PITTSBURGH - Before, during and now after, Sunday night’s UFC Live 4 on the Versus Network was a wild one.
From Nate Marquardt’s sudden expulsion from both the event and the company to Charlie Brenneman sidetracking Rick Story’s momentum to Cheick Kongo pulling off the unbelievable in the main event, there were some plot twists. Even the UFC president seemed pleased, as Dana White called it one of the best events his organization has ever done.
As always there were lessons to be learned. Here are the five most important storylines to emerge from UFC Live 4 …
1. Get your medicals cleared, people.
We still don’t know exactly why the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission refused to let Marquardt fight, but the most persistent rumors say it has something to do with testosterone therapy. Again, that’s still just the unconfirmed rumor and will remain that way until the fighter delivers the full statement his camp is promising for Tuesday. Regardless of what the exact problem was, Marquardt appears foolish to have left anything up in the air or to chance leading up to his scheduled welterweight debut. As the first high-profile fighter to be fired in a scandal since Zuffa, LLC bought Strikeforce, he now faces a very bleak working environment in which to try to hit the ground running.
2. Let’s not overlook how bad this stinks for Story.
Brenneman fought a great fight on Sunday night, utilizing his wrestling ability to keep Story grounded on his back for much of their 15-minute affair. In snatching a unanimous decision victory, Brenneman effectively stalled any forward momentum Story had built during a six-fight win-streak capped by his defeat of Thiago Alves last month. We would also be remiss, however, if we didn’t at least mention how big of a bummer the Marquardt debacle must’ve been for Story, too.
The only reason Story accepted this fight on less than 30 days' notice was because it gave him a chance to ride his wave of hype into a bout with a top contender and possibly vault into a title shot. All that got yanked out from under him at the last minute, and he had no choice but to go through with the fight anyway against an unheralded, hungry and dangerous opponent.
With just about 24 hours to prepare for Brenneman, Story wound up looking ill-equipped to deal with “The Spaniard’s” takedowns and top control. Meanwhile, Brenneman said he knew as early as about a week out there was at least a possibility he might have to step in and fight on Sunday night, begging the questions: Who knew what? And when? I hope Story doesn’t suffer too much of a setback after this loss, but it seems like he’ll have to do some work to rebuild the public’s view of him as a legitimate contender now.
3. Kongo’s KO: Greatest of all time?
By the end of Sunday night’s broadcast, Cheick Kongo’s comeback knockout of Pat Barry was already being bandied about as a candidate for “greatest KO in UFC history.” I’m not sure I can quite go that far, but it certainly should do wonders for Kongo’s reputation, at least for a while. Coming into this bout, Kongo was regarded by some as a fighter with a penchant for low blows and his fight with Travis Browne at UFC 120 ended in a draw after Kongo lost a point for copious grabbing of the shorts. Now there’ll undoubtedly be a surge in popularity for the Wolfslair fighter, though he’s still got some work to do before he’s considered a bonafide contender in the heavyweight division.
4. Brenneman on the rise.
Preparation certainly met up with opportunity for Brenneman this weekend and the AMA Fight Club member made the most of it. Can’t help but marvel a bit at Brenneman, who – as a former “Pros vs. Joes” champion and late notice replacement this weekend – makes an easy feel-good story at a time when we sorely need one. Brenneman is now 3-1 in the UFC, though his second-round TKO loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 117 and a loss earlier in his career to John Howard still hamper any notion of him as a realistic threat to the top of the division. He certainly earned a test against a recognizable name, though.
5. Mitrione keeps on trucking.
It should be clear at this point that Matt Mitrione has graduated from heavyweight elementary school. His win over Christian Morecraft on Sunday was impressive enough that it should nab the former “Ultimate Fighter” season 10 contestant a test against stiffer competition in his next outing. The real problem could be figuring our exactly what that means.
Mitrione is good, but by his own admission still very green. It could be difficult for UFC matchmakers to find properly competitive matchups for him. Five consecutive Octagon wins might rightly get him a shot at somebody like Cheick Kongo or Roy Nelson, but would “Meathead” be ready for that? We might soon find out.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
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