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The Ultimate Fighter: Jones vs. Sonnen is now in full swing with 14 fighters officially making the house, and the next round kicks off on Tuesday as Team Jones' Gilbert Smith Jr. takes on Team Sonnen's top pick Luke Barnatt.
In their opening fights, Gilbert Smith, who comes from a wrestling and grappling background, dispatched of Eric Wahlin with a powerful arm-triangle choke, while 6'6" Barnatt took care of Nicholas Kohring using his long reach but not without taking some damage along the way, including a noticeably bruised eye.
When the fight was announced, Barnatt mentioned that he hoped to fight a little later in the show due to the bumps and bruises he obtained in the opening bout, but he has no problem being the one with the target on his back as Team Sonnen's No. 1 selection.
While mixed martial arts really is a combination of every form of battle possible, this match-up in a lot of ways comes down to Smith's wrestling and grappling against Barnatt's extreme reach and height advantage.
Even UFC President Dana White noted the huge difference in Barnatt's size compared to Smith, who stands just 5'9", giving up a whopping nine inches in height to British-born fighter Luke Barnatt.
"I don't know why Jon would pick a guy with such height and reach advantages," White said.
What Smith has going for him is a wealth of wrestling and ground experience, having won four fights by way of submission in his career. He's also worked a lot in the past with UFC middleweight Chris Camozzi, who possesses a dangerous stand-up game of his own and stands 6'3" so Smith has sparred with plenty of fighters bigger than him.
On the flipside, Luke Barnatt is a newcomer to MMA by all comparisons, having started training about three years ago with no previous work in martial arts, and looks like the fighter who will do everything in his power to keep this fight standing with his long reach and powerful jab.
Barnatt's ground game isn't suspect though because he's trained many long hours under UFC welterweight John Maguire, the master of Gypsy Jiu-Jitsu, and with the long legs at 6'6" tall, he could use those in a similar fashion to what 7-foot heavyweight Stefan Struve does to his opponents any time he's on his back.
Leading into this fight, Smith has a slight advantage because of his ground game and wrestling, which unfortunately Barnatt just hasn't had the time to master yet in his young stage of development in MMA, and he's coming in a little more beat up than his opponent. Look for Smith to target Barnatt's black eye if he's smart, because if an opponent's vision is even slightly impaired, he could be just a second slower seeing that crucial punch coming in at him.
Don't doubt however that Barnatt could give his opponent fits if Smith can't get inside in the opening moments and take this fight to the ground. It's a toss up fight, and though the odds seem slightly in Gilbert Smith's favor, Barnatt's scrappy attitude and exceedingly long reach could carry him to a win here.
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