Breaking down Sunday’s action from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh
The eleven-fight lineup for the UFC’s fourth event on the Versus network is a glass half-full, glass half-empty offering.
Some people – the glass half-full set – will see an event built using just four divisions that showcases the depth of talent within the organization. While the majority of the bouts don’t have title implications, it’s fights like these that separate the wheat from the chaff, and give the fans a chance to identify with some new names they might not otherwise get to see compete.
Standing across the room from those people are the glass half-empty contingent. They look at this event and see the UFC stretching themselves too thin, offering an event without many meaningful fights. They see the depth in the three divisions with three or more fights on this card as dead weight, disinterested in what happens at the lower end of the lightweight totem pole.
Personally, I stand somewhere in the middle, happy I’ve got a glass holding something that will quench my thirst. I would certainly love to see a tightly packed ten-fight card with a majority of meaningful bouts, but I also see the value in an event of this nature. Pecking orders need to be established, futures need to be decided, and I’d rather see that done on a show like this than anywhere else.
I say save the serious match-ups for the “numbered events,” including the undercard. Build to a pay-per-view crescendo with a collection of fights that impact the rankings, and figure out who gets there with fight cards like these.
Here’s a look at the full fight card for UFC Live: Marquardt vs. Story.
Michael Johnson (8-5) vs. Edward Faaloloto (2-1)
This fight is all about Johnson, the runner-up from Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter. No disrespect to Faaloloto, but very few people are tuning into this fight to see what happens with the 2-1 fighter coming off a TKO loss to Anthony Njokuani.
There is a lot at stake for Johnson in this fight. While he showed promise throughout his time on TUF, his gas tank was a constant question mark. An athletic wrestler, Johnson always looked good early before fading as the fight wore on, and he can’t afford a performance like that here.
The lightweight division is too deep and too talented for Johnson to have a sub-par showing.
He needs to prove that the six months he’s put in with Greg Jackson and his team in Albuquerque has paid dividends. A decision victory won’t be enough to keep him from spending another stretch on the sidelines or asking permission to fight outside of the Octagon.
Ricardo Lamas (9-2) vs. Matt Grice (13-3)
Grice has worked his way into another trip to the Octagon after being released following UFC 100. He’s put together a four-fight winning streak since then, including a trio of first round stoppages. In his last fight, he earned a unanimous decision victory over veteran David “Hello Japan!” Gardner, and now returns to the UFC for his featherweight debut.
Like Grice, Lamas will also be making his first trip to 145 pounds in this one. It will also be his first fight in the UFC, and potentially his last as well.
“The Bully” went 4-2 in the WEC, including wins over Bart Palaszewski and Dave Jansen, but found his way to the highlight reels in each of his two losses. Making the move down a division is the right choice, considering the lightweight division is loaded and there are still openings to be filled at featherweight. That being said, it’s going to take more than a ten-pound cut for Lamas to keep his job coming out of this one.
Both guys come from a wrestling base, with Grice having the better submission game and Lamas the edge in the stand-up. The winner will buy themselves another opportunity, while the loser will mostly be asked to keep sharpening their skills on the regional circuit.
Hopefully that prompts the pair to push the pace and put on a good show.
Nik Lentz (23-3-2) vs. Charles Oliveira (14-1)
You know, you’ve got to appreciate the quiet moxie of a guy like Lentz.
Think about it: he’s unbeaten in his last 14 bouts, owns a 5-0-1 record in the UFC and keeps getting stuck on the preliminary portion of events in tough fights, but you never hear him say a thing. He just walks into the Octagon and walks away with another victory.
His style can be painful to watch and his split decision win over Tyson Griffin was suspect at best, but Lentz showed improved hands last time out and finished a fight for the first time in the UFC. Yet once again he’s standing opposite a solid threat, probably looking at a pink slip if he comes out on the wrong side of things.
After bursting onto the scene with a pair of impressive performance, Oliveira was thrown into the deep end of the lightweight division against Jim Miller at UFC 124. While it’s unfair to say he drowned – Miller is the #1 contender, after all – Oliveira was overmatched, and gets a much needed step back in this one.
Lentz is a suffocating wrestler who has earned his wins (and a great deal of distain) by pinning opponents to the cage and completely shutting down their weapons. Oliveira has an impressive skill set, but he’ll need to make use of his length and keep this fight in space if he hopes to show it.
Losing to Miller slowed his momentum, but doesn’t take Oliveira out of the future plans for the division entirely. Like I said, how much flack can you give a kid for getting beaten by the #1 contender? But losing to Lentz would bring his prospects to a screeching halt, and drop Oliveira into the great collection of middle tier talent in the lightweight division.
Should he win, Lentz will probably get another preliminary card fight against a tough opponent; that’s just the way it goes for the UFC’s lightweight Rodney Dangerfield.