Veteran UFC middleweight Eryk Anders has now emerged as a potential next opponent for possible intra-divisional challenger Marc-Andre Barriault, who has called him out. Anders, a former national championship linebacker on the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, is fresh out of the Octagon after most recently competing against Darren Stewart in March. Barriault issued the callout when speaking with media members after defeating Abu Azaitar at UFC 260. While a rematch with Stewart could be of immediate interest for Anders, a fight between himself and Barriault does present an interesting prospect.
Anders, who has a professional MMA record of 13-5 (1 NC), has returned to his original UFC home in the middleweight division. His past several fights have been contested at 185 pounds, and he has found success there. His power and tenacity are to be feared, and a number of his opponents have been viciously knocked out. Anders showcased his power and his versatility during his most recent fight against Stewart. Stylistically, Barriault is a very different opponent than Stewart; he stated that he liked Anders’s style and that was one of the reasons he currently wants to fight him. While it’s hard not to like Anders’s fighting style, with his power and toughness, the potential exists that it could be Barriault’s undoing at an inopportune time for him. Anders’s versatility enables him to impact Barriault’s game and force him out of his comfort zone, and Barriault, whose most recent bout was his first following a suspension, may not yet be ready for such a challenge. Anders, like Barriault, possesses a significant amount of stamina, and the former Bama standout even has experience in five-round UFC fights, going the distance in one. Additionally, Anders could be more interested in a rematch with Darren Stewart after their last fight, which had barn-burner potential, ended in an early no-contest. The chance to run things back with Stewart at this point is undoubtedly at least somewhat enticing for the former LFA middleweight king.
Marc-Andre Barriault, who is about two years younger than Anders, holds a professional mixed martial arts record of 12-4 (1 NC). Prior to stepping into the Octagon against Azaitar, he had been suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after an in-competition testing sample was positive for ostarine. The original six-month suspension was drastically reduced, but Barriault’s TKO victory over Oskar Piechota was overturned. He and Anders share a common opponent, Krzysztof Jotko, who fought them back-to-back (Barriault in June 2019 and Anders in May 2020). In terms of Barriault’s most recent fight, which also ended in a TKO victory, it was a strong showing. The Canadian dominated the fight while on the ground, particularly in the third and final round, and was able to notch a quality victory in his return to competition. He stated during his post-fight comments that he wanted to fight Ya Boi ‘so bad’ and that he and Anders are ‘a good matchup for sure.’ When asked to elaborate, Barriault said that he liked Anders’s style because he’s aggressive. There are a number of ways in which he too can give opponents trouble in a fight, including strength and a lot of power of his own. Also a seasoned fighter, Barriault is a former two-division champion, winning gold in the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions while with TKO MMA.
If a fight between Eryk Anders and Marc-Andre Barriault were to materialize in the near future, it would also have great potential. The middleweights would be competing in their best division; Barriault, unlike Anders, has not even contested a bout outside of the UFC’s 185-pound weight class. Both men are not far removed from their most recent Octagon appearances. The lack of a very long layoff between fights means that it would not take significant effort to rekindle the intensity needed to be competitive in MMA. To that end, this matchup would be an absolute brawl. For Anders, a win in a bout that quite possibly favors him would mark his first 2021 victory; for Barriault, a fight with ‘prove it’ implications would be a big resumè-booster if he were to prevail. It would be exciting to see how a bout between these two would go down.