Canadian middleweight looks to make impression on high-profile UFC 285 card

Canadian middleweight Marc-Andre (Powerbar) Barriault looks to take advantage of a marquee stage Saturday when he takes on Julian (The Cuban Missile Crisis) Marquez on the undercard of UFC 285.

Former light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones, returning to action for the first time since February 2020, goes after the heavyweight title in a main event matchup with France’s Ciryl (Bon Gamin) Gane, the No. 1 heavyweight contender.

Kyrgyzstan's Valentina (Bullet) Shevchenko defends her flyweight title against Mexico's Alexa Grasso, ranked sixth among 125-pound contenders, in the co-main event at the T-Mobile Centre in Las Vegas.

After dislocating two ribs in a loss last time out, a healthy Barriault (14-6-0 with one no contest) says he is looking forward to showing off his skills on a high-profile card.

"Now I'm hungry, I'm ready," he said. "And I can't wait. I know I belong in this game. I just need to prove it once again."

The UFC has proved to be a roller-coaster UFC ride for the 33-year-old Barriault.

He lost his first three fights in the promotion before stopping Oskar Piechota in June 2020, only to fail a drug test. Barriault blamed the positive test for ostarine on tainted supplements with the UFC backing his claim.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency agreed, finding "no evidence of intentional use," and handing down a six-month ban "consistent with low-level ostarine cases with evidence of contamination." Barriault was also suspended for nine months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, fined US$2,100, and had the Piechota outcome changed to a no-decision.

Barriault won his next two fights before being knocked out in just 16 seconds by American Chidi (Chidi Chidi Bang Bang) Njokuani in February 2022. He rebounded by choking out American Jordan (The Beverly Hills Ninja) Wight in April — at a catchweight of 190 pounds because he took the fight on short notice — prior to the Hernandez bout.

Barriault is a cardio machine who is dangerous from the clinch with a powerful right hand. But he is more than a striker, as shown via his guillotine choke win over Wright.

Barriault is expecting Marquez (9-3-O) to be easy to find Saturday. He'll be right in front of him.

"I'm excited because he's the type of guy that's going to come to fight," said Barriault. "He's tough, durable. He's a brawler almost, just like me. He likes to fight in the dirty boxing, (to fight in) close. He's got decent grappling too so I feel like it's going to be a good time for me to test all my grappling work.

"But I want to keep the fight on the feet. I want to not only stand and bang but I want to be smart. Just do my thing. I want to be the dog, just make the fight as I want and get my hand raised at the end."

Marquez is also expecting fireworks.

"It's a huge card and they want to make sure people are entertained," The Kansas City-based fighter told Internet-based show MMAjunkie Radio. "So they put Julian Marquez on that card. And they want people to watch it … People are going to tune in. They're going to know that Marc and I are going to bring it. They're going to know it's going to be exciting, it's going to be a bloodbath. And it's going to end in a highlight reel (finish) with Julian Marquez on top."

Barriault, a native of Gatineau, Que., and his wife now makes their home in South Florida where he trains at Kill Cliff Fight Club, formerly known as Sanford MMA.

He is coming off a third-round submission loss to American Anthony (Fluffy) Hernandez in September, a fight that saw the Canadian fight on despite suffering the painful rib injury in the first round.

Barriault was outgrappled by Hernandez, who took him down eight times before putting him to sleep with an arm-triangle choke. Barriault landed on his head in one particularly nasty takedown in the third.

"That hurts tomorrow, bro," said commentator Daniel Cormier, a former UFC champion.

"I'd be worried about breaking my neck," added fellow commentator Paul Felder, a former UFC fighter.

Barriault essentially took almost three months off to recover from the rib injury.

The 32-year-old Marquez is also coming off a loss, knocked out in the first round by Brazilian Gregory (RoboCop) Rodrigues in June. He is 3-2-0 in the UFC, having won his way into the promotion on "Dana White's Contender Series" with a devastating head-kick knockout of American Phil (No Hype) Hawes in August 2017.

Marquez showed his toughness against the hard-hitting Rodrigues in taking a beating, absorbing 49 significant strikes in three minutes 18 seconds.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2023.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press