For the 37th installment of Maximum Fighting Championship, President and CEO Mark Pavelich and his family once again bring an exciting card to the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As a bonus, the night’s main event will result in the coronation of the promotion’s first-ever heavyweight champion.

Headlining the MFC 37: True Grit card will be the undefeated 21-year-old Greek-Canadian phenom Smealinho “The Prince” Rama, facing off against the 26-year-old Spanish-American Chris “Beast Boy” Barnett, who has yet to be stopped in his eight-fight professional career.

Rama has gone 6-0 as a pro and Barnett currently sits at 7-1. The 5-foot-9 Barnett’s only loss came by way of a majority decision to a much taller heavyweight in 6-foot-5 Eric Prindle. Although Prindle had a crazy reach advantage, he was unable to stop the shorter, stockier Barnett. Rama, on the other hand, has never been past 3:50 of the first round, finishing three opponents by knockout and three by submission. Barnett has knockout finishes in all three rounds and has gone the distance three times.

Both fighters are currently on the rise and looking to win that strap. Both are hungry and ready to come out swinging.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Barnett – 10, Rama – 9

Although Rama is no stranger to knockout wins, the striking category is definitely in Barnett’s favor. Barnett is an extremely durable fighter who can take a beating and just keep coming forward, which is why he has never been stopped. He has a ton of power in his hands, which has come screaming in his five knockout wins, and despite his height disadvantage in the heavyweight division, he will stand toe-to-toe with just about anybody. The unusual thing about Barnett is that, to the outsider looking in, he appears to just be a big dude that throws wild haymakers, but his striking game is more calculated than that. With a black belt in taekwondo, he has a striking accuracy that is hidden under a Roy Nelson-esque body composition.

Rama’s biggest advantage on the feet is his speed. He is a much snappier striker and also has knockout power. However, of all the opponents Rama has knocked out, none have had the chin that Barnett does. If Rama decides to keep this one standing, he will probably have to pull out a win by decision. As part of his training camp, he trains Muay Thai under Master Dabphichai (Dap) at 8 Weapons Fitness and MMA in his current hometown of Calgary. At such a young age, Rama is getting formal training on his feet, but that will still be rough to translate against a guy who apparently can’t be knocked out.

If Rama plans to finish, he better not stay standing.

Ground Game: Barnett – 9, Rama – 10

On the ground, Rama holds a clear advantage as long as he doesn’t spend too much time on his back. Rama has shown his submission and maneuvering game to be quite effective against previous opponents. With two wins by rear-naked choke and one by kimura, the Greek-born fighter has proven that once he gets the other fighter locked up, it’s all over. Rama trains BJJ under Anderson Goncalves, a third-degree black belt under Aloisio Silva. His skills are at a high level, but his biggest disadvantage will be size.

Barnett is a much bigger fighter, usually coming in at the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds. If he can get on top of Rama, he could definitely lay a beatdown that Rama can’t really plan for. Barnett does train at The HardCore Gym in Athens, Ga., with Adam and Rory Singer, who are BJJ black belts under Roberto Traven, but if he ends up on the bottom, even in guard, he hasn’t really shown fans anything technical in the way of finishes.

In pure submission grappling, Rama should definitely dominate.

Wrestling: Barnett – 9, Rama – 10

At first peek, with no background, Barnett, who looks like a wrestler and is built like a bowling ball, would take the nod in the wrestling department. However, even though he does have some experience in amateur wrestling, he does not have the experience of Rama. Barnett was a football player at the University of South Florida, through which a lot of technical training has translated to wrestling in MMA, but Rama was a Canadian Division I wrestling champ in 2010, after going 32-0 in high school.

Although Barnett has the size advantage and some experience, Rama is a wrestler by trade and will most certainly be able to handle his larger opponent, whether up against the cage or on the mat. Rama will just have to be careful with the size difference, which Barnett will use as often as he can.

When it comes to wrestling, Rama is by far the more skilled grappler.

X-Factor

The match-up between Barnett and Rama has two major X-factors, both of which having nothing to do with Rama, per se.

Barnett’s biggest X-factor is his stamina and durability. For a guy that comes in at the heavy end of the division and has a body composition similar to Roy Nelson, one would not expect him to have a deep gas tank, but this guy can go the distance with no problems. Nobody really knows what Rama’s tank is like, because he has yet to make it out of the first round. Barnett’s stamina is not just a pure cardio play either. He can maintain his stamina under duress. Barnett can take shot after shot and just keeps going, unfazed. This could pose a big problem for Rama.

Barnett’s more temporary X-factor is a big one, considering he’s going into a title fight against a guy who stepped into the ring six times between February 2012 and February 2013. Ring rust could be a huge factor in this one, because Barnett hasn’t been in MMA competition in over two years. Now, he has been in some BJJ competitions, made his professional boxing debut and has been through pro training camps with other teammates, but he has been on the sidelines since April 2011.

With Rama fresh and riding a ton of momentum, the combination of Barnett’s two X-factors could see this one go the distance.

Total: Barnett – 28, Rama – 29

Verdict: Barnett may have time under his belt, but Rama’s skills are going to create a huge problem for him. If Rama can avoid standing with Barnett for too long, he should be able to pull off a submission win. His submission wrestling game is far superior to any ground arsenal that Barnett may bring to the table. The biggest problem will be getting inside the shorter, stockier fighter’s fists long enough to get a takedown. As long as he can get the fight to the ground, Rama should take this one by first-round submission.

Photo: Smealinho Rama (R) (Jacob Bos/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator