It isn't often one gets to experience free high profile mixed martial arts action, so how rare is it then when you get it three nights in a row? Such was this case this past weekend where we were treated to a Strikeforce Challenger series card on Friday, Bellator's summer series opener on Saturday and finally a UFC on Versus card Sunday night. In a strange twist of fate, what could have been a disaster for the UFC turned out the better for it?
Literally 24 hours before the UFC's fourth live free card on the Versus network, the main event originally scheduled between former middleweight (185 lbs.) contender Nate Marquardt and current welterweight (170 lbs.) contender Rick 'The Horror' Story fizzled right before their eyes. In what the UFC has stated was a failed physical, Marquardt was unauthorized to fight. No specific reason was given, but it is speculated performance enhancing drugs were the reason because UFC President Dana White wasted no time in announcing the release of Marquardt from the UFC.
With the original main event now gone, the co-main feature between heavyweight strikers Cheick Kongo (16-6-2, 10 KO's 3 subs) and Pat 'HD' Barry (6-3, 5 KO's) was now relegated to be the highlight of the show; and was it ever? In just two and a half minutes of action, Kongo (pictured above) and Barry delivered a highlight reel of punches and knockdowns, which culminated in one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history. Both fighters known primarily as kickboxers did not disappoint as they promised a good fight and they delivered.
Starting out cautiously as expected, both fighters measured each other with some vicious Muay Thai round kicks to their legs. Then out of nowhere in an exchange, Barry, who gave up five inches in height and nearly eight inches in reach, dropped Kongo with an overhand right to the ear. The chiseled heavyweight from Paris, France dropped like a sack of potatoes and from that point on, all hell broke loose.
In serious trouble and almost out, Kongo tried desperately to clinch the oncoming Barry and get to his feet; somehow he did. However, in a frantic exchange Barry dropped him again and this time Kongo looked all but out. It almost looked as though referee Dan Mirgliotta was stepping in to stop it, which no one would have disputed, but he didn't. Good thing he didn't because somehow Kongo got up again and found his wits enough to catch Barry with a right cross to the head that slowed him down. Then he immediately followed that with a thunderous right uppercut to the jaw that stopped Barry in his tracks as he was out before he hit the floor.
Kongo followed him to the ground, but no need as Mirgliotta saw Barry was as stiff as a board and jumped in to save him from any further damage. Not since former UFC middleweight Scott Smith delivered a knockout punch to Pete Sell, after being keeled over by a body shot, have we seen such a dramatic comeback. This one though happened during a main event between heavyweights on free television. It can't get much better than that for the UFC and its fans.
In the co-main event, the aforementioned Rick 'The Horror' Story (13-4, 3 KO's 3 subs) actually found himself the subject of one. After losing his original opponent and main event status, he was relegated to the co-main slot against last minute replacement Charlie 'The Spaniard' Brenneman (14-2, 5 KO's 2 subs). Story, with nothing to gain and everything to lose, considering he was riding a six-fight win streak and was being talked about as a title challenger, did just that.
Brenneman, who hails from Hollidaysburg, PA, had the hometown crowd from Pittsburgh in his corner and it fueled him as he went at Story and defeated the wrestler at his own game. Repeatedly, taking down Story during the first two rounds, 'The Spaniard' used a ground and pound attack to take a commanding lead. However, he would need that lead and some slick submission defense as well as he found himself in some danger in the third.
He continued to attack Story with takedowns, only this time Story was more aggressive in his jiu-jitsu game as he had Brenneman in some precarious situations throughout the entire round. To his credit, the hometown kid would not relent and found a way to hang on for a surprising and upsetting unanimous decision. For Brenneman, its instant contender status while for Story, its back to the prologue or the beginning of the book.