Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett recently made a return to the Octagon after a rather lengthy absence from the promotion. His return was a successful one, as he stopped Frank Mir early with strikes in the co-main event of UFC 164.
With the win, Barnett cemented himself as a player near the top of a relatively shallow division. Despite his highly publicized spats with UFC President Dana White, Barnett will face off with dangerous rising contender Travis Browne at UFC 168 in December.
And that has him paying close attention to the UFC 265 lb. title scene. Barnett was watching last Saturday’s brutal championship tilt between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, and he offered up a fresh perspective that many casual fight fans might not have taken into account:
"People can say what they want, but this is what I see, and this is what I know as a professional fighter. Junior threw on this nasty front choke, with a sleeper-style lockup on it, which is super-tight. Cain's a wrestler. If you try to front choke him or front headlock him in any way, there's a whole myriad of things he's going to do. So he gets locked into that thing, he was getting choked, and he spun. Because that's your last-ditch resort to getting out of that move. And that's why Junior planted his head right into the mat, because of that spin. The reasoning behind Cain hitting that spin like that is that he was being threatened. And then when Junior spiked his head right into the mat, which is a gnarly sensation, he was done." - via MMA Fighting
There are few people in the world that can match Barnett’s knowledge of grappling situations inside an MMA cage. While dos Santos was clearly exhausted, he may have been able to finish the choke if the fight was in its initial stages.
Velasquez’ violent spin, although a last-ditch effort according to Barnett, did prompt dos Santos to plant his head awkwardly into the canvas, finally signifying his demise. But “Cigano’s” Brazilian Jiu-jitsu skills are rarely put on display.
Perhaps he should have implemented them earlier on in the bout.
Regardless, Velasquez retained the bet, and will now likely face Fabricio Werdum. Barnett has his hands full with Browne, but if he finishes the talented “Hapa” off, it will become increasingly tougher to deny him a title shot despite his past issues with performance-enhancing drugs.
Barnett’s only loss in nearly seven years came to Daniel Cormier in the finals of the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix; luckily “DC” has already begun the weight cut down to light heavyweight to avoid fighting his good friend Velasquez. With Cormier out of the way, an avenue may be cleared for Barnett to thrive, so he will control his own destiny.
Will “The Warmaster” ever enjoy the spoils of UFC gold again?