Kongo (L) and Barry (Tracy Lee/for the full album, go to CombatLifestyle.com)
UFC on Versus 4 takes place Sunday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The adjusted main event features heavyweights Chieck Kongo and Pat Barry, with Rick Story taking on last-moment replacement Charlie Brenneman.
MMADieHards.com has chosen a panel of writers to defend their selected picks for the event, and though many favorites were picked, Joe Rizzo, Bob Badders, Aidan O’Connor, Robert Reynolds and Jason Kelly have managed to represent a fighter from each bout on the card.
John Howard, Matt Mitrione, Joe Stevenson, Joe Lauzon, Nik Lentz, Michael Johnson and Daniel Roberts were all unanimous selections. Therefore, some shuffling had to be made, but here are the defenses.
Below, we list the match, with those who picked that fighter in parenthesis and the defender’s write-up:
MAIN CARD (Versus)
Charlie Brenneman vs. Rick Story
Defending Brenneman: Rizzo
In my original assignment, I was the lone wolf in Story’s pack. With the surprising last-minute change in opponents, I’ll give you reasons to take a flier on Brenneman.
Taking a fight on short notice generally works against a fighter, and this case is not expected to be different. But now and again the circumstances dictate that there might be a lot more at work, and Brenneman has a couple of those factors on his side.
Story would not have taken this fight a month off his win over Thiago Alves, save for the fact that Nate Marquardt was the opponent, and the spot was opened by Anthony Johnson’s injury. By fight time, Story will have had a mere 28 hours to digest his new opponent, maybe not realizing he has significantly more to lose by falling to Brenneman than he had if he fell to Marquardt.
Brenneman, on the other hand, was desperate to get on this card, which is 90 miles from his hometown of Holidaysburg, Pa. He got a match with T.J, Grant at the expense of an injured Matthew Riddle, but then mere days before the event, Grant had to pull out with mono. Brenneman went through with his weight cut, got a new lease on life thanks to Marquardt and is playing with house money. He’ll also have the crowd behind him. With the stars aligning, it might be time for the original winner of “Pros vs. Joes” to show the MMA world that he’s clutch.
Cheick Kongo vs. Patrick Barry
Defending Kongo: Aidan O’Connor
If Kongo can work his way past the vicious leg kicks that offer Barry a way of picking apart his opponents from distance, then a strong argument can be made that this bout is the Frenchman’s to lose. Kongo has traded with kickboxers on the feet in the past, even defeating the likes of Antoni Hardonk, which suggests he would also be comfortable trying to move past any rangy strikes thrown by Barry.
On top of Kongo’s history, I was a little disappointed by Barry’s showing against Joey Beltran at UFC: Fight for the Troops 2 earlier this year. Barry showed signs of the same lack of a finishing instinct that he exhibited against Mirko Cro Cop and I was surprised that he didn’t, or couldn’t, finish the bout. On the other hand however, the decision outcome of that fight could easily be interpreted as a testament to Beltran’s heart and determination.
If this contest goes down to the canvas Kongo has proven in the past he can employ a methodical yet aggressive ground and pound attack on those not accustomed to fighting on the floor. It has been a scenario we have seen in Kongo’s bouts against both Mostapha Al Turk and Paul Buentello. Similar to those two fighters, Barry would likely prefer to keep any fight of his standing on the basis of his background in kickboxing which, combined with a relatively short MMA career, suggests he may share the same reluctance to go to the ground, especially against a heavyweight as physically imposing as Kongo.
Matt Brown vs. John Howard
Defending Brown: Jason Kelly
I think most would agree that Howard is a better striker than Brown, but I determine this fight to turn into a battle of attrition, and that is something Brown knows how to win.
Howard’s last fight, against Thiago Alves, which “Doomsday” lost, proved that a relentless attack is the key to defeating the Boston native. Brown has his back against the wall going into this fight. He has dropped three consecutive fights, which makes a loss against Howard an inevitable release from the UFC roster. However, Brown is the type of fighter that can dig deep enough to find the courage and prevail through tough situations, plus he can get violent with the best of them.
