Las Vegas Sun
Friday, June 24, 2011 | 3:15 p.m.
It’s not too late for the UFC to change the title of Sunday’s Live on Versus card to UFC: Weight Drop.
Six fighters who are a part of the 11-bout event, which airs on Versus at 6 from Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center, are making their debut at a smaller weight class. The most notable is headliner Nate Marquardt, who takes on Rick Story in the main event.
A longtime contender at middleweight, Marquardt (34-10-2 MMA, 10-4 UFC) is going down to 170-pounds to possibly make a run at the welterweight belt.
“My body operates better with less weight on me,” Marquardt said. “It’s about performance. I feel like I’m going to perform better at a lighter weight.”
Marquardt’s downfall in the 185-pound division always came when he encountered strong wrestlers who could control the fight. Marquardt fell in title eliminator bouts to both Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami, two competitors who rely on their wrestling, last year.
Story (13-3 MMA, 6-1 UFC) is a former college wrestler himself, so Marquardt should find out fast how beneficial going down to welterweight is for his career.
“I think I have way better stamina,” Marquardt said. “I feel like I have the same stamina as I did when I was 20-years old. I haven’t lost any strength, my power has gone up and my speed has gone up.”
Will Marquardt’s size prevent Story from dictating the fight and out-wrestling him? That could be the central question.
Oddsmakers appear indecisive, as The Venetian/Lagasse’s Stadium sports books opened the fight as a pick’em. Both fighters are at -115 (risking $1.15 to win $1).
Pick: Marquardt by decision
Check below for full betting odds on the card, provided by The Venetian/Lagasse’s Stadium, and a pick for every fight.
Heavyweight Bout: Cheick Kongo (15-6-2 MMA, 8-4-1 UFC) vs. Pat Barry (6-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC)
Line: Kongo -200, Barry +170
Matchup: If Kongo is content to keep the fight standing, he’s in trouble. Barry has strong striking as a world-class kick boxer. But Kongo hasn’t been shy about wrestling and taking people to the ground recently, where he has an advantage.
Pick: Kongo by decision
Welterweight Bout: John Howard (14-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) vs. Matt Brown (11-10 MMA, 4-4 UFC)
Line: Howard -240, Brown +190
Matchup: Howard has lost two straight. Brown has lost three straight. Whoever fails in this one will likely be searching for a new employer. Eight of Brown’s 10 losses have come via submission, but Howard hasn’t won with the method in four years.
Pick: Howard by knockout
Heavyweight Bout: Matt Mitrione (4-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) vs. Christian Morecraft (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC)
Line: Mitrione -180, Morecraft +150
Matchup: Both enter as bright prospects. One leaves as a future contender. Mitrione has worked out at Xtreme Couture locally leading up to the fight and says his ground-game is much improved. Morecraft laughs at the suggestion.
Pick: Mitrione by knockout
Featherweight Bout: Tyson Griffin (14-5 MMA, 7-5 UFC) vs. Manvel Gamburyan (11-5 MMA, 2-3 UFC)
Line: Griffin -180, Gamburyan +150
Matchup: Griffin and Gamburyan look evenly matched. Although Gamburyan is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Griffin pointed at his striking as his most dangerous element. The two are familiar with each other as they briefly trained together a couple years ago.
Pick: Gamburyan by decision
Featherweight Bout: Joe Stevenson (31-13 MMA, 8-7 UFC) vs. Javier Vazquez (15-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Line: Stevenson -240, Vazquez +190
Matchup: Like Griffin vs. Gamburyan, this is another contest featuring former UFC lightweight against a WEC newcomer. But Vazquez wasn’t one of the elite 145-pounders to come over from the WEC merger and Stevenson is only 2-5 in his last seven.
Pick: Stevenson by decision
Lightweight Bout: Joe Lauzon (19-6 MMA, 6-3 UFC) vs. Curt Warburton (7-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC)
Line: Lauzon -330, Warburton +250
Matchup: In nine career UFC fights, Lauzon has taken six fight night bonuses. He has three Fight of the Nights and three Submission of the Nights. Warburton doesn’t back away from a scrap, either.
Pick: Lauzon by submission
Welterweight Bout: Rich Attonito (9-4 MMA, 2-1 UFC) vs. Daniel Roberts (12-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC)
Line: Attonito -115, Roberts -115
Matchup: Attonito is dropping to welterweight after a disappointing loss to Dave Branch his last time out. Roberts is also looking to make up for an underwhelming performance against Claude Patrick at UFC 129.
Pick: Roberts by submission
Featherweight Bout: Nik Lentz (21-3-2 MMA, 5-0-1 UFC) vs. Charles Oliveira (14-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC)
Line: Lentz +210, Oliveira -270
Matchup: Lentz is a wrestler who will look to take down Oliveira. That could be a dangerous strategy, however, as the 21-year old Oliveira is practically a Brazilian jiu-jitsu prodigy and will work on submissions from the ground.
Pick: Lentz by decision
Featherweight Bout: Ricardo Lamas (9-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Matt Grice (13-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC)
Line: Lamas -115, Grice -115
Matchup: Lamas and Grice are both dropping to featherweight from lightweight. Grice is getting a second try in the UFC after the promotion cut him two years ago. Lamas came over in the WEC merger.
Pick: Lamas by knockout
Lightweight Bout: Michael Johnson (8-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC) vs. Edward Faaloloto (2-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Line: Johnson -400, Faaloloto +300
Matchup: No one seems to know much about Faaloloto — including Johnson. While in town shortly after the announcement was made, “The Ultimate Fighter” 12 runner-up Johnson said he hadn’t ever heard of Faalolto or seen him fight. Faalolto had one fight in the WEC, losing to Anthony Njokuani by TKO.
Pick: Johnson by knockout