It always seems that the televised cards of free UFC broadcast events can be hit and miss.  Some inspire anticipation, while others don’t quite draw interest beforehand, even if they ultimately deliver with action in the cage.

“UFC Live 4″ has no problems sparking interest.  With a main event featuring a former perennial middleweight contender in his welterweight debut against a quick-rising welterweight contender, a co-headliner pitting two kickboxing heavyweights against one another, and a heavyweight war between two of the division’s rising prospects, this card is sure to intrigue MMA fans.

It’s hard to remember a time when Nate Marquardt’s name wasn’t near the top of the 185-pound contender, but with a 2-2 run over his last four outings, the staple of the middleweight division is now headed to the welterweight division.  It’s a huge move that puts an instant contender into the 170-pound title mix, but he’ll have to face a 170-pounder in Rick Story who has quickly risen through the ranks while calling the welterweight class home.  Can Marquardt make a big splash in his 170-pound debut, or will he join Thiago Alves, Johny Hendricks and Dustin Hazelett on Story’s increasingly impressive resume?

Cheick Kongo and Pat Berry have both shown tremendous strengths and fundamental flaws in their games inside the Octagon.  However, in a head-to-head match-up, the strikers are able to secure a co-headlining spot in the lineup.  Credit that to the test it provides both men.  They are both intimidating on their feet, but have failed to display consistency.  Against a fellow striker, they have a chance to utilize their biggest strength, or possibly out-duel their foe in an area that is usually considered a weakness for both men.

Meanwhile, two other heavyweights who are still in the early stages of their careers have a chance to make yet another statement.  Matt Mitrione’s personality and an undefeated four-fight career that includes a win over Kimbo Slice have solidly placed the former football player’s name on the map.  His nemesis, Christian Morecraft, would love to hand Mitrione his first career loss and, in doing so, steal Mitrione’s momentum and turn it into his own.

The card, which airs live on the Versus network beginning at 9 p.m. ET, takes place at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh and is rounded out by a welterweight contest between Matt Brown and John Howard.  Here to analyze all four main card fights is The MMA Corner Round Table panel of Corey Adams, Duncan Price and Rob Tatum.

HW: Matt Mitrione (4-0) vs. Christian Morecraft (7-1)

Tatum: Kicking off the televised card is a heavyweight fight between rising prospects.  Both Mitrione and Morecraft have been impressive in their short careers, and one of them is going to move up a notch on the heavyweight ladder at the other’s expense.

A former New York Giant and Minnesota Viking, Mitrione has started his career with four consecutive wins following a stint on the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter.  With each fight, Mitrione has exhibited improved standup skills and has finished three of four bouts by utilizing his 82-inch reach.

Morecraft enters the bout with a 1-1 record in the UFC.  Although he was impressive in the first round of his UFC debut against Stefan Struve, he fell victim to a highlight reel KO.  Morecraft rebounded nicely to submit Sean McCorkle in March.

Morecraft and his 6-foot-6 frame should neutralize Mitrione’s typical reach advantage and give him a real test.  I expect the Team Bombsquad fighter to derail Mitrione’s hype train and hand him his first defeat by second-round TKO.

Adams: I couldn’t agree more with Rob. Every fighter needs a loss in their career, and I believe Mitrione gets his first against Morecraft.

As mentioned, Morecraft will be a bigger fighter in the cage with a longer reach. However, I think this fight will go to the ground. Morecraft has four submission wins on his record, and can very well submit “Meathead” as well. I think Morecraft will find away to get the former football player to the ground, and lock in a submission in the second round.

Price: Much as it slightly depresses me, I have to agree with my colleagues here. It is so hard to pick against Mitrione because he’s such a good guy and always fights to win when he competes. I just think Morecraft looked so good against McCorkle, it’s equally hard to dismiss him. Both men are strong, but not particularly technical on the feet and it is hard to give one a definitive edge over the other in that department. However, Morecraft is a level above Mitrione on the ground and I don’t know why, but I just think the fight will end up there.

I’m going to be slightly more cautious though and say this one goes to the third where Morecraft wins via TKO.

