The moment Pat Barry saw Lavar Johnson walk out for his January fight against Joey Beltran, he knew it wouldn’t be long before the two were standing across the octagon from one another.
Barry fought Beltran a year earlier and despite throwing everything he had at the gritty brawler, he was only able to walk away with a unanimous-decision victory. Johnson, on the other hand, became the first fighter to knock Beltran out cold — and he needed less than a round to do it.
As Johnson began celebrating his successful UFC debut, the fans in attendance turned their attention to Barry.
“I was there in Chicago,” Barry said at a UFC press conference Tuesday in New York City. “When he was walking out, I was thinking, ‘That looks like somebody they’re going put me in with.’ I was sitting in the crowd and as soon as he knocked Joey Beltran out, everyone in the crowd ... looked right at me and said, ‘Man, he knocked Joey Beltran out and you couldn’t. He must hit harder than you do.’
“I’ve been hearing that ever since.”
Barry’s prophecy will come to fruition when he faces Johnson on the main card of UFC on FOX 3 in East Rutherford, N.J., May 5. The event will be headlined by a lightweight contender bout between Jim Miller and Nate Diaz.
Barry is no slouch in the KO department, either. In his last outing two months ago, the former kickboxer put Christian Morecraft away with punches in brutal fashion. But he knows if he simply went power-for-power against Johnson, he’d probably come out on the losing end.
“Lavar Johnson has beyond-heavy hands,” Barry said. “I kicked Joey Beltran in the head five times and he didn’t even blink his eyes ... I’ve never in my life thought maybe I don’t hit that hard until that fight. (Johnson) was able to punch him in the head with four of the nastiest uppercuts ever so that when Joey Beltran landed, it almost looked like he broke his neck.
“So does he hit hard? I guarantee he does — he’s huge. Do I hit hard? Yeah, sure. If it lands, it’s not going to feel good at all.”
Things have moved quickly for Johnson since his stunning knockout of Beltran. Prior to joining the UFC, he was on a two-fight skid in Strikeforce, with submission losses to Shane del Rosario and Shawn Jordan.
He knows he’s been given a tremendous opportunity against one of the most popular heavyweights in MMA.
“My first fight in the UFC was in Chicago a couple months ago and my performance got me here,” Johnson said. “I’m just blessed to be fighting in the best fighting organization there is and I’m very happy to be here. I’m not going to let this opportunity pass me up. I’m going to go out here and give it my all.
“This fight right here is going to put me on the map. Pat’s a tough fighter. I feel I match up very well with him. He’s not looking to go to the ground and I’m not either. So I’m going to come out and try to smash him.”
It’s no secret the UFC’s previous two FOX cards fell below public expectations. But with Barry and Johnson set to go toe-to-toe, fireworks are almost guaranteed. Just don’t blink. The odds of this fight going to the judges’ scorecards are worse than Steven Seagal winning the Academy Award for best actor.
Barry said he has no intentions of taking the fight to the ground. That is, unless Johnson catches him with a good shot.
“I think Lavar and I are both allergic to jiu jitsu — that’s a fact,” Barry said. “We’re also allergic to rounds two and three. Will we see a lot of beginner-level wrestling and grappling? Most likely not.
“If he punches me in the head hard enough, you’ll see some beginner wrestling come out of me. I’ll turn into a wrestler quick.”
At 5-foot-11, Barry is the second-shortest heavyweight in the UFC. The only fighter he holds a height advantage over is Mark Hunt, who is one inch shorter. Fans and critics alike continually hound him about dropping to light-heavyweight.
In order to make 205 pounds, Barry would either have to chop off a leg or hire a dietician. Neither scenario is ideal for him.
“No matter what I do, I’m short,” Barry said. “I’m heavier than people think I am. I may look like a big guy, but in comparison to all the other top heavyweights, monster guys in the division ... I could guarantee I’m heavier than almost half the guys on the roster.
“So why I’m considered so small, I don’t know. I’m 258 (pounds) right now; I’m 5’11”, but I’m not as small as people think.
“But could I be conned into going to 205? Absolutely. I could do it if it came down to it, but I think I would have to hire a dietician and take a year to do that.
“(But) I like pizza.”
UFC ON FOX 3 MAIN CARD
Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller
Pat Barry vs. Lavar Johnson
Johny Hendricks vs. Josh Koscheck
Alan Belcher vs. Rousimar Palhares