The UFC returns to Versus on Sunday for what should be an explosive fight card, as the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh will host the welterweight debut of Nate “The Great” Marquardt against the dangerous Rick Story.
Great kickboxing will also be on display as Pat Barry and Cheick Kongo battle it out, while welterweights Matt Brown and John “Doomsday” Howard have promised a bloodbath. Finally, heavyweight prospect Matt Mitrione will look to make it five wins in a row as he takes on Christian Morecraft.
Welterweight Bout: Nate Marquardt (31-10-2) vs. Rick Story (13-3)
Breakdown: Nate “The Great” Marquardt will make his welterweight debut on Sunday after a successful run at middleweight that saw him challenge for Anderson Silva’s title. Marquardt was originally set to face Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, yet a rotator cuff injury forced Johnson off the card. In steps rising star Rick “Horror” Story, who defeated former title challenger Thiago Alves a month ago at UFC 130. On paper, Marquardt possesses every skill needed to be a mixed martial arts champion. He is a crisp, explosive striker who made Martin Kampmann and Demian Maia look silly in knockout wins. He is also a submission specialist who has tapped out fifteen opponents, including Jeremy Horn. He is an elite athlete who mixes strikes and takedowns well. He comes from a great camp, working with the likes of Greg Jackson and Trevor Wittman. Yet he falters in the big fights.
When Nate Marquardt is pressured, whether it is Anderson Silva or Chael Sonnen or Yushin Okami, he folds. He can buck that trend on Sunday as Rick Story is all about pressure. Since losing in his UFC debut to John Hathaway, Story has muscled his way to six straight victories. Story is a bull who swarms his opponents from the opening bell and doesn’t let up until the fight is over. In close quarters Story can work for takedowns or fire off blistering body shots. Story can mix it up with knockout power standing and tricky submissions on the ground. Story takes a step up in competition in every fight (Hazelett, Hendricks, Alves) and will face the toughest test of his career in Marquardt.
The outcome: It remains to be seen how Marquardt’s body adjusts to the weight cut and if Story is fully recovered from his grueling bout with Alves. Marquardt’s weight cut and conditioning level will be tested as Story will be in his face for a full fifteen minutes. Story is on a serious roll and seems to get more confident with every performance. He fears no one and genuinely believes he will impose his will on his opponents. Marquardt will once again fold under the pressure. Rick “Horror” Story will defeat Nate Marquardt by unanimous decision.
Heavyweight Bout: Cheick Kongo (15-6-2) vs Pat Barry (6-2)
Breakdown: It’s put up or shut up time for Cheick Kongo. The longtime UFC veteran looked positively lackluster and disinterested in his last trip to the Octagon, a draw with Travis Browne at UFC 120. Kongo, who had a point deducted in that fight for grabbing onto Browne’s shorts, did not look like he wanted to be in the cage that night. Hopefully, he will be refreshed and back to his old aggressive self on Sunday. At his best Kongo is a dangerous kickboxer who has dished out some serious beatings in the Octagon. Sadly, he is still practically useless as a grappler after thirteen fights in the UFC.
Pat “HD” Barry is a hungry challenger whose K-1 level kickboxing will give Kongo a run for his money. Barry has enjoyed success fighting fellow kickboxers in the UFC as he knocked out Antoni Hardonk, and dropped Mirko CroCop numerous times before losing by submission. Barry is technically sharper standing than Kongo, yet he will have to deal with Kongo’s seven and a half inch reach advantage.
The outcome: It would be hilarious if this fight went to the ground because neither guy knows what they’re doing down there. When in doubt, go with the hungrier fighter. Pat Barry has looked better in the Octagon than Kongo lately, and Frank Mir showed us how predictable Kongo’s striking is. Pat “HD” Barry will defeat Cheick Kongo by TKO in the second round.
Welterweight Bout: Matt Brown (11-10) vs John Howard (14-6)
Breakdown: Martin Kampmann was forced off this card due to injuries so Matt “The Immortal” Brown was promoted to take his place. Brown will be fighting for his UFC life on Sunday, but sadly it may be his Doomsday. Brown came off the seventh season of TUF and took the Octagon by storm, compiling a 4-1 record with all the wins being finishes. His aggressive striking carried him to impressive wins over James Wilks and Pete Sell. Yet lately, things have gone terribly, terribly wrong for Brown. Brown was manhandled and outworked in consecutive submission losses to Ricardo Almeida, Chris Lytle, and Brian Foster. Brown is a hard-nosed standup fighter who obviously has some deficiencies on the ground. Brown enjoys slugging it out and so does his opponent John “Doomsday” Howard which should make this a very exciting fight.
“Doomsday” is a Muay Thai expert who is best known for his devastating knockouts of Dennis Hallman and Daniel Roberts. Howard has solid takedowns and showed his resilience in the Hallman fight, scoring a come from behind knockout in the final seconds of the fight. Howard has trouble with solid grapplers, as evidenced by his loss to Jake Ellenberger.
The outcome: This will be a bloody war with both guys leaving it all in the cage. Don’t expect this to hit the ground. Howard is a superior kickboxer and that gives him the edge here. John “Doomsday” Howard will defeat Matt Brown by KO in the third round.
Heavyweight Bout: Matt Mitrione (4-0) vs Christian Morecraft (7-1)
Breakdown: Matt “Meathead” Mitrione is one of the true characters in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Mitrione’s oddball and comedic personality has made him a fan favorite. An ex-NFL player and college teammate of Drew Brees, Mitrione has used his elite athleticism and big-game experience to carve out an undefeated MMA record. Mitrione’s well-rounded striking game led him to finishes of Kimbo Slice and Tim Hague. “Meathead” mixes punches and kicks very well and moves very well for a big man. Mitrione improves every fight and will be a top contender in this division as he gains more experience. Christian Morecraft is an absolute beast and the type of fighter that will be a good test for Mitrione. In his UFC debut, Morecraft nearly beat Stefan Struve to death in round one, only to be knocked out by the resilient Dutchman in round two. Morecraft rebounded a few months back with a submission win over Sean McCorkle. Morecraft is a big, strong kid who operates best from top position with devastating ground and pound. He is still developing his stand-up game and that could be his undoing Sunday night.
The outcome: Mitrione has sliced up a quartet of stand-up fighters in his first four fights, so a battle with a ground fighter like Morecraft will be a good measuring stick for him. Mitrione is very mobile for a big man and has excellent footwork. Expect him to pick Morecraft apart on the feet with sharp, accurate punches. Matt Mitrione will defeat Christian Morecraft by TKO in round one.
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