by Mick Hammond
When the UFC was first created, the idea of style VS style was one of the heaviest selling points of its inception. To finally see what individual style was the best is why many of the fighters participated in the events. Ten years later the spectacle has turned into sport. The fighters, once dependent on a singular style, are now cross-trained complete athletes.
But with all the changes the sport and fighters have undergone, still, there is always an inherent base to which each fighter starts and depends on in the crunch. So at this weekend’s Ultimate Fight Night we have something of a throwback between two new-breed fighters who, when things boil down to the core, are old school in their approach. The striker, Nathan Quarry, and the grappler, Pete Sell.
For Nathan Quarry it’s been an unbelievable turnaround in 2005. At the start of the year he was a relative unknown who was more recognized as Randy Couture’s training partner by the public, than for the skills that made him one of those fighters no one wanted to risk fighting due to his tallent. With a workman like attitude and heavy fast hands, Quarry had compiled a 5-1 record over his first two years in fighting.
In six fights Quarry had taken on and defeated highly regarded Miletich Fighting Systems prospect Andrew McFedries, MMA vet Todd Carney, and lost a highly controversial decision to Gustavo “Ximu” Machado. Life had been good to one of the first ever members of Team Quest. Then after taking a year off to concentrate on his personal life, Quarry was selected as one of 16 fighters to test the waters in MMA’s first every foray into non-PPV television.
Throughout his experience on The Ultimate Fighter, Quarry remained steadfast in his convictions. A loving single father, Nate refused to let the insanity of the show effect how he presented himself on the show. Even after an injury took him out of competition, Quarry was allowed to remain as a coach on the show due to his levelheaded nature. After the show finished shooting, Quarry remained stalwart, working hard at Quest’s facilities to rehab from his injury and prepare for the season finale of TUF.
On the finale fans were finally given an opportunity to see Quarry in action, as the injury he sustained prevented him from fighting on the show, and Nate didn’t disappoint. It took all of just over three and a half minutes for Nate to take out an overwhelmed Lodune Sincaid in patented Nate style, with straight, hard, effective strikes and no wasted energy.
Upon the win over Sincaid, Quarry became the first TUF 1 fighter to appear on a UFC PPV when he defeated veteran Shonie Carter in much the same fashion he had dispatched Sincaid. Quarry was quickly gaining the respect and admiration of the casual fans that the hardcore enthusiasts had always had for him. Simply put, Nathan Quarry’s devotion and hard work had earned him his place in the UFC, Quarry had finally arrived.
Overnight fanfare and success hasn’t come quite yet to Quarry’s opponent on August 6th. Pete Sell, a BJJ specialist under UFC constant Matt Serra, had spent the first two years of his career developing a reputation for being a very tough grappler with great cardio.
Over the course of five fights, Sell had gone ten minutes or more in all but one of them, each a victory. Sell was able to stifle his opposition with an engulfing ground game and outlast most of his opponents on the way to a win. Pete was also able to show enough competence standing that he never got himself into more trouble than he could handle, eventually working his opponents to the ground where he shines brightest.
It is through his undefeated record and connection with Serra that Sell was given his opportunity in the UFC as a replacement for Robbie Lawler at UFC 51. Against striker Phil Baroni, Sell was able to avoid the jackhammer-like power of Baroni and take the fight to the ground where it was quickly apparent that Sell was superior. After a few minutes of positioning, Sell locked on a guillotine choke strong enough to render Baroni unconscience.
One question remains with Sell though, how good is he really? In his six fights he’s faced only three fighters win winning records, and only one of those opponents has twice as many wins as losses. Against Quarry, Sell will be tested by the most complete fighter he’s faced, and how he does in the match will determine his future in the UFC.
It’s clear in this fight what each participant hopes to do. Quarry is looking to use his superior striking while Sell will try to get the fight to the ground. So how the fight will go will depend on each fighter’s ability to counter their opponent’s strengths. Quarry hasn’t been tested on the ground against a fighter with Sell’s skills, whereas Sell has faced a heavy hitter before, so that is possibly where this match can turn. If Nate cannot wrestle his way out of trouble, then it could very well be Sell’s fight. That is of course if Pete can avoid getting laid out unlike most of Quarry’s opponents in the past.
Nate knows his status in the UFC is a good one. He’s a fan favorite off TUF 1, with a lot of growing respect from people within the industry. If he loses he will remain in the company, but may not get back on PPV for a while. Sell on the other hand has to win and win now. A loss could place him out of the UFC for a year or two as he rebuilds his record. Without the benefit of TV exposure, Sell is in a much tougher position than Quarry is.
With the evolution of MMA having come very far over the last 10 years it’s easy to see how much parody there can be in the sport. Every fighter is accustomed to anything that comes their way at the UFC level. But when things get tough fighters revert back to what got them their, their base tallent. So here we are, two distinctively different fighters who bring two very different skills to the match. So again we may find ourselves asking the same question we did 10 years ago, who is better, the striker or the grappler? And this time the answer will come not from the old guard but from the new generation of fighters, Nathan Quarry and Pete Sell.