LAS VEGAS — Chris Barnett is only 5-foot-9 and has a paunch on his belly that is more reminiscent of the sportswriters watching from cageside than from the usually magnificently put together UFC fighters. He is a heavyweight but somehow managed to miss weight at Friday’s hectic weigh-in, coming in at 267.5 pounds, a pound-and-half over the heavyweight limit of 266 for a non-title fight.
And seconds into his fight with Jake Collier on the preliminary card of UFC 279 Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, Barnett was dropped and his left eye was swollen. Barnett was dropped a couple of times early in the first and was reeling, but as he was reeling, he was punching. The crowd, which had largely been silent during the prior fights, began to roar.
[UFC 279 full results: Diaz forces Ferguson to tap]
Both men were gassed and Barnett was bleeding from every orifice it seemed when he walked back to his corner after the first. Two of the three judges scored the first 10-8 for Collier. Little did anyone know that the second round would top that frenetic first and that Barnett’s in-cage interview would bring the house down.
Barnett stopped Collier at 2:24 of the second when referee Mark Smith jumped in to stop it as Barnett was firing haymakers from the top. The crowd was frenzied cheering Barnett on and he didn’t stop punching until Smith yanked him away.
He then ran over to the UFC television team and did a front somersault in front of former heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 11, 2022
“Yo, they gonna say heavyweights, we don’t be out here throwin’, we don’t be out here doing it,” Barnett said in the cage as the crowd roared. “Let me tell you right now, me, dudes like Jake, that’s what we do. That’s why we in this. We signed to the best organization in the world — UFC. That’s what we are. That’s what we do. We come out here for y’all and I love it.
“Thank you for the love and everything. This means the world to me. This means the world to me. I love y’all for real from the bottom of my heart, from the bottom of it. Thank you. We’re nothing without y’all. Nothing! Stand up for yourselves. Stand up for yourselves!”
The beginning of the end came for Collier at the start of the second round. Ringside physician David Watson entered the Octagon to check Barnett’s left eye. He allowed it to continue and Barnett seemed to sense the urgency to get the job done or have the fight be stopped.
He opened with a 1-2 that snapped Collier’s head and the crowd went wild. Soon, it was chanting “Bar-nett! Bar-nett! Bar-nett!” Barnett picked up the pace. He stuffed a takedown attempt and got Collier’s back.
He showed amazing agility for a guy who probably has a 46-inch waist and a 28-inseam and no doubt shops exclusively in the men’s big-and-tall department.
He managed to get into mount and started windmilling punches at Collier.
The arena was about 70 percent full at that point and the roars were deafening. Collier wasn’t able to improve his position or defend much and Smith halted it. The house erupted.
Barnett then put on an even bigger show in the Octagon as he was being interviewed.
“When you were chanting my name — Bar-nett! Bar-nett! Bar-nett! — I heard you,” he shouted in exultation. “I heard you!”
As he walked back to the locker room, he danced most of the way. He somehow managed to get two beers and laughed when someone tried to hand him another.
That performance, and the interview, is something that won’t soon be forgotten.