BRISBANE, Australia – It’s going to be a good Christmas this year for UFC heavyweight Soa Palelei and his family.
Just prior to his showing at UFC Fight Night 33 against Pat Barry (8-7 MMA, 5-7 UFC), the native Aussie got some extra incentive to perform well.
“I got a message from my daughter this morning,” Palelei (20-3 MMA, 2-1 UFC) said following the event, which took place at Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Australia and aired on FOX Sports 1. “She wanted some Christmas presents. I was like, ‘Damn, I’ve got to win!’
“But it is a big win, and especially against Pat. But I’m happy to be representing Australia, and putting Australia and Perth on the map.”
Family and country weren’t the only things providing motivation. In his previous octagon outing, he injured his rib prior to the fight and limped through three rounds with Nikita Krylov. He managed a finish, but UFC President Dana White wasn’t shy in expressing how bored he was in watching it.
Because the bout came six years after a lackluster loss in a single UFC appearance, Palelei wanted a third chance to make a first impression.
Thankfully, he did just that. After quickly taking Barry to the ground in the first frame, he quickly took mount and let his hands go. Several punches later, Barry was unconscious, and he was the owner of an impressive win.
The speed at which Palelei advanced position and did damage was a key in his victory.
“I’ve been doing it for the past 16 years,” Palelei said. “I’m a first-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. I’m really confident that if I get on top of you, you ain’t getting me off.”
Although he didn’t test out his thought, Palelei also felt confident he could hang if the fight stayed on its feet. As a sparring partner of the event’s headliner, Mark Hunt, he knew that he could take a punch.
“I know what his punches are like, and I knew Pat wouldn’t hit harder than Mark,” he said. “But I had to watch out for Pat’s kicks, because he’s got some real dangerous kicks.”
Like most fighters, Palelei differed to his management and the UFC to name his next opponent. But six-year gaps in his UFC record are a thing of the past.
“If the UFC tells me to fight another show, I’m happy to hop in there,” he said. “I’ll take a few weeks for Christmas break, but I’m ready.”
Although Palelei is 36 and has a limited amount of time to make an impact, his cause is aided by the heavyweight division’s relative lack of depth.
While Barry likely faces question about his viability, Palelei is proving his.
“I respect Pat as an athlete and a sportsman,” Palelei said. “He’s a really dangerous fighter. I was really worried about his kicks, but I played my game and hopefully, I made a statement today.”
For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 33, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.