If Brown can keep the pace on Howard, not allowing him to set and land leg kicks, “The Immortal” will take this fight via TKO in the third round.
Matt Mitrione vs. Christian Morecraft
Defending Morecraft: Joe Rizzo
How can Morecraft beat Mitrione? By beating him to the punch. Mitrione will allow it to become a slugfest for only a little while before he begins to employ some of the newfound parts of his game. Morecraft would be wise to blast away from the start, and to put Mitrione on his back the moment he sees him stunned. He can let the ground and pound take over from there. While Morecraft is 7-1, Mitrione is about as experienced, with a 4-0 mark that does not include a few fights from The Ultimate Fighter’s 10th season. If age turns out to be a factor, the 24-year-old Morecraft is eight years younger than the former fringe NFL defensive lineman. Morecraft comes in as a small betting underdog who is worth a look in a fight that will turn on a dime.
PRELIMINARY CARD (Facebook)
Tyson Griffin vs. Manny Gamburyan
Defending Gamburyan: Aidan O’Connor
The crux of argument effectively boils down my notion that Manny Gamburyan will overwhelm Griffin with his strength, and ability to use it, at 145 pounds.
Gamburyan’s short and stocky body type offers a powerful base upon which he has developed an MMA skill-set specializing in a combination of wrestling and judo, with his sambo background also documented on TUF 5. To get into a position where he can utilize those traits offers a challenge, but one that his improvements in boxing and impressive KO of former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown suggest he can overcome.
In contrast, Griffin has not fared well against more wrestling-based fighters in his recent career history, conceding defeat to the likes of Sean Sherk, Evan Dunham and Nik Lentz, while his win over Clay Guida in 2007 came well before Guida reached the level of ground game he is peaking at now. That said, those losses came at lightweight, and if Griffin handles the drop to featherweight as well as Kenny Florian did then Gamburyan may look to adopt a less gung-ho approach to taking Griffin to the mat if he wishes to do so.
Form also favors the Armenian-American, who has carved a decent niche for himself at 145 pounds with consecutive wins over credible opposition in John Franchi, Leonard Garcia and Mike Brown. His only loss since the beginning of 2009 has come to Jose Aldo, an individual many would put in their top two or three list of pound-for-pound fighters in MMA. Griffin’s striking game is good, but nowhere near the level of Aldo’s.
Griffin on the other hand rests on a three-fight skid that has prompted his return to featherweight after five years. Another loss would surely spell his departure from the UFC and it will be interesting to see if desperation sets in at any point, any if Gambruyan has the presence of mind to capitalize on it.
Joe Stevenson vs. Javier Vazquez
Defending Vazquez: Jason Kelly
Stevenson is on a three-fight losing skid, and I think for a lightweight of his physique to drop down to featherweight is a hindrance. Vazquez has been fighting in the 145-pound division for quite some time, therefore he is comfortable with the weight cut.
Vazquez will prove to be too fast for Stevenson, not to mention the possibility of ”Joe Daddy” fatiguing due to the unfamiliar weight cut. Stevenson is ahead in the strength department, I would assume, but I don’t see it playing much of a factor if he cannot get a hold of the quicker Vazquez.
It’s no secret that Stevenson is very difficult to put away, but I believe Vazquez will evade Stevenson’s attacks until fatigue sets in, and walk away with a unanimous decision. I’ll even be brave enough to predict all three judges score the bout 29-28.
Joe Lauzon vs. Curt Warburton
Defending Warburton: Bob Badders
Warburton certainly has his hands full against Lauzon, a savvy UFC veteran who has fought some of the best in the business during his career. Warburton is certainly the underdog, but there’s no doubt he’s got a chance here.
As with many of the fighters from the UK, striking is clearly his strength. He’s finished five of his seven wins, with four coming via TKO. That’s the game the Wolfslair product has play. Lauzon has very good jiu-jitsu and the mat is not a place Warburton wants to go. Keep this fight standing and things could get interesting. Warburton is riding high, also, since coming off a win over Maciej Jewtuszko at UFC 127 that was the first loss of Jewtuszko’s career. Warburton is also noted for his 1-1-1 career record over Ultimate Fighter 9 lightweight winner Ross Pearson, so he knows he has it in him to defeat a fighter of Lauzon’s caliber.
