Nate Marquardt is hoping to clinch gold at 170 pounds. | Photo: J. Sherwood/Sherdog.com
Sherdog.com staff and contributors put their reputations on the line with bold predictions for UFC Live 4 “Marquardt vs. Story on Sunday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The event airs on the Versus network at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and features a main event between former middleweight King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt and Rick Story.
Nate Marquardt vs. Rick Story
Tristen Critchfield: Story will likely follow the blueprint laid out by Chael Sonnen at UFC 109 and look to take Marquardt down repeatedly. The Grudge Training Center product was a strong middleweight and should be even stronger at 170, so Story’s task will be easier said than done. Story will be relentless in pressuring Marquardt, and against Thiago Alves, he showed that he could take a punch. Provided he makes it through the weight cut without losing too much, Marquardt will be well-rounded enough to win the decision.
Todd Martin: Most of Marquardt’s recent losses at middleweight have come against much bigger opposition than Rick Story. I think that’s going to be a big factor against a fighter like Story, who tries to grind and overwhelm opponents. Marquardt should be well prepared to control the grappling and has a significant striking edge. Marquardt’s move down to 170 will start off with a win.
Brian Knapp: I think 170 pounds will suit Marquardt just fine, provided he continues to close the holes in his defensive wrestling. I favor him here because of his well-rounded offensive game and big-fight experience. With that said, denying Story will be no easy task. He impressed greatly in his win over a former welterweight title contender in Alves, as he executed his game plan to near perfection and showcased the kind of indomitable resilience that is usually reserved for the greats of the game. Perhaps Story is on his way, but he hits a speed bump here; Marquardt by close decision.
Patrick Barry vs. Cheick Kongo
Tony Loiseleur: I suppose the real question in this fight is whether I prefer leg kicks or knees, since those are essentially the greatest weapons for Barry and Kongo, respectively. To be honest, however, I can’t pick a favorite but that won’t help my picking score. Thus, give me Barry to stay on the outside and rack up low kicks for an eventual decision. I just hope he doesn’t get stuck in the clinch and fall prey to Kongo’s knees at some point. Still, if he’s really unlucky, that might happen, and Kongo might even tip the scales further in his favor if he falls into point-deducting fouls again.
Freddie DeFreitas: Cue Barry, always the entertainer. Enter Kongo, the buzz kill. Does anyone else remember when Cheick Kongo was first introduced to the UFC viewing masses as, to quote UFC analyst Joe Rogan, “a K-1-level striker?” After his move to the Wolfslair Academy, the former world muay Thai and European Savate champion has seemingly shifted his focus to grappling, much to the collective groans of MMA fans worldwide. Kongo takes the decision via pinning Barry against the fence for an agonizing 15 minutes. I believe the over-under for knees to the groin is currently sitting at four. Call your local bookmaker.
Lutfi Sariahmed: Kongo does these types of bouts well. It’s when he steps up to better competition that he has come up short in the past. He will force Barry to bring the bout in close, and Kongo will get the better of him there. We overlook Kongo at heavyweight because he’s lost most of his high-profile bouts, but this one should be manageable for him. Give me Kongo via knockout.
Tyson Griffin vs. Manny Gamburyan
Jordan Breen: Having earned a WEC featherweight title shot, Gamburyan knows firsthand what can happen when a middling lightweight drops to 145 pounds. However, we’re starting to see even better lightweights cut to 145. If this fight was at 155, there’d be no question: Griffin is superior to Gamburyan in about every way, save for straight one-punch power. Griffin can box, wrestle and scramble his way to a decision in this one.
Rob King: Not too many people lose three fights in a row in the UFC and get another shot, but Griffin’s drop to featherweight should snap that losing streak. Gamburyan’s best chance at a victory here is a submission, but Griffin should be able to neutralize the Armenian with his wrestling and avoid any submission attempts; Griffin to take a position-based decision.
