I went 7-3 the last time I tried this picking winners thing, and I've been around enough to know that better than 50% is not bad at all. Coincidentally, that was UFN 22, also with Marquart on the Marquee. Since then Nate The Great lost another title eliminator to the current Middleweight Contender, Yushin Okami, and finds himself fighting at 170 lbs for the first time in his UFC career against the surging Rick Story, himself fresh off a win over Welterweight contender Thiago Alves.
This card originally had Anthony "Rumble" Johnson welcoming Marquart to the weight class, a fundamentally more interesting fighter then Story. Whether it's the weight behind his punches, or behind his belt, eye pokes, injuries, broken promises to bang, etc. an Anthony Johnson fight has interest behind it. With Story though we get no surprises, no intrigue, just a tough kid that comes to fight with everything he has, wrestling ugly fights, dragging guys that may have more skill into a mess that they can't see or get out of.
This card is geared really two ways: the hard-core fans will have one of their guys on the card, with cult faves like Charles Oliveira(WAR), Daniel Roberts, Joe Lauzon, Matt Mitrione and Pat Barry throwing down, and non-fans flipping through the free channels will see two Heavyweight bouts with three kickboxers between them, or Matt Brown and John Howard trading bombs, or Nate and Story doing whatever that clusterfuck is gonna produce.
That being said here are my picks for UFC Live: Marquart v. Story
*Nate Marquart v. Rick Story
I always thought that Marquart looked like a big Middleweight but all reports seems to indicate that this was not a tough cut for him, that he wasn't far off to begin with. If that is the case I think he's going to be too big for Story to drag him into the kind of fight Story needs it to be in order to win. Marquart has still landed the nicest combination I have ever seen in an MMA fight against Wilson Gouveia at UFC 95, and if he feels secure enough at this weight that he can really unload with his striking again I don't know who can beat him. As such I look for him to finish this fight via R3 TKO.
*Cheick Kongo v. Pat Barry
This is not a pick I like making, nor one I would stake much more than a beer on. Both hold wins over Cro Cop and Antoni Hardonk while in the UFC. Kongo's last five fights read like this: TKO with punches, out-wrestled by now Champion Cain Velsquez, out-struck and then tapped by Mir, then he out-wrestled Paul Buentello and got into the ugliest of wrestling matches with Travis Browne, where he gave away the decision by repeated cheating. If Barry were much better he'd be the easy pick, if he were much worse then Kongo would run away with it. And so I am stuck trying to guess at what will happen when the bell rings. Best I can figure Kongo will think the kickboxing is a wash and will then go for a takedown and ground and pound as in the Buentello fight. These guys may trade strikes, or Barry's work with Lesnar and other's may make him able to keep this standing, in which case it's a pick 'em fight. I dunno, but I'm taking Kongo in a decision.
*Matt Brown v. John Howard
There are lots of ways to fight, more particularly lots of styles of striking, but these two both fight willing to eat a shot in order to deliver one. And they'll give and take big shots all night. Both are tough as nails, neither have an ounce of quit and I don't doubt that this will be the best fight on cable Saturday night. Howard has the better technique, better leg kicks and more power, and I have to take him in this one, either R3 TKO or split decision.
*Matt Mitrione v. Christian Morecraft
For me Christian Morecraft will always be fighting with a deficit because of the awful tattoo across his belly. Yes, your name is Morecraft, and jugning by the font, the Morecrafts are a Gothic people, preferring cavernous castles and rainy mountains to anything normal or appropriate. That he was unable to put away Stefan Struve, despite landing several clean shots, does not bode well for MoreKraft(dinner in ma' belly!) and I look for Mitrione to show movement and land leg kicks through the first and put him away with punches in the second.
*Tyson Griffin v. Manvel Gamburyan - Manny will have a rude awakening for a depleted Griffin, making his Featherweight debut. I think he will find that the Strikeforce Lightweight division would have been more welcoming.
*Joe Stevenson v. Javier Vasquez - In Joe Stevenson I see a fighter whose strong BJJ overwhelms lesser grapplers but cannot put away elite grapplers like Vasquez. See above for advice re: Strikeforce Lightweight division.
*Joe Lauzon v. Curt Warburton - Besides being a friend of a friend, Lauzon can look like a beast and I think Warburton will be unable keep up.
*Daniel Roberts v. Rich Attonito - Cesar Gracie Jui Jitsu mo'fuckers. Or something like that. Roberts will be too dominant wrestling and with submissions.
*Charlie Brenneman v. TJ Grant - I have to take the Canadian over the Pros vs. Joes vet.
*Nick Lentz v. Charles Oliveira - The first MMAUFC 118 in Boston where Nick Lentz had the worst victory I have ever seen. At least they had the decency to call Shamrock v. Severn a draw. If he cannot score the takedown he has no recourse, and if he can score the takedown he still has no recourse. And Charles Oliveira is a joy to watch, aggressive and technical off his back and fun to watch on his feet.
*Ricardo Lamas v. Matt Grice
*Michael Johnson v. Edward Faalolto