Fans of mixed martial arts are in the midst of a rare treat this weekend with three shows in as many days.
Strikeforce is set to air a Challengers card Friday night. Bellator Fighting Championships kicks off its summer series, which features a featherweight tournament, Saturday night. And on Sunday night, the Ultimate Fighting Championship presents UFC Live on Versus, which features a fight between two of the promotion's top welterweight contenders.
Rick Story, who has won six consecutive fights since losing his UFC debut two years ago, will face Nate Marquardt in the UFC main event, which will be held in Pittsburgh and airs at 9 p.m. EST. Marquardt, a former top middleweight contender, is making his debut at the lower weight.
Marquardt, a three-time King of Pancrasse middleweight champion, lost his only title fight in the UFC when he was defeated by Anderson Silva in 2007. Marquardt spent the past four years in pursuit of rematch with Silva, but fell short in two title eliminators in 2010 with unanimous decision losses to Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami.
"For me, it was about how I felt," Marquardt said of the drop in weight. "For my last fight, I was very light. I felt the best I've felt in years, probably since before I was fighting in the UFC. I think it's just more of a natural weight for me. My body operates better with less weight on it. For me, it's just about performance. I feel I'm going to perform better at a lighter weight, regardless of whether I'm fighting at 185 or 170."
With a win over Story, Marquardt (31-10-2) believes his pedigree could earn him a shot at the winner of October's showdown between UFC champion Georges St-Pierre and former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz.
"I guess it would put me at the top," said Marquardt, a 32-year-old from Lander, Wyoming. "He just beat (Thiago) Alves, who was a former world title contender. I'm just excited for the opportunity."
Story, 13-3, feels the same way.
"I think it will put me up there," said Story, a 26-year-old native of Tacoma, Wash. "It will definitely open people's eyes and maybe put me in line for a shot."
The main card also includes heavyweights Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry and Matt Mitrione vs. Christian Morecraft and welterweights Matt Brown vs. John Howard.
The preliminaries, which will air on facebook.com/ufc include: welterweights Daniel Roberts vs. Rich Attonito and Charlie Brenneman vs. T.J. Grant; lightweights Joe Lauzon vs. Curt Warburton, Michael Johnson vs. Edward Faaloloto and Nik Lentz vs. Charles Oliveira; and featherweights Tyson Griffin vs. Manvel Gamburyan, Joe Stevenson vs. Javier Vazquez and Ricardo Lamas vs. Matt Grice.
-- Bellator debuts its summer series on Saturday night in Hollywood, Fla. near Miami. The three-event series, which culminates in August, features an eight-man featherweight tournament and airs live on MTV2 at 9 p.m. EST.
The quarterfinals are: Pat Curran vs. Luis Palomino; Marlon Sandro vs. Genair da Silva; Nazareno Malegarie vs. Jacob DeVree; and Ronnie Mann vs. Adam Schindler.
Curran, who won Bellator's Season Two lightweight tournament, enters as the favorite to win the tournament and advance to a title shot against Bellator champion Joe Warren.
The preliminaries include: heavyweights Tony Johnson Jr. vs. Derrick Lewis; middleweights Moyses Gabin vs. David Baggett and Dan Cramer vs. Josh Samman; featherweights Alexandre Bezerra vs. Matt McCook; and women's 125-pounders Jessica Aguilar vs. Carla Esparza.
-- Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem defeated Fabricio Werdum and Josh Barnett defeated Brett Rogers in the quarterfinals of the Strikeforce heavyweight world grand prix last weekend.