WW: Matt Brown (11-10) vs. John Howard (14-6)

Price: To say Brown needs a win here may be an understatement, as he has lost his last three fights in the UFC, all via submission. Brown was a late replacement in this slot though, as Martin Kampmann was forced to withdraw due to injury. His overriding weakness, in my opinion, is his willingness to get embroiled in a back and forth battle, as opposed to implementing his game plan and gaining the tactical victory. Brown does have ability both on the feet and on the ground, and his style is therefore exciting to watch, but I fear he will never be consistent enough to make it into the upper echelons of the division.

Howard may only be in a slightly better position than Brown in the organization, as he has lost two in a row, although they were to the ever-tough Jake Ellenberger and perennial contender Thiago Alves. A powerful striker with decent ground ability, Howard matches up well with his opponent Brown, who has a similar skill set. Howard has shown weakness against takedowns in the past, but he should be able to keep this fight standing if he wants to.

I see both fighters going toe-to-toe in an all-out war. Someone is getting knocked out and I think Howard just has that bit more control over his strikes which will enable him to TKO Brown in the first or second round.

Adams: This one does shape out to be a slugfest, as both men are in need of a win.

“The Immortal” Brown started his pro career on The Ultimate Fighter 7, being regarded as one of the toughest guys on the show. But his career has been a struggle, losing three straight fights all by submission. A loss for Brown here will most likely have him released by the UFC.

Howard came into the UFC with a bang, winning his first four fights. But when put against two top contenders, “Doomsday” fell in both contests. Standing at only 5-foot-7, he is one of the shortest guys in the welterweight division. A loss for him may not put him out of the promotion, but will certainly impact his career.

I’m really pulling for Brown in this one. I have nothing against Howard or anything, that’s just how I feel. He has struggled against BJJ guys, but Howard hasn’t submitted anyone since 2007. If Brown can turn this into a exciting scrap, I believe he can win by either TKO or decision.

Tatum: This is Brown’s last stand.  The former Ultimate Fighter competitor is in danger of dropping his record to .500 with a loss.  While the gritty veteran has shown glimpses of promise throughout his UFC career, he has always fallen against the upper echelon of the welterweight division.

Howard is in a similar, desperate position after dropping fights to Ellenberger and Alves.  After reeling off four straight wins in the promotion, he may very well be on the chopping block with a loss to Brown.  Howard has developed a potent striking attack that is a perfect recipe for beating Brown.  Although Brown’s Achilles’ heel has been his submission defense (literally), I don’t think you’ll see Howard change up his striking attack.

I look for Howard to outwork Brown on the feet for three rounds, claiming a lopsided decision that sends Brown packing from the UFC.

HW: Cheick Kongo (15-6-2) vs. Pat Barry (6-2)

Adams: In the co-main event of the evening, heavyweight strikers will go to war as Wolfslair’s Kongo takes on former kickboxer Pat “HD” Barry.

Kongo is a veteran of the sport with a record of 8-4-1 in the UFC. He is very well-rounded and is capable of fighting on his feet and on the ground. In his last bout, he and Travis Browne fought to a majority draw at UFC 120. My concern with Kongo is he has had many point deductions in his career (low blows, pulling his opponent’s shorts, etc.).

Pat Barry (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

First off, if you have not seen Barry fight, check out his kickboxing videos online. Barry came into the UFC in 2008, originating from a kickboxing background. Many thought that he would not have a successful career, but he was able to join Duke Roufus’ camp in Milwaukee, Wis. He has put together a solid 3-2 record in the UFC, including a decision victory over Joey Beltran in his last bout.

Look for Barry to come out quickly, as he does in many of his fights. Kongo will try to avoid the kicks of Barry, but will make one too many mistakes. I think Barry proves once again that he is for real by earning a head-kick knockout.

Tatum: Like Corey, I believe Barry will win this fight, but I’m not sure if he will do it in the exciting fashion that Corey predicts.  Kongo is certainly the more experienced and more rounded of the two, but ultimately, he’s never been able to put it all together.  He’s looked great against lesser competition and horrible against equal or more talented opposition.

Barry will hold a significant speed advantage.  While Kongo possesses a chiseled frame and a solid kickboxing base, his striking skill set is not on Barry’s level.  Despite his compact frame, Barry is extremely athletic and the power behind his leg kicks is unmatched in the UFC’s heavyweight division.

I see this fight playing out much like Barry’s fight with Antoni Hardonk and the first round of the Barry-CroCop fight, where Barry quickly finds his range and peppers Kongo with kicks and opens up his hands.  I’ll take “Hype or Die” by second round TKO.

