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UFC on Versus 4: Preliminary Card Preview and Predictions

Tyson GriffinWe’re lucky the “UFC on Versus 4: Marquardt vs. Story” prelims are being streamed on Facebook as there’s a lot we can look forward to – Tyson Griffin and Joe Stevenson drop to featherweight, welterweight prospects Daniel Roberts and Rich Attonito collide, Nik Lentz looks to keep his undefeated streak alive, and Michael Johnson makes his first post-Ultimate Fighter appearance.

Featherweight Bout:  Tyson Griffin (14-5) vs. Manny Gamburyan (11-5)

Breakdown: The talented and always exciting Tyson Griffin makes his featherweight debut after three straight losses in the lightweight division.  A five time “Fight of the Night” winner, Griffin had a successful run as a lightweight, tallying wins over Gleison Tibau, Clay Guida, and Hermes Franca.  Griffin comes from a wrestling background, but has developed into a very technical striker.  Griffin’s aggressive approach and superb conditioning provide a stiff challenge for all his opponents.  The slumping Griffin hopes to be reenergized by dropping to featherweight.  Manny “The Anvil” Gamburyan steps back into the cage after an unsuccessful attempt to pry the featherweight title from Jose Aldo.  A surprise finalist in the fifth season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the under-sized Gamburyan was never able to gain his footing as a lightweight, as a losing record in the UFC led to a change in weight classes.  The judo expert took the WEC featherweight division by storm, winning his first three fights in the organization, including a shocking KO of former champion Mike Brown.  Gamburyan is brutally strong and uses his judo skills to control fights on the mat.  Though not a technical boxer, Gamburyan has proven that he has legitimate knockout power in his hands.

The outcome: Griffin will use his wrestling to keep the fight standing and pick apart Gamburyan on his feet.  Add Tyson Griffin to Kenny Florian and Chad Mendes as future challengers for Aldo.  Tyson Griffin will defeat Manny Gamburyan by unanimous decision.

Featherweight Bout:  Joe Stevenson (31-13) vs. Javier Vazquez (15-5)

Breakdown: Much like Tyson Griffin, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson is dropping to featherweight after losing three straight fights at lightweight.  Stevenson, who underachieved in those three losses, is looking to return to the form that saw him dominate fighters like Nate Diaz, Melvin Guillard, and Spencer Fisher.  Stevenson is an excellent grappler with great takedowns and a crushing guillotine choke.  We will see on Sunday night if Stevenson has regained his confidence inside the Octagon.  Javier “Showtime” Vazquez is a second degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who has submitted Mackens Semerzier and Jens Pulver in the WEC.  Vazquez, who has a nasty guard game, has had trouble with wrestlers like Chad Mendes and L.C. Davis in the past.

The outcome: Stevenson is the better takedown artist, but will have to be careful inside Vazquez’s tricky and active guard.  Stevenson will use his size and strength advantage to ground and pound Vazquez.  Joe “Daddy” Stevenson will defeat Javier Vazquez by unanimous decision.

Lightweight Bout:  Joe Lauzon (19-6) vs. Curt Warburton (7-2)

Breakdown: Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon is perhaps the most dangerous fighter in the UFC in the first three minutes of a fight.  His shocking knockout of Jens Pulver at UFC 63, as well as his grown man beat down of Gabe Ruediger at UFC 118 prove my point, as Lauzon shot out of the gate like a bat out of hell with its head on fire.  That enough analogies for you?  The key to beating Lauzon is to weather the storm, which Kenny Florian, George Sotiropolous, and Sam Stout were able to do.  Lauzon has an aggressive style which goes hand in hand with his power punches and takedowns.   The veteran Lauzon will look to take the next step up from prospect to contender with a win on Sunday night.  British fighter Curt Warburton will look for the biggest win of his career on Sunday night.  Warburton, 1-1 in the UFC with a win over Maciej Jewtuszko and a loss to Spencer Fisher, is a member of Michael Bisping’s Wolfslair Academy.  Warburton works solid knees and kicks to set up his strong takedowns.  Warburton, who holds a win over Ross Pearson, is one of the top lightweights in the U.K.

The outcome: I’m not sold on Warburton’s skills and level of competition.  Lauzon is more experienced and explosive and will get off to a fast start like he always does.  Joe “J-Lau” Lauzon will defeat Curt Warburton by rear naked choke submission in round one.

Welterweight Bout:  Rich Attonito (9-4) vs. Daniel Roberts (12-2)

Breakdown: Rich “The Raging Bull” Attonito was set to make his welterweight debut against Matt Brown, but an injury to Martin Kampmann forced the UFC to promote Brown to the main card as his replacement.  Attonito’s new opponent, Daniel “Ninja” Roberts may be an even tougher test.  American Top Team product Attonito looked impressive in wins over Rafael Natal and Jamie Yager.  The former college wrestler has developed excellent boxing skills and has shown improvement in all of his fights.  Attonito has a number of excellent training partners at American Top Team that can mimic Roberts’ skills.  “Ninja” also has excellent training partners as he is part of the Skrap Pack team with Jake Shields, Gilbert Melendez, and the Diaz brothers.  Roberts is a great athlete with solid wrestling and excellent submissions.  His submission skills were on display in his impressive finishes of both Mike Guymon and Greg Soto.

