"The Hitman" meets "The Horror" in a key welterweight battle this Saturday night (November 19, 2011) as tough contenders Martin Kampmann and Rick Story expect to clash on the UFC 139 main card.
Kampmann has been a staple at the top of the division ever since dropping down to welterweight nearly three years ago but has recently hit a rough patch, losing two controversial decisions in his last two bouts. After recovering from a knee injury, he's hoping the third time is the charm against another scrappy wrestler.
Rick Story was on a roll at 170 pounds, launching his name into title contention with a surprising showing against Thiago Alves earlier this summer. After the Nate Marquardt situation, the Brave Legion fighter ended up on the receiving end of a wrestling clinic from Charlie Brenneman. He's hoping to start some new momentum against one of the division's most recognizable names.
Will Kampmann be able to execute the perfect gameplan against Story? Or will he find himself terrified by "The Horror's" wrestling? How does each talented welterweight secure a victory on Saturday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 17-5 overall, 8-4 in the UFC
Key Wins: Carlos Condit (UFC Fight Night 18), Paulo Thiago (UFC 115), Jacob Volkmann (UFC 108)
Key Losses: Jake Shields (UFC 121), Paul Daley (UFC 103), Nate Marquardt (UFC 88)
How he got here: Martin Kampmann was very successful on the European circuit and he made his UFC debut as a middleweight in 2006. He won his first four UFC fights before getting overpowered by the bigger, stronger Nate Marquardt.
This motivated his decision to drop to welterweight where he won his first two fights including a thrilling decision over debuting WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit to instantly become one of the top contenders in the division.
He was slated for a number one contenders match against Mike Swick but unfortunately had that bout derailed with an injury to the AKA fighter. Instead, he found himself facing UFC newcomer Paul Daley, who overwhelmed Kampmann on the feet, repeatedly landing heavy shots to force a standing TKO.
Kampmann got back on track with impressive consecutive wins but then was on the receiving end of two extremely close decisions against Jake Shields and then Diego Sanchez earlier this year. His return to the Octagon was delayed this summer after a knee injury but he's healthy again and ready to right some wrongs against Story.
How he gets it done: Kampmann needs to utilize his superior striking technique when the bout is in the stand-up realm. He's not the most powerful puncher, but he's been able to outbox all but one person in the welterweight division. He'll need to utilize proper footwork to keep Story from swarming him like he did to Alves as he's likely going to be at a strength disadvantage against the Oregon native.
Kampmann has a jiu-jitsu advantage as well, but his go-to move is his guillotine choke and that usually requires surrendering position to lock in. That's a risk that "The Hitman" can't afford to take because if Story can slip out of the choke, he'll be able to ride out much of the remainder of the round in top position.
They key for Kampmann is to avoid getting pressed against the fence, get his jab going and if he has to use his submissions, use them as sweeps or attempt subs that won't surrender position. If he can keep from being put on his back or pressured, he should at least be able to win a decision.
Record: 13-4 overall, 6-2 in the UFC
Key Wins: Thiago Alves (UFC 130), Johny Hendricks (Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale), Brian Foster (UFC 103)
Key Losses: Charlie Brenneman (UFC on Versus 4), John Hathaway (UFC 99)
How he got here:Story trained out of Team Quest rival, Brave Legion in his home state of Washington. He began his career fighting some of the toughest welterweights around like Nathan Coy and Jake Ellenberger. "The Horror" would lose his UFC debut to tough UK fighter John Hathaway, but then proceeded to reel off six straight fights in the shark tank that is the UFC 170-pound division.
Story's first UFC victory was a "Fight of the Year" candidate against Brian Foster at UFC 103, a fight in which he pulled off an incredibly unique arm triangle submission from within his opponent's guard. He impressively scored two consecutive wins over notable fighters Dustin Hazelett and Johny Hendricks to earn his opportunity to score a career-defining victory over Thiago Alves.
He immediately launched himself into title contention after pressuring "Pitbull" and forcing him to play defensive for two rounds to win a decision but dropped back down to Earth after a last minute opponent change at UFC on Versus 4 earlier this summer. Unprepared for Charlie Brenneman's wrestling, Story found himself put on his back early and often and he had no answer for "The Spaniard's" takedowns. He's hoping a victory over a top tier guy like Martin Kampmann will get him right back where he was.
How he gets it done: Story prides himself on being one of the best welterweights in the UFC at pressuring his opponents. He doesn't have the technical striking skill to match Kampmann, but he can overcome that with his tenacity and the amount of pressure he can exert. It's pretty hard to be technically sound when you're backed up against the fence and either fending off a takedown or defending a wild flurry of punches.
Story needs to cut off Kampmann along the fence early and then get right in his face. Kampmann has had some rough patches in recent fights where he outstruck his opponents but surrendered takedowns or succumbed to the pace of two wrestlers in Sanchez and Shields.
If Kampmann had trouble with those two working for takedowns, he could find himself incredibly frustrated early and often against "The Horror" Story. The key for Story is to never allow Kampmann to get comfortable. That's what happened in his last big victory against Paulo Thiago. He can't let "The Hitman" solidify his jab. Instead, he needs to get inside on the Dane and try to go to work with inside flurries, clinch attacks and takedown attempts.
Fight "X-Factor:" By far, the biggest X-Factor to this fight is footwork and spacing. Thiago Alves got himself in trouble against Rick Story because he routinely allowed himself to get cut off and pushed into the fence for the first two rounds. Martin Kampmann absolutely cannot let that happen. If he gets pushed into the fence, he's going to be in big trouble. He needs to utilize terrific footwork against Story to keep his back off the cage and keep himself in the pocket or further. If he lets Story get inside, it's going to cause problems. Gauging distance will be key for Kampmann and he needs to avoid the bullrush and keep "The Horror" at the end of his jab. This fight will likely hinge on who can keep the fight at the proper spacing they desire.
Bottom Line: This is an important showdown between two fringe top 10 welterweights. Both Kampmann and Story are coming off tough losses but the winner of this fight will leap right back into the elite tier of the division. There is definitely potential for some excitement as both Kampmann and Story are capable of putting on a show in the striking department, although Story will need some encouragement first by getting inside. The bout will be perfect if neither man earns a major advantage. If they do, though, it could be very one sided as Story could get picked apart on the feet and have his takedowns stuffed or Kampmann could find himself pinned against the fence and put on his back for three rounds. It honestly could go either way.
Who do you have coming out with a win at UFC 139? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!