Embed from Getty Images
The opening fight of the main card comes in the Welterweight division, as Bryan ‘Bam Bam’ Barberena draws late replacement Darian Weeks. Originally, Matt Brown was scheduled to fight Barberena, but Brown was forced off the card after testing positive for the coronavirus. While a replacement wasn’t a guarantee, the UFC managed to get Weeks, who was supposed to fight in Dana White’s Contender Series in September. Unfortunately, Weeks was forced to withdraw due to COVID protocols. The silver lining however, is that Weeks skipped past the audition stage, right to the big leagues.
Known for his ability to weather punishment and comeback in fights, Barberena has slowly started to see cracks in his durability. He has lost three of his last four fights, and was knocked down once in each of the losses. While still 32 years old, Barberena may be suffering from the accumulation of punishment over the years. Primarily a striker, Barberena has made a living off eating strikes and eventually breaking foes with pressure, cardio and his high output. Of late though, Barberena’s lax takedown defense has been exploited, as he’s been taken down a combined thirteen times in his last two fights. As for Darian Weeks, while he enters his UFC debut with only five professional fights, he had an extensive twenty fight amateur career. With solid wrestling and devastating knees, Weeks has finished all five of his opponents. Obviously the competition hasn’t been spectacular, but Weeks looks like he could have some success inside the octagon.
As for a prediction, I’m going with Weeks. While normally I’m not keen on picking opponents jumping in on short-notice, Weeks brings forth wrestling abilities that I can see neutralizing Barberena. The concern obviously is with cardio. Having not been in camp and the fact that wrestling in general expends the most energy, I’m not sure I can expect Weeks to be fresh for a full three rounds. Especially given the fact that Barberena is one to work back to his feet and has been known for his cardio outlasting opponents. However, Barberena’s durability concerns and lack of takedown defense still has me predicting that Weeks wins via decision.