Two years ago, Matt Brown had seen a planned match-up with Miguel Baeza at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio fall through, with the entire event cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
For a fighter entering his 40s at the time, the loss of UFC Columbus in 2020 might have marked his final chance to compete on a UFC card at home in Ohio. But “The Immortal” has lived up to his name, and despite losing the rescheduled date with Baeza and a subsequent bout with Carlos Condit, Brown bounced back last year by knocking out Dhiego Lima.
On Saturday, Brown finally got to fight in his home state, opposite the always game Bryan Barberena.
The pair traded kicks early as the action got underway, though little of note landed. Brown doubled up on his jab, briefly backing Barberena up, but “Bam Bam” battled back in a very back-and-forth opening minute. Brown ducked a punch, and practically pushed Barberena to the ground, though he was back up in an instant. Tying up along the fence, they reversed, but Brown, with a body lock, got the fight down.
From there, Barberena moved to his knees, though he ate a knee or two to the body in the process. Brown kept his leg intertwined with Barberena’s to slow his momentum; Barberena peppered Brown with short shots, almost slaps, to create space, and finally freed himself.
Back at center, Brown landed a kick to the body, while Barberena lunged forward with punches. A high kick by Brown was blocked, but “Bam Bam” found a home for his left hand in a combo. Brown would briefly throw Barberena to the mat in the dying seconds of the round, but it was Barberena landing an elbow that appeared to have the greater effect.
There was a lot to digest in the first round of Brown vs. Barberena. In the second, Barberena pressed early, walking forward, throwing probing leg kicks. But it was Brown with a big takedown just over a minute in, putting Barberena on the floor with his back to the fence. Barberena worked his way up methodically, but ate a nasty elbow from Brown in the clinch. Barberena answered with a right hand, and the pair did a little phone booth fighting. A Barberena elbow hurt Brown, however, and he was under fire for a moment, firing a spinning back fist out of desperation.
Brown then landed a key takedown, and went after an arm, but wound up on bottom, having to contend with some nasty elbows from Barberena. “The Immortal” escaped back up, but he looked winded, and still hurt from the earlier elbow. Then it was Brown with some big lead elbows; Barberena answered back, and Brown dug to the body and finished the round with a knee.
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In the third, a hell would break loose. Brown opened the action with a kick to the body. Barberena pushed forward, backing Brown up the the fence. Brown got the momentum back, putting Barberena on the defensive, but a counter from Barberna shifted momentum again. A check hook by Barberena landed. Brown missed on a knee, but landed a second one to the body.
Matt Brown then came through with another push-style takedown, and appeared to consider a guillotine for a moment. Instead, Barberena got to the fence, with Brown right on him, firing knees to the side. On the way up, Barberena let loose, but Brown answered with a head kick that was blocked.
From there, Barberena retreated, and after some more back-and-forth, Brown landed a big double leg takedown. He just couldn’t keep Barberena down, and instead ate an elbow on the way up. Barberena began landing, connecting with an uppercut, but Brown then tagged Barberena. The fight had devolved into a slugfest, with both men landing hard. Back-and-forth they went. Brown missed a spinning back fist, Barberena tried for a takedown but couldn’t finish it, and Brown took some heavy fire but survived to the bell!
In the end, it was Barberena winning a split decision, for which he was booed mercilessly by the Ohio faithful.
Official Result: Bryan Barberena def. Matt Brown by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)