This weekend, Pat Barry, a staple of the UFC’s heavyweight division, will take on the equally heavy-handed Soa Palelei in Brisbane, Australia at UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs. Bigfoot. Barry is without a doubt an exciting fighter and is quite possibly the most popular heavyweight in the UFC to have never been considered a top-10-ranked fighter.

His record keeps him from being considered a contender, and he’s been around too long to be thought of as a prospect. “UFC veteran” is the best thing that comes to mind, but that doesn’t quite seem to fit the bill. In all reality, he is one of those rare types of fighters the UFC generally does not employ. He’s a journeyman, a fighter who was never considered in the hunt for the title, but is still a tough fighter for game opponents and future stars to test their mettle.

Barry’s ranking is no surprise when you consider he has gone 5-6 in his UFC tenure, but his popularity is understandable when you take a closer look at that record. The recipient of four post-fight bonuses, Barry has only gone the distance once in his entire career, which was in a win over Joey Beltran at UFC Fight for the Troops 2 in January of 2011. Beltran was cut from the UFC for the second time earlier this year, in October, after accumulating a total UFC record of 3-6-0 (1 NC). He was cut the first time last year after going 3-4.

Needless to say, it is a rare thing when a fighter is allowed to continue on with the promotion with a losing record, especially someone who has never held or fought for a UFC title. There are always notable exceptions, such as Yoshihiro Akiyama, but they are few and far between and even scarcer in the heavyweight division. Barry’s position is no better than other former UFC heavyweights, such as the aforementioned Beltran, Eddie Sanchez or even his opponent, Palelei, who was first cut from the UFC after only one fight and had to win eight straight via knockout before he was allowed back over five years later.

Not even Thales Leites had to work that hard to get back in with the world’s largest MMA promotion. Gabriel Gonzaga got back into the UFC after only one win, and he was cut after going 7-5, which included his classic knockout win over Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and a subsequent title shot where he came up short against Randy Couture.

One look at Barry and another name immediately comes to mind: Mark Hunt. Both are former kickboxers who have spent their entire careers having to look up at their opponents. Hunt was in a similar situation not too long ago when his career record was below .500. Granted, he faced some of the best heavyweights the sport has ever seen, but it doesn’t change the fact that many were wondering not only how much longer he would last in the UFC, but if he should consider hanging them up for good. That was until Hunt managed to go on a four-fight winning streak that earned him a title-eliminator bout opposite former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. He would lose that bout, but in the process of getting there, he put the division and the world on notice that he was not to be so easily cast aside or disregarded. In a sport where anything can happen, a fighter with a solid following and a reputation for being a one-hit-quitter should never be counted out.

Of course, with Barry, it seems that he’s aware of his position and situation. Whether they want to admit it or not, every fighter fears getting the pink slip when they know they’re on a skid, and this thought sometimes plays into how that fighter performs. Does the pressure and anxiety overwhelm them and keep them from performing? Or is their game plan to focus more on getting the “W” than finishing their opponent?

Considering Barry has never won back-to-back fights in the UFC, it’s safe to say that he’s had to deal with that pressure for most of his career, and yet he finds a way to go out and ensure the fans get a good show, win, lose or draw. Everyone loves a knockout, and Barry has participated in six of them for the UFC. This is his approach, to either finish or be finished. That’s something everyone can respect, and clearly the UFC brass does as well, or else they wouldn’t keep him around and give him main-card status.

With other heavyweights having been so easily disposed of, it wouldn’t be surprising if Barry was cut after a loss this weekend. Then again, considering how he fights, it shouldn’t surprise us any more if he earns “Knockout of the Night” honors. He’s a fighter who would seem to put style first and victory second. It may not always win fights, but it’s kept him employed for many years.

Barry may be along for the journey, but it’s a journey filled with devastating knockouts that he would like to deliver more of for many more years to come. While he may never find himself considered for title contention, it makes him no less dangerous, because if Hunt is the example, then Barry is the experiment. All it takes is three straight knockouts to break into the top 10 of the heavyweight division. You have to have knockout style to get knockout wins. And that’s the bottom line.

Photo: Pat Barry (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)