Daniel Roberts vs. Rich Attonito
Defending Attonito: Robert G. Reynolds
Attonito was originally slated to fight Matt Brown for the night’s festivities, but a late injury by Martin Kampmann has opened up an opportunity for Brown to move up to the main card, leaving an open spot with Attonito. While Brown is a different style fighter his replacement, Roberts will prove to be an optimal opponent for Attonito.
With both Attonito and Roberts losing their last fight coming into this bout, Attonito has not fought since December 2010 and has had ample opportunity to rest, heal and work on strengthening his fight skills. Roberts is just recently coming off of a unanimous decision loss to the Canadian Claude Patrick, at the record breaking UFC 129.
With the lack of time to regroup, this will prove to be the downfall for Roberts on Saturday night helping Attonito to a unanimous decision victory, putting him back on the winning side of the fence.
Nik Lentz vs. Charles Oliveira
Defending Oliveira: Jason Kelly
As solid and consistent of a competitor as Lentz is, I predict Oliveira to bounce back from his only career loss with a statement. A statement which has him finishing Lentz, and getting back on track to an eventual UFC title shot.
Oliveira’s only loss came against now-No. 1 UFC lightweight contender, Jim Miller, so that is not a major setback in the Brazilian’s career. With 14 wins on his record, just one of those going to the scorecards, the 21-year old Oliveira will show what he has learned from his sole defeat, and conquer Lentz. The speed and craftiness Oliveira employs will cause fits for Lentz, and cause the former University of Minnesota wrestler to make a mistake that Oliveira will capitalize on.
Oliveira will defeat Lentz via TKO, early in the third round. Most likely with a kick, followed by punches.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Matt Grice
Defending Grice: Bob Badders
The Lamas vs. Grice bout is an interesting one on several levels, and even though Lamas has emerged as the favorite a win by Grice wouldn’t really be too much of an upset.
Both will be making debuts of some kind as Lamas fights in the UFC for the first time after six WEC fights while Grice makes his featherweight debut. Both are wrestlers, too, as Lamas was a Division-III All-American for Elmhurst College and Grice wrestled for the University of Oklahoma. Lamas is coming off a loss to Yuri Alcantara at WEC 53 while Grice is riding a four-fight winning streak. Grice has four fights in the UFC, but was cut after a loss to Shannon Gugerty at UFC dropped his promotional record to 1-3.
The way for Grice to win this fight is with wrestling and ground-and-pound. Yes, Lamas was a D-III All-American, but what some people don’t understand is the difference between Division III and Division I wrestling. It’s light years, it really is. Grice was a four-time Oklahoma state champion and won the Outstanding Wrestler award three times. He is the only one to ever accomplish that in the wrestling-rich state of Oklahoma. He had all the makings of a star college grappler, but a car accident cut his career short. Grice has the tools to control Lamas on the ground, and if he does, he’ll have his hand raised at end of the bout.
Michael Johnson vs. Edward Faaloloto
Defending Faaloloto: Robert G. Reynolds
Who is Edward Faaloloto? With a new record of 2-1, Faaloloto is finding his place among some of the elite lightweight fighters within the UFC. While Faaloloto is a young fighter in the sport, he has been training with UFC veteran Chris Leben at his Ultimate Fight School in Honolulu. With Leben engineering this train, fans are sure to meet and exciting fighter who is going to be making surf-worthy waves in the lightweight division.
Welcoming the Leben protégé, Faaloloto, to the Octagon will be The Ultimate Fighter 12 runner-up Johnson. This will be Johnsons’ first fight in the UFC since the show and he will be looking to eradicate everyone’s recent memory of his loss to Jonathan Brookins.
Expect Faaloloto to come out quickly in the first round applying pressure and forcing Johnson to fight at an unfamiliar pace. Faaloloto is going to prove to be too much for Johnson and finish the fight in the third round via rear-naked-choke.