Barnett still has the warrior spirit

Josh Barnett may be 38, but ‘The Warmaster’ proved in Hamburg that he still has the drive to get to the top…

Hailing from Seattle, Washington, Josh Barnett started his career on the local scene almost 20 years ago. A mountain of a man with incredible strength and power in his submission game, he wrecked opponents on his way to getting the UFC call-up back in 2000. Since going on to win the UFC belt in 2002 from Randy Couture (and losing it to positive drug testing), ‘The Warmaster’ has fought all around the world, in just about every promotion going.

A true veteran of the sport, and a literal journeyman, Barnett found a lot of his success in Japan, where he became popular amongst the fans there for his enigmatic looks and fight style. Japanese viewers have always been some of the more technically educated fans, and they respected a man who could stand in the ring with the heavyweight divisions hardest hitters (such as Mark Hunt, Sergei Kharitonov, and Antonio Nogueira), get them down, and submit them.

Now back for his second stint in the UFC since 2013, we’re yet to see Barnett really get going in the Octagon. This is kind of a problem, as the Warmaster is 38, and has been in a total of 43 gruelling fights. He’s obtained a 3-2 record this time around, bouncing from wins to losses. After besting Andrei Arlovski on Saturday night, Barnett said he was targeting the heavyweight title. It’s good that he’s still got that drive in his mind, or otherwise I’d say he should quit while he’s ahead. But if he still has the hunger for glory, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t aim for the top. The heavyweight division of the UFC is a veritable example of chaos theory- no man has been able to stand at the top for longer than 2 title defenses. With such constant changes, just two or three wins in a row can put any top 10 fighter in the mix.

Andrei Arlovski was exactly one of those fighters in the mix after a six-fight win streak, which is why he was pitted against now champ Stipe Miocic, followed by title challenger Alistair Overeem. Coming up short against those men, Arlovski was hungry for a finish against Barnett. His gas tank isn’t too bad, but his fight style is a draining one. All he wants to do is to use his heavy hands to put his opponent to sleep. It was no surprise then that ‘The Pitbull’ had no interest in trying to go the distance. Indeed, it looked like Arlovski’s best chance for victory was a first-round KO. It nearly came too, as both men were wobbled and flash-dropped in the first 30 seconds of the fight. Somehow, they both hung on. Barnett clung on to Arlovski and started to work his clinch game against the fence. He’s the bigger man, and he believed he could wear Andrei out.

He was right, too. Arlovski’s failure to get the early KO meant he started to look a little lost, a little out of ideas. Barnett on the other hand had a pretty clear path to victory, and his fight plan worked out. As Arlovski’s gas tank was emptying, Barnett secured the takedown in the 2nd round, and again in the 3rd. It felt like a matter of time. And it was. Once Barnett sunk in the rear naked choke, it seemed like Arlovski was almost looking forward to tapping, so he could relax without this weighty monster riding his torso. He tapped instantly.

Although that’s three losses for Arlovski, they’ve all been against top 10 guys. He still has power, and if he’s given a few ‘fun’ (RE: easier) fights, he can still have success. As for Barnett, I’m not sure if he has any business being in the octagon against the likes of Velasquez, Werdum, or Overeem, but he still seems willing to try to prove me wrong.

Laurie Williams