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UFC 106:

Sadollah, Baroni in similar positions entering Saturday’s meeting

Two fighters will battle to make a similar, much-needed statement

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Justin M. Bowen

Phil Baroni answers questions Wednesday during open workouts at Mandalay Bay in preparation for his fight at UFC 106 Saturday where he will take on Amir Sadollah.

UFC-106 Open Workouts

Tito Ortiz answers questions Wednesday during open workouts at Mandalay Bay in preparation for his fight at UFC 106 Saturday where he will take on Forrest Griffin. Launch slideshow »

In terms of staying relevant in the UFC's welterweight division, Saturday night's bout between Amir Sadollah and Phil Baroni is equally important on both sides.

Since winning the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter, injuries have held Sadollah to just one fight in the last 17 months — a first round TKO defeat against Johny Hendricks at UFC 101 in August in a bout that ended in an astonishing 29 seconds.

As for the veteran Baroni, the 33-year-old, who made his organization debut at UFC 30 on Feb. 23, 2001, makes his first UFC appearance since UFC 51 on Feb. 5, 2005, this Saturday.

"Pride comes in as far as my first back in the UFC, and I don't want to lose," Baroni said. "I don't want to lose any fight in the UFC and don't want to lose this one for sure."

Baroni knows better than almost anyone what losing in the UFC can result in, as he was out of the organization after that loss to Pete Sell at UFC 51 gave him four in a row and sent him looking for fights elsewhere. Now he's back with a multi-fight deal.

In 14 fights since his UFC exile, Baroni went 8-6 fighting for six different organizations, most recently with a unanimous decision loss to Joe Riggs in Strikeforce back in June.

This time, though, onlookers can expect to see a fighting style from Baroni that the Long Island, N.Y., native says he's most comfortable with yet neglected for awhile.

"What works best for me is chin down, hands up, let 'em fly. That's what I'm gonna do," he said. "The last couple of years, I got with different coaches, different boxing coaches. I tried to change it up, tried to be more of a counter-puncher. That's not my style. My style is to get in there, be first and hit hard.

"I react better that way, getting in there and getting after it."

Baroni also feels as if his vast resumé gives him an edge against Sadollah, who is only four years younger. Baroni believes that his 10 years of professional MMA experience and the names he's gone toe-to-toe with work in his favor.

Sadollah is still in the process of building a list of accomplishments, and he believes that it's finally time for that effort to get off the ground in terms of getting into a routine.

He had two fights postponed due to injury before meeting Hendricks in Philadelphia. It was nearly 14 full months after his victory over C.B. Dollaway at the TUF Finale when he again took the Octagon.

"For sure, it would have been nice to have a little bit more activity in that time, but again, both times I had to pull out of fights, they were immediately before, so it was an active year for me," he said. "Just a normal year, but without a fight."

As if that wasn't frustrating enough, his bout with Hendricks was ended by the ref when many — including Sadollah at the time — thought he could have gone on.

"I don't know, as a fighter, you always want to fight. You always think you can fight. I remember just thinking immediately after the fight that all I could do was think, 'Man, what can I do to change this?' And there wasn't anything I could really do. I just tried to figure out how to turn it around as much as possible as far as learning from it.

"I made a mistake. And could I have fought on? Maybe. Who knows? It's impossible to say. I thought I could have at the time. I think I could have. But I early on learned that it wasn't advantageous for me to dwell on that."

At the same time, Sadollah has continued to make the adjustment of living in and fighting out of Las Vegas as opposed to Richmond, Va. He readily admits that being away from immediate family is not easy.

But while Baroni has made his living off of fighting for more than a decade, the TUF alum is also still figuring out what it's like to make a career out of what once was a hobby.

That's where the jump from a training camp for a fight in November almost straight into another for a November bout — and staying healthy, to boot — was key for Sadollah.

"I'm definitely the type that if I have too much downtime, I'll just drive myself into the ground, so this was a good turnaround time for me," he added. "I'm happy with it."

"The toughest is just learning constructive things to do in your downtime. When your hobby becomes your job, you've got to find other stuff to do that's fun just to relax. Since all the fun stuff to do out in Vegas isn't great for our sport — drinking and gambling — I play a lot of video games and hang out with friends."

Saturday's fight promises not to be a game, however.

Baroni said that he'll take a pit bull's mentality into his return fight in the UFC, wanting to scrap and exchange with Sadollah almost immediately.

In other words, it very well could be identical to Sadollah's first fight under his UFC contract, which lasted all of 29 seconds when Hendricks came out swinging for the fences, in terms of pace.

It's not a bad pace, though, since both need to make a statement sooner rather than later.

"I'm definitely going to have to push the pace and be cautious at the same time, without giving too much detail," Sadollah said. "That should always be the plan, but I think it will especially be important here."

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