Veteran bantamweight Victor Henry will finally get his chance in the UFC on Saturday after a twenty-six fight pro career that began back in 2010.
Henry’s most notable success has come fighting for various promotions in Russia and Japan, and the thirty-four year old was on a seven-fight win streak before a unanimous decision loss to Denis Levrentyev in a rematch of their 2018 bout. “La Mangosta” rebounded from that loss by submitting UFC veteran Albert Morales in 2021 before being signed by the UFC. Henry has yet to be finished in his career, and he’s coached by former UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett.
Barnett’s influence on Henry is most apparent in his clinch work, which is arguably the most effective part of his game. Henry will actively work the body with knees and punches, as well as use short elbows to the head of his opponents either during the clinch or as he breaks away. He can also effectively use outside trips against the cage when he wants to take his opponents to the mat.
His striking arsenal from range includes lots of kicks (particularly to the body) from both stances, and he’ll mainly focus on landing right straights in combination with those kicks. Defensively he does get hit quite a bit and is happy to take a shot to give one of his own, but regardless of the damage he takes Henry will push forward and can maintain that pressure for the entirety of the fight.
“La Mangosta” is susceptible to takedowns, but he’ll rarely concede position on the ground. He’s frequently able to create scrambles off being taken down that either allow him to get up or put him in a more advantageous position, and even from his back he’s always looking to sweep his opponent or threaten submissions to create space for himself.
Raoni Barcelos is an extremely difficult debut, but at this stage of his career it’s no surprise Henry finds himself in the deep-end of the UFC right away. Barcelos is 16-2 and had won his first five fights in the UFC before losing to Timur Valiev last year, so the Brazilian will be looking to bounce back against Henry. We’ve just recently seen fellow veteran Chris Curtis finally get to the UFC and have great success, so maybe Henry will be able to surprise some people during his time in the promotion.
Out Within 1-2 Years
A Mainstay Through the Years
Henry is a well-rounded veteran who has spent most of his career in Japan and is especially deadly with his submissions, but at age 34 I had thought that his window of opportunity to join the UFC had already passed. That all changed when Trevin Jones pulled out of his December 2021 fight against Raoni Barcelos and Henry got the call as a short notice fill-in, and while the bout has since been rescheduled a few times due to covid protocols, it looks like it will finally go down this weekend.
Henry was born in the US and started his career on the California regional scene before jumping to Japan in 2014. He’s had a very strong career there and in other countries against all types of competition, amassing a 21-5 overall record with highlights that include decision wins over current UFC prospect Kyler Phillips and burgeoning Russian star Denis Lavrentyev in 2018, capturing the bantamweight title for storied promotion DEEP in 2019, and going 2-0 with finishes against strong opponents in a brief stint with RIZIN. While his background is in wrestling and his grappling was his strength when he began competing in MMA, in the years since he’s rounded out his game and is just as likely to end a fight with a well-aimed strike as with a technical submission. He also has great stamina and is more than capable of maintaining a high pace throughout the fight to win decisions against top competition, and the fact that he’s never been finished as a pro despite consistently facing high-level competition speaks to his toughness and durability.
Unfortunately for Henry, while he is a well-rounded veteran with no clear weaknesses, the same can also be said about his opponent Barcelos, who I currently have ranked as the #19 bantamweight in the world. He has proven to be equally well-rounded during his 5-1 UFC run and is probably slightly better than Henry in essentially every area of MMA, as he is a world-class BJJ expert with more power in his hands. This an incredibly tricky debut fight, and there are likely very few other unsigned bantamweights who the UFC could have signed on short notice without it feeling like a complete mismatch. I think that Barcelos will be able to work his way to a decision victory, but I also think that Henry will show enough flashes of his skills to get another chance or two against less established UFC prospects, as he has the ideal resume to be a quality gatekeeper for the promotion over the next few years.
Out Within 1-2 Years 50/50 Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years