The outcome: Both fighters are coming off of losses.  Attonito dropped a decision to Dave Branch, while Roberts fell to Claude Patrick.  I think Roberts will employ the same gameplan as Branch and will utilize his grappling to smother Attonito and dominate him on the ground.  Daniel “Ninja” Roberts will defeat Rich Attonito by unanimous decision.

Lightweight Bout:  Nik Lentz (21-3-2) vs. Charles Oliveira (14-1)

Breakdown: Nik “The Carny” Lentz is undefeated in UFC action, compiling a 5-0-1 record.  Chances are you had no idea that was his record, due to the fact that most of his fights have not been shown on TV.  Also, most of his fights are dreadfully boring, so that probably doesn’t help either.  Lentz wrestled collegiately at powerhouse Minnesota and uses that wrestling to take down and smother his opponents.  He showed great heart in his last fight against Waylon Lowe, as he dropped the first two rounds, but came back to choke Lowe out with a guillotine.  Lentz is not a great athlete but his superior positioning has made life miserable for his opponents and anyone that watches his fights.  Twenty-one year old Brazilian prospect Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira returns to the Octagon after suffering the first loss of his career to Jim Miller at UFC 124.  The ease with which Miller submitted Oliveira with a kneebar surprised many mixed martial arts fans.  In his wins over Darren Elkins and Efrain Escudero, Oliveira displayed elite athleticism and slick submissions.  The fast and explosive Oliveira pushes the pace standing as well, offering up flying knees and kicks.  It will be interesting to see how Oliveira responds mentally to the first setback of his career.

The outcome: Oliveira will have a long and successful career with many wins to come.  Sunday night will belong to Nik Lentz however.  Lentz is a grinder who will impose his will on fights and nullify his opponent’s strengths.  Oliveira’s aggression will be neutralized and this fight will cure your insomnia.  Nik “The Carny” Lentz will defeat Charles Oliveira by unanimous decision.

Featherweight Bout: Ricardo Lamas (9-2) vs. Matt Grice (13-3)

Breakdown: Ricardo Lamas makes his featherweight debut after a 4-2 stint as a lightweight in the WEC.  Lamas’ well-rounded game revolves around takedowns and aggressive striking.  His ground and pound attack was very impressive in his win over Bart Palaszewski, but the highlight of his career was his flying knee knockout of Bendy Casimir.  The Casimir knockout showed that Lamas has power in his strikes and is unafraid to take risks.  Matt “The Real One” Grice will also be making his featherweight debut.  Grice reeled off four straight wins after being released from the UFC (after his loss to Shannon Gugerty at UFC 100).  An aggressive wrestler, Grice has shown serious improvements in his hands since his UFC release.  Grice is a relentless fighter that puts constant pressure on his opponent.  That pressure has been a problem for Grice as he is susceptible to guillotine chokes, as they ended two of his three UFC losses.

The outcome: These fighters essentially have very similar skill sets.  Both are strong wrestlers with the ability to finish the fight standing.  While Lamas is more elusive, I like Grice’s hands and wrestling more.  Matt “The Real One” Grice will win by TKO in round two.

Lightweight Bout:  Michael Johnson (8-5) vs. Edward Faaloloto (2-1)

Breakdown: Michael “The Menace” Johnson returns to the UFC after falling to Jonathan Brookins in the finals of TUF 12’s lightweight tournament.  Johnson had an impressive run through the tournament as he defeated the likes of Pablo Garza, Alex Caceres, and Nam Phan.  “The Menace” is an excellent athlete who uses wrestling to control his opponents.  Though not a technical striker, Johnson throws with serious power.  Johnson showed toughness and heart in his fights with Caceres, Phan, and Brookins.  The impressive lightweight prospect will need to improve his submission defense in order to take the next step in his career.  Edward Faaloloto has way too many vowels in his name.  For here on let’s just refer to him as Falo.  Falo, who survived both a shooting and stabbing as a young man, was able to escape a bad environment by joining the Navy.  Falo lost his WEC debut to Anthony Njokuani, but holds a submission win by kimura.

The outcome: Falo is a mystery man.  Footage of Falo is scarce, but judging by what he’s overcome, it will take a lot to put him away in the cage.  Unfortunately I believe he will be overwhelmed by Johnson’s experience and athleticism.  Michael “The Menace” Johnson will defeat Edward Faaloloto by TKO in round two.

Stop back tomorrow for a preview of the UFC on Versus 4 main card, headlined by Nate Marquardt’s welterweight debut against Rick Story, and stay tuned to for complete coverage of UFC on Versus 4.

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