Tomasz Marciniak: Against Takanori Gomi, I think Griffin got a bit too comfortable with his striking, and he needs to be wary of doing the same thing here, as Gamburyan does not lack power. With that said, the Armenian, save for the Mike Thomas Brown fight, had success at featherweight when he was able to take down his opponent and impose his top game. I don’t think that is a likely scenario against such a good scrambler like Griffin, who really should be winning the position game. I like Griffin to stop his three-fight skid and get rolling at featherweight with a decision victory.
Matt Brown vs. John Howard
Guilherme Pinheiro: The only way I see Howard winning this is by knocking out Brown. Unfortunately for him, Brown is as durable as they come and has never been knocked out in his career. I’m not saying it’s not doable, but I don’t believe Brown will be sucked into a striking battle against such a powerful opponent. I think Brown has enough skill to put Howard on the ground and finish him with punches late in the fight.
Martin: When Brown loses, it’s almost always on the ground. This fight will be an exception to that rule. Brown’s grit and striking isn’t at the level of Howard’s muay thai. Howard will control the striking exchanges and pick up an entertaining decision win.
Knapp: It is hard not to like Brown, a man who embodies the spirit and toughness that defines this sport. However, I believe he is outgunned in this matchup, on the feet and on the floor. I expect Howard, the superior technical fighter, to wobble him standing and follow him to the ground, where he finishes it in the second round, either with strikes or a rear-naked choke.
Joe Stevenson vs. Javier Vazquez
Critchfield: It’s hard to believe that Stevenson, a former lightweight title contender, is on the verge of his fourth straight loss in the UFC. Vazquez has a good submission game, but Stevenson will still try to use his strength advantage and overpower the WEC veteran on the ground. Eventually, Stevenson overwhelms Vasquez and finishes the fight via guillotine choke or ground-and-pound.
DeFreitas: The key for Vazquez in this bout is achieving and maintaining top position, but it may be easier said than done. While Stevenson’s wrestling is not on the same level of a Chad Mendes, “Daddy” has an excellent base and should have little trouble putting Vasquez on his back, provided he doesn’t continue to fancy himself as an elite boxer -- a lesson he must have learned in the Mac Danzig bout. Stevenson would be wise to play carefully within the Vazquez guard, but one well-placed elbow on years of scar tissue can do wonders when it comes to coaxing a stoppage; Stevenson by TKO in round three.
Sariahmed: Fun fight here. Stevenson’s career renaissance since joining Greg Jackson has hit a bit of a snag here with three straight losses. Meanwhile “Showtime” is in the middle of a career renaissance of his own, but his has been derailed by a potential No. 1 contender at featherweight in Mendes. It’ll be the first UFC bout for Vasquez, but he’s hardly new to all this. His experience on the big stage helps here, and his striking game plays a key role in getting the win over Stevenson.
Matt Mitrione vs. Christian Morecraft
Loiseleur: Mitrione’s improvement since his stint on “The Ultimate Fighter,” has been impressive, and I’m looking forward to seeing just how far his rapid improvement will take him and for how long he can keep it up. Like his Tim Hague bout, this fight against Morecraft is another step up to test him. Morecraft is powerful but tends to be on the reckless side, absorbing shots on the feet, as well as submission and sweep attempts on the ground. With his speed and agility, Mitrione could get some valuable cage time in with Morecraft, evading the charges to pick him apart with more precise striking; Mitrione by decision.
King: Mitrione is a stud prospect, and he is being groomed by the UFC to ease his way into the top tier. Good matchmaking by Joe Silva here should keep Mitrione on that track. Morecraft has some submissions skills and can hang on the mat, but Mitrione has a huge advantage here on his feet with his ever improving striking, and he should be able to pound out Morecraft to get a late stoppage.
Marciniak: While some doubts linger about Mitrione’s striking defense, he was eating quite a few shots from Joey Beltran; the former NFL player never flinched and displayed a stout beard. On the offense, Mitrione is a significantly better fighter and, provided he can avoid the takedown, should be winning the exchanges. I’m still not sure what to expect of Mitrione should he be put on his back repeatedly, but I’ll pick him to keep it upright and get the win regardless.