In a sudden change of events, former UFC middleweight contender Nate Marquardt was scratched from the main event at UFC on Versus 4 yesterday, hours before he was to weigh-in for the first time at welterweight. The speculation ran rampant after UFC President Dana White cut Marquardt from the roster, leading many fans to believe Marquardt may have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The reason is still a mystery, although rumors regarding him concealing an injury or being severely overweight were brought up by fans and media alike.
To fill in for Marquardt, the UFC has brought in Pennsylvania-born wrestler Charlie Brenneman, who was originally lined up to fight T.J. Grant on this card. Unfortunately, Grant pulled out of the fight due to illness, allowing Brenneman to step up to the plate against Rick Story on Sunday night.
The UFC isn't doing Brenneman any favors by putting him up against one of the tougher fighters in the division on only a few hours notice. Story surprised many fans at UFC 130 in May by grinding out Brazilian striker Thiago Alves over three rounds to win via unanimous decision. He had previously ran through a number of solid prospects, notably Brian Foster, Dustin Hazelett, and Johny Hendricks.
Story's blue-collar style of fighting and relentless effort make him a true threat to the upper reaches of the division. He has the stamina to go the distance, the takedown defense and wrestling to smother his opponents, and an improving striking game that is getting better and better each time he steps inside the Octagon.
Brenneman is far more one-dimensional, although both men do possess a similar grinding, blue chip style of fighting. But that may be the very reason why this could be a competitive fight. Brenneman likely didn't change anything in his thinking when it comes to strategy. Story or Grant, Brenneman was going to take his opponent down and grind him out. Story's gameplan may have shifted dramatically as Marquardt has responded badly to pressure in the past whereas Brenneman is an opponent he can open up against on the feet if he can avoid the takedowns.
I would give the edge to Story in this fight, but I think this is an interesting fight, especially considering the short notice nature of the match-up. Most fans are throwing Brenneman under the bus as he's an unknown. I think he has a real shot at an upset here however. In the end, I think Story will find a way to batter Brenneman in the feet, avoid takedowns, and potentially get his own takedowns as the fight progresses. He takes this one via decision.