Not only is the UFC’s decision to go all-in with welterweights at UFC 158 paying off, but so is the assimilation of most of the fighters from the now-defunct Strikeforce roster.
The dominoes began falling on Tuesday when Rory MacDonald had to withdraw from his co-main event bout with Carlos Condit due to injury. The UFC moved Johny Hendricks from his bout with Ellenberger into the slot opposite Condit.
Former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt, who asked for the Ellenberger fight on Monday night, has been tapped to take Hendricks’ place against the Juggernaut. Marquardt stepping in versus Ellenberger was first reported by the Canadian Press early Tuesday and later confirmed by UFC officials.
The move keeps nearly all of the UFC’s top welterweights busy on the same fight card. UFC 158 features Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit vs. Johny Hendricks, and Nate Marquardt vs. Jake Ellenberger, as well as three preliminary welterweight bouts.
The fight is important for Marquardt in a couple regards. It affords him a quick return to action after losing his belt to Tarec Saffiedine in January at Strikeforce’s final event, but more importantly, perhaps, it marks his return to the Octagon.
Marquardt exited the UFC when his main event bout with Rick Story was nixed after he had trouble with his testosterone levels meeting the requirements of the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission, despite a Therapeutic Use Exemption approved by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board.
UFC president Dana White has maintained that, while he did release Marquardt, he had no personal issue with him. Marquardt now gets the opportunity to return to the UFC and get his career back on track following a rough two years outside of the promotion that saw him fight just twice.
Ellenberger is trying to build momentum after he had his title shot hopes derailed by Martin Kampmann last summer. He rebounded with a victory over Jay Hieron in October, and a win over Marquardt would keep him heading in the right direction.