by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com Nate Marquardt came to the Octagon highly touted, an immediate contender in the UFC middleweight division since he arrived in 2005.
The former King of Pancrase reeled off four-straight UFC wins and was granted a title shot at UFC 73 in July 2007. He was defeated by Anderson Silva that night and has been working his way back to top contender status.
His road to the top was detoured at UFC 85 in June of 2008 when he dropped a split decision to Thales Leites. He had dominated the bout, but was penalized two points, resulting in the split decision loss.
After three finishes in a row by strikes – over Martin Kampmann, Wilson Gouveia, and Demian Maia – Marquardt was poised for a rematch with Anderson Silva. He was the favorite heading into the UFC 109 No. 1 contender match-up with Chael Sonnen in February. Sonnen, however, grounded and pounded Marquardt on his way to a unanimous decision victory, delivering another setback to the Team Jackson trained fighter.
Fresh off a technical knockout win over Rousimar Palhares in the UFC Fight Night 22 main event on Sept. 15, Marquardt feels he’s one good win away from being back in a title bout.
“I feel like I’m still at the top of the division,” said Marquardt following his win over Palhares. “I want to earn the title shot and what I believe is that one fight with a top contender and I should be there.
“I’d like to turn around probably in the next three or four months if possible. I think the most important thing is that it’s the right opponent,” added Marquardt. “I don’t just want to fight anybody. I want to fight one of the top guys and solidify myself as the contender.”
Silva and Sonnen will rematch for the title in early 2011, but there’s no shortage of opponents for Marquardt.
“I kind of expected the Chael rematch to be honest, especially with the way the fight went. I think a guy like Vitor (Belfort), a guy like Wanderlei (Silva) or anyone else at the top would be a great match, a guy like (Michael) Bisping or (Yushin) Okami, too,” stated the 31-year-old athlete.
“I want the title. I want the belt,” he stated, citing no preference in opponent. Marquardt feels a rematch with either Silva or Sonnen would be very different the second time around.
“I think they’re both tough fighters, but they both have big holes in their games, and they can be exploited.”