barnett would be best served by roughing up dos Santos (14-1) against the fence, fighting for takedowns (just not from the outside so dos Santos can counter with knees or sprawl on the American's head), and establishing top control. Presuming he can do those things, he can win. Otherwise chances are good he'd be rendered unconscious.
If they fought 10 times ... dos Santos wins 7 of 10.