In a grand illustration of the UFC's dominance over the sport, ‘UFC on Versus 4' -- a card mired with injury replacements from its inception up to the eve of the event -- somehow evolved into one of the most exciting MMA displays of the last few months. Overall, the organization's return to Pittsburgh attracted an audience of 7,792 fans, and pulled in a live gate of $562,000.
Despite all of the turmoil, the event will be declared a success, due in large part to one of the greatest comebacks of the MMA year. In the makeshift main event, Cheick Kongo battled back from certain defeat, landing a picture-perfect right hook-right uppercut combination to the jaw of Pat Barry, even as the Frenchman was clearly out on his feet.
Immediately prior, Barry had leveled Kongo with a crackling right hand, before swarming the heavyweight and teeing off with a blistering series of shots to finish him off. Referee Dan Miragliotta appeared close to stopping the fight multiple times during the exchange, but Kongo, while incredibly wobbly, continued to move in an attempt to stay in the contest. Eventually the heavyweight veteran managed to briefly work his way back to the feet, but was crushingly sent back to the canvas by a pinpoint Barry right hook.
And still, somehow, the Frenchman remained conscious as he dizzily scrambled to his feet. Backing away, appearing noticeably dazed and confused, Kongo stunningly had the wherewithal to unleash the devastating combo off his back foot that instantly floored a charging Barry. ‘HD' was out before he hit the ground.
The hail-mary KO ignited the crowd, and explosively topped off an already exciting event. "It was perfect," a grinning Kongo said afterwards. The finish earned the Frenchman ‘Knockout of the Night' honors.
Surprises filled the remainder of the night's main card, as last-minute fill-in Charlie Brenneman pulled off an astonishing upset, defeating Rick Story via unanimous decision in their welterweight bout. The unheralded Brenneman exasperated the top-ranked Story with a ruthless pace, landing takedowns in each round. Despite fighting off continual submission attempts, ‘The Spaniard' nullified Story's attack enough to come away with the biggest victory of his career.
In retrospect, the bout had all the red flags of the classic ‘trap fight'. Story, less than a month removed from the biggest victory of his career against Thiago Alves at UFC 130, immediately signed on to headline 'UFC on Versus 4' against a revitalized Nate Marquardt, after his intended opponent, Anthony Johnson, dropped out due to injury. With little more than a few weeks preparation, Story was banking on the fact that two high-profile wins in such a short amount of time would virtually guarantee consideration for title contention.
However, no one could have planned for the stunning news that Marquardt would be cut from the organization the day before the event. But, as they say, all things happen for a reason.
Originally, Brenneman was scheduled to fight T.J. Grant on the night's undercard. That fight became void when Grant fell ill earlier in the week, leaving ‘The Spaniard' without an opponent. What looked to be a dire situation for the disappointed welterweight, quickly became the biggest break of his career. With little other options, Dana White and the UFC picked up the cast-aside Brenneman to fill Marquardt's spot, and the rest is history.
Also on the main card, TUF-7 veteran Matt Brown upset John Howard via unanimous decision. Throughout the bout Brown stifled the favorite with a crisp attack and stout takedown defense. The win broke the welterweight's three-fight losing streak.
Matt Mitrione maintained his undefeated 5-0 record, destroying Christian Morecraft in the second round of their heavyweight brawl. The TUF-10 alum outclassed Morecraft on the feet, blasting him with a series of unanswered combinations and leg kicks, before leveling him with a beautiful right hook, straight left, straight right combo that ended the fight. Mitrione, a former NFL player, continues to impress and progress every time he sets foot in the Octagon. With the win, he all but guaranteed a step up in opposition for his next fight.
On the undercard, Tyson Griffin overcame a slow start to win a back-and-forth affair against featherweight contender Manny Gamburyan via unanimous decision. Griffin scored effectively, peppering the Armenian with a variety of low kicks and close exchanges. The win breaks a three-fight losing streak, and is the Xtreme Couture standout's first at 145-pounds since 2005.
Joe Stevenson's first UFC featherweight foray was not as successful, as the TUF-1 veteran lost to newcomer Javier Vazquez via unanimous decision. A thirteen-year fight veteran, Vasquez made the most of his big break, outpointing ‘Daddy' in all facets of the bout. The loss marks the fourth in a row for Stevenson -- a former lightweight title challenger -- and may mark the end of his UFC career.
It didn't take long Joe Lauzon to get back to his winning ways. The TUF-5 contestant rebounded from his UFC 123 loss to George Sotiropoulos with a relentless first round blitz of Curt Warburton. His vicious kimura halted the fight just 1:58 into the first-round. The impressive finish garnered the lightweight ‘Submission of the Night' honors.
Lastly, the event's token controversial decision came during Charles Oliveira's second round submission victory over Nik Lentz. The two combatants were engaged in an exciting back-and-forth brawl until a wayward Oliveira knee smashed into his downed opponent. Referee Chip Snider failed to see the illegal blow, however, and the resulting opportunity led to the opening the Brazilian needed to secure the victory. It is likely the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission will review the foul. Nonetheless, the UFC made sure Lentz did not leave empty-handed, as the pair of fighters both took home ‘Fight of the Night' honors.
UFC Live 4 Results:
Cheick Kongo def. Pat Barry via KO (Punch) at 2:39 of Round 1
Charlie Brenneman def. Rick Story via Decision (Unanimous)
Matt Brown def. John Howard via Decision (Unanimous)
Matt Mitrione def. Christian Morecraft via KO (Punches) at 4:28 of Round 2
Tyson Griffin def. Manny Gamburyan via Decision (Unanimous)
Javier Vazquez def. Joe Stevenson via Decision (Unanimous)
Joe Lauzon def. Curt Warburton via Submission (Kimura) at 1:58 of Round 1
Rich Attonito def. Daniel Roberts via Decision (Unanimous)
Charles Oliveira def. Nik Lentz via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) at 1:48 of Round 2
Ricardo Lamas def. Matt Grice via TKO (Head Kick and Punches) at 4:41 of Round 1
Michael Johnson def. Edward Faaloloto via TKO (Punches) at 4:42 of Round 1
Knockout of the Night: Cheick Kongo ($50,000)
Submission of the Night: Joe Lauzon ($50,000)
Fight of the Night: Charles Oliveira vs. Nik Lentz ($50,000 each)