By Zach Arnold | September 23, 2013
So far, we have six matches announced for the UFC 168 event on December 28th at MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. A look at the card so far:
- Middleweights: Uriah Hall vs. Chris Leben
- Lightweights: Gleison Tibau vs. Michael Johnson
- Featherweights: Dustin Poirier vs. Diego Brandao
- Heavyweights: Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne
- Women (135 pounds): Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
- UFC Middleweight title match: Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva
With Jon Jones having a bruising battle against Alexander Gustafsson in Toronto at UFC 165, it’s clear that he’s not ready to make a move to Heavyweight. Which means that depth of quality heavyweights is non-existent at this point and it’s why UFC is rushing to sign a lot of new heavyweights who the company probably would have never considered booking in the past.
All of this leads to a situation that is prime for Josh Barnett, the wily veteran, to take advantage of. Despite his drug testing failures and business differences with the Zuffa empire, Barnett has the leverage in the business relationship right now and could gain even more leverage if he gets a win over Travis Browne. Browne is coming off a ballsy comeback performance in Boston against Alistair Overeem. Browne’s fight was on the same FS1 telecast as Chael Sonnen vs. Mauricio Shogun, which means a whole lot of people watched the fight. And a whole lot of people are going to be watching the UFC 168 PPV as well. Weidman/Anderson is a pick ‘em fight and Ronda is a 10-to-1 favorite over Tate.
As for Barnett, Jordan Breen says he’s a slight favorite… a very slight favorite.
“I still imagine Josh Barnett being able to get Travis Browne to the ground, even though I don’t think Josh Barnett is as good a wrestler as maybe as advertised sometimes. Barnett just isn’t a good outside wrestler, he’s not a guy with a power-double, he doesn’t maul guys to the ground. He basically has to punch his way in, get there, and then find ways to get leverage inside, trip guys to the canvas. Nothing wrong with that, just a tough order against Travis Brown who’s a big, athletic guy. He’s not just some lumbering 6′7″, 6′8″ idiot. This is a guy that’s got some real athletic acumen, has slimmed down, is more aerodynamic and can do some different stuff in there. And we know that he’s not just going to submit to the odds, take a beating and crumble and die. Otherwise, Alistair Overeem would have beaten him. Travis Browne, when he came back, put a teep in his face.
“I still feel like Barnett probably deserves a little early favoritism. I see a lot of clinching, I think Barnett tries to smother him, take that reach away. Barnett’s a clever guy and I think he’ll do a good job of that but the question is how much offense can he actually rack up? Because we’ve seen some Josh Barnett fights historically, can’t get a guy to the ground, end up clinching along the fence, the ropes, and it’s not the most appetizing look and more than that, Travis Browne is someone that can actually hit hard and do some things close inside. I wouldn’t want to get caught with a Travis Browne knee to the face, to be sure. So, I favor Josh Barnett.
“The other part of the question is if he won, is he getting a title shot? I think so. How many other heavyweight options do you have? We’re going to have Cain Velasquez & Junior Dos Santos fight for a third time. That’ll be over. Daniel Cormier’s still got his eye on 205 pounds and he’s not going to fight Cain Velasquez, so short of JDS pulling it off in the third fight surprising people again, that ain’t going to happen. Who else is there? Fabricio Werdum? I mean, I have… I think Fabricio Werdum has shown his worth as a MMA heavyweight time and time again. I’d love to see him get that fight. If it means that him and Barnett have to do some kind of title eliminator, cool, but that’s really it. That’s the only other really feasible competition he has for a heavyweight title shot right now.
“This isn’t true just of Josh Barnett. I mean, I don’t think that his past with Dana White being prickly and, you know, saying some unsavory things about him in public in the past is going to hurt him based on the fact that they just need guys to fight for the heavyweight title. They love Cain Velasquez, they want to push him. You always want interesting challengers, worthwhile challengers for your champion. There’s just no one else. After the JDS/Velasquez III fight, it’s pretty much Browne, Barnett, Werdum, or bust. Stipe Miocic isn’t there as a contender quite yet. I mean, who are the UFC’s other prospects? I don’t know, maybe Shawn Jordan really gets it all together and turns into the guy but I’m not seeing it. There’s not that many options and when you don’t have that many options, it forces your hand. Josh Barnett, even if he was still publicly miserable to Dana White, if he went out and performed against Travis Browne in the worst case scenario, the very worst, title eliminator and I still don’t think that happens because we often talk about, ‘well, what if we do a title eliminator in this situation? what if we do a title eliminator in that situation?’ and the reputation of it or the shooting down of the idea is typically, ‘well, if we do that, we only have one contender where we used to have two.’ If there’s any division where that is always going to stand up where that’s going to always be a factor where you’re always going to have to consider how important it is to have two contenders instead of one, heavyweight’s going to be the division. It’s going to be one lacking depth and more than that you get a guy like Cain Velasquez who comes on the scene, rolls strong, beats up a lot of good guys fast… there’s not as many clear answers.”
How would you set the odds for the Barnett/Browne fight if you were an oddsmaker?