I'll say it once again: you gotta love the UFC and the way they give fans free fights. This Sunday, UFC on Versus 4 goes down and features a solid card of fighters going at it with heavy implications all around.
The importance of fights for guys like Tyson Griffin, who is making his featherweight debut vs. Manny Gamburyan cannot be understated. How about strikers Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry—will they deliver a slobber knocker of a knockout that the fans so expected out of Junior Dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin?
There are some intriguing fights on this card in every division, and I look forward to seeing the strategic, game-within-the-game moments of all of these match-ups. What detail will lead to one fighter's victory vs. one fighter's fall? Let's take a look and zoom in on five things to look for in the fights this weekend.
5. Will the real Joe Lauzon re-emerge and dominate a lesser opponent?
Look closely on Sunday night to see if we will get a tentative, cautious fighter in Joe Lauzon, or if we get the pressing, blitzing, dominant Joe that we have been blessed to witness at times in his career. It has been an up and down couple of years for Lauzon, and he needs to get back on track with a win worthy of some noise for J-Lau.
In my opinion, Curt Warburton is outmatched in this fight both in skill and experience, but Joe has got to fight desperate, and show a renewed pension for unleashing hell when he gets in that cage.
4. Does Size Matter For Tyson Griffin?
Tyson Griffin shot on to the mixed martial arts scene as a lightweight with incredible cardio and dexterity, blasting through his first few fights early in his UFC career. Then he started to come up against some of the big boys of the division and it soon became apparent that he was going to forever struggle to hold off the elite guys at the 155 pound range.
Sunday night he moves down to 145 pounds, and he gets a rude welcome with top contender Manny Gamburyan. Watch closely in this fight to see if Griffin can impose his will on Manny, who is one of the strongest men in the division. I look for this fight to be in close quarters and hopefully Griffin can re-emerge a contender after the fight.
3. Who has the better striking, Mitrione or Morecraft?
I look for this fight to settle two scores where these two fighters are concerned on Sunday. The first score to settle is for these two to start this fight in stand-and-bang mode and see who has the better, more technical and powerful striking. Both of these guys like to cut it up and be funny characters at times and they have both gained a following doing so.
Settling the striking score will certainly settle the second score for me, as I want to see which one of these two boisterous heavyweights is ready for a large step up the next time they step in the cage.
2. Is It Near The End For Cheick Kongo?
I used to get frustrated with Cheick Kongo's repeated failure to develop a ground game, it seemed such a waste for such a talented, sculpted fighter to get beaten so easily in one aspect of the game. Recently, I have been more frustrated with a certain lack of fire and heart in Kongo's game. Although his losses have come to legitimate guys in the division, I am always left wanting more from him when the key moment of the fight arrives.
Pat Barry will stand in your face, fire shots and test your will to be there. If Kongo can stand and trade and not flinch an inch against Barry, it will go a long way in telling us all if we should consider Kongo a relevant enough fighter to continue to get interesting fights. He may try to shoot and submit, which is fine and may be smart, but if he retreats and starts to dance, will will know right away, he is fighter looking to survive instead of thrive and I wish him well in the future.
1. Will Nate Marquardt be technical and powerful enough to stop Rick Story?
As he was getting ready for Thiago Alves a month ago, I heard Rick Story say that he was going to come in come hard and come often, and that he did, to my surprise, against Alves, stealing the win in the process. Thiago Alves' bread and butter was powerful Muay Thai striking, and Story bulldozed straight in through it with good set ups and brute timing.
Marquardt is coming down from 185 pounds and is banking on the fact that his size and power shots will be enough to deter and ultimately stop the train that has become Rick Story. I personally feel like Nate is a bit more technically sound in his approach than Thiago, so he will land punches. Will his punches be powerful enough at 170 pounds to get the job done and stop Story in his tracks? I am saying yes, and Nate will score a decisive win that sees a bloody Story at the end
Dwight Wakabayashi is a Feature Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA.