An unlikely ending to Story's run


PITTSBURGH -- Staying active was a major part of the plan Rick Story had pieced together in his effort to land a welterweight title shot. But Story didn't simply want to fight regularly; his plan included facing top-caliber opposition. And what better way to prove his title worthiness than with a victory over Nate Marquardt?

It's the reason Story jumped at the chance to fight Sunday night at Consol Engery Center, less than a month after disposing of former contender Thiago Alves.

Story was committed. He trained hard and he felt terrific; he was ready to show the mixed martial arts world that this was his time. His goal: defeat Marquardt in the UFC on Versus 4 main event and campaign hard for 170-pound titleholder Georges St. Pierre.

Then the unexpected happened. Marquardt failed his prefight medical examination on Saturday.

Not only would Marquardt be dropped from the card, shortly thereafter he'd receive his UFC walking papers. It was a terrible day for Marquardt. But he wasn't the only person feeling the sting; Story's immediate plans suffered a huge setback.

With Marquardt out of the picture, in stepped Charlie Brenneman. Brenneman's a solid fighter, who's only lost twice in a 15-bout career, but he lacked the high profile of a Marquardt. A victory over Brenneman would extend Story's win streak to seven, but it wouldn't likely land him a title shot anytime soon.

Not facing Marquardt was disappointing, but Story could not afford to have an emotional letdown. In an odd sense, the stakes for Story were higher with Brenneman in the opposite corner than they would have been against Marquardt. Under the circumstances, a loss to Marquardt on short notice would not have done much damage to Story's title run. A loss to Brenneman would be a major setback.

It didn't take long for Story to discover that Brenneman was no ordinary replacement. He matched Story's determination and his skill level. Brenneman had little difficulty getting Story to the ground, where he regularly controlled the action.

After two rounds were in the books, Story's plan of landing a title shot were dashed by a guy who just a day ago wasn't considered worthy of a spot on the main card.

While Brenneman's overall credentials were less impressive than those offered by Marquardt, he did present a skill that Story usual dominates -- wrestling.

"I knew that from Day 1," Brenneman said after improving to 35-10-2. "We came out here like [Josh] Koscheck and [Dan] Henderson and when I put it together, I'm the best inside the Octagon.

"My wrestling is what got me here."

For Story, who falls to 13-4-0 after compiling a six-fight win streak, it is back to the drawing board. Disappointment was etched all over his face after the loss, but Story isn't holding his head down.

The loss should serve as a learning experience and could prove beneficial in the future, and eventually lead him to that coveted title shot.

"I was preparing for a standup kick boxer, not a wrestler," Story told ESPN.com. "I didn't train much wrestling for this fight. But I have to go back and become better in my wrestling. I have to become a more complete fighter."

Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.