The Severe Spotlight: Raoni Barcelos

Sometimes, an old dog doesn’t need new tricks.

In what was a mixed night for the rising Mexican contingent at Arena CDMX, a 36-year-old Brazilian strolled into the Mexican heat and proved once again that experience means a vast amount in MMA. Barcelos, despite riding into this fight 1-4 in his last five fights, despite being 9 years older than his opponent, despite having one less fight than his opponent, Saturday night was Barcelos 11th fight under the UFC banner, and that means something.

Having fought names like Umar Nurmagomedov, Said Nurmagomedov, Chris Guttierez, Timur Valiev, you’re bringing into fights a level of experience that is very difficult to find at the juncture Cristian Quiñonez is at in his own UFC career.

The first round saw Barcelos in several bad spots. Quiñonez shot early and landed a takedown and spent most of the round in dominant hip riding positions. Forcing Barcelos to carry his weight, and to work between the decision of staying in poor positions or taking damage as he tried to rise to his feet. It was obvious that Barcelos understood the right reactions, understood the avenues of escape, but there wasn’t quite enough youthful exuberance in him to contend.

For Barcelos, he changed the approach in the second round. He ensured to keep a slightly longer range, and worked behind pressure footwork, jabs, long uppercuts, and kicks. Quiñonez recognised the change in distance and respected the danger of Barcelos. The opening two and a half minutes saw no entrances to grappling ranges from Quiñonez.

With 2:25 left on the clock, Barcelos level changes mid Quiñonez combination, running a fantastic double leg takedown into open mat space, and turning the corner, grounding his opponent. As Quiñonez returned to his feet, a crushing right hand met him, returning him to the mat. Barcelos covers the hips as he dives for the back of Quiñonez, his inside of his right arm tracing the curvature of Quiñonez’s neck. Realising that the chest to back connection was not strong enough to find a meaningful strangle, Barcelos bails and lands a controversial knee on the way up, causing visible protests from Quiñonez.

Referee Bladmir Puga did not blink, and Barcelos brought Quiñonez sharply back to the fight as a right hand cracked his skull. Barcelos, noticing a weakness in the grappling beautifully transitions from a single leg attempt to a standing front headlock. Threatening a high-wrist guillotine and looking for outside trips at the same time. The final one and a half minutes of the second-round see’s both men exchanging in the pocket. The momentum, however, has truly switched.

The body language of both men as they came out for the thirdly was demonstrably different. Barcelos out and bouncing, pressuring Cristian Quiñonez behind the tramlines, both men trade throughout the first minute and a half, but the confidence behind the strikes is different. Quiñonez is throwing to re-gain balance, to re-gain respect. Barcelos is throwing with intent to force a mistake, a mistake that will allow him an angle to get back to the grappling, or to find an opening for him to pounce on the back again.

He doesn’t have to wait long as he catches a Quiñonez right body kick, shucking it to the inside, and climbing up, hitting a fantastic outside trip as he elevates the single leg. He drops his opponent right into a turtle, his right leg ready to torque the left leg of Quiñonez, and the left leg of Barcelos penetrated the space between elbow and knee. Quiñonez does a good job of building and looking to roll to his right-hand side, to avoid the chest to back connection, landing in almost a deep-half guard situation. Barcelos flattens him and allows Quiñonez to begin to build again to a turtle. Throwing a right hook in he searches for the neck. Before he laces his second hook in, the choke is locked.

Barcelos forces Quiñonez belly down, closes the carotid artery and forces the tap.  

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