Price: I actually disagree with both my colleagues, which may surprise many people. I think Barry shows glimpses of greatness and certainly possesses incredible striking power and ability, but is too often let down by his lack of cardio. They actually share a common opponent in Mirko Cro Cop, and whilst Kongo didn’t look exceptional against the Croatian, he did at least win the fight, whereas Barry should have won the fight, but gassed badly in the third and wound up losing via submission to a choke that was only half locked in.

I see Kongo using his own striking skills to avoid the majority of Barry’s offense early on and then picking up the pace as the fight goes on. I’m going to take Kongo by TKO late in the third round.

WW: Nate Marquardt (31-10-2) vs. Rick Story (13-3)

Tatum: A truly intriguing matchup headlines this event, as long-time middleweight contender Nate “The Great” Marquardt makes his promotional welterweight debut against one of the fastest rising stars in the UFC, Rick “The Horror” Story.

Originally scheduled to face Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, Marquardt will have only three weeks to adapt to his new opponent after Johnson was forced out with a shoulder injury.  The most significant impact will be that Story is a southpaw fighter.  While I would still give Marquardt an advantage in both striking and his jiu-jitsu, he will be at a greater wrestling disadvantage against Story than Johnson.

Rick Story (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Story is riding high after defeating Thiago Alves at UFC 130 on May 28 and has stretched his win streak to six fights.  Possessing some of the best clinch control in the division, Story is a tough fight for anyone.  With only four weeks to prepare for the fight, there have to be concerns about how prepared Story will be when he enters the cage on June 26.

After the impressive performances put on by Story of late, there will be a lot of people jumping on his bandwagon, and it is hard to fault them.  At the same time, Marquardt is one of the most experienced fighters in the UFC and dropping a weight class will give the well-rounded veteran an increase in size and strength against his opponents.  This will be a close fight, but Marquardt’s submission game will be the deciding factor, as he ends Story’s streak with a third-round guillotine and begins his ascension toward a welterweight title shot.

Price: Story is truly a rising star in the welterweight division. After a loss in his UFC debut to John Hathaway, Story has gone on an excellent run of victories. Rob has mentioned that Story comes into this fight with only four weeks’ preparation, but I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. He’s young, he’s got good cardio and I can see him carrying his good form forward into this bout.

Story is an excellent wrestler and he seems to have the ability to impose his strength on his opposition whether it be on the ground or up against the cage. He has also shown that he can more than defend against strikes and, although his technique may need some improvement, he will happily throw some of his own. If Story doesn’t allow Marquardt space to land strikes on the feet or space to lock up a submission on the ground, I think he stands a great chance of making it seven in a row.

This is Marquardt’s first foray into the welterweight division, and how he will cope with the additional weight cut is still to be determined. Marquardt is truly a well-rounded fighter, and his overall ability on the feet and on the mat carried him to a shot at the middleweight title against Anderson Silva.

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black-belt, Marquardt is dangerous from virtually any position on the ground. He has had a weakness against wrestlers in the past though, as shown in his fight with Chael Sonnen, and this may be an area which Story looks to exploit in this bout. For Marquardt, I believe the key is distance – he needs to avoid the takedown and clinch of Story and give himself enough range to pick his opponent off with strikes.

I actually see this one for Story, and I could end up looking a fool for doing so, but there it is. I just feel he will get the judges’ nods, albeit in a close contest.

Adams: I really like this match-up, as Marquardt will make his debut at 170 against a red-hot Story. Both Rob and Duncan made excellent points, and I am struggling to pick a winner in this fight.

Marquardt will certainly have the height and weight advantage in this one. I don’t think the cut will be that difficult for him, but it is a possible concern. He holds a second degree black belt in BJJ, but hasn’t shown his submission skills in quite some time. I think Marquardt will primarily look to strike with Story, as Duncan mentioned.

In our UFC 130 round table, I stated that Story is one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC. He showed his potential in his dominating win against Alves in May. I’m not jumping off the bandwagon against Marquardt either. I’m a big fan of both fighters, but I think Story is going to make it seven wins in a row. I’m going to agree with Duncan and say “The Horror” by decision.

Top Photo: Nate Marquardt (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)