September 14, 2009

by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
The Ultimate Fighter Season 8 standout Eliot Marshall this weekend goes for his third consecutive victory since debuting with the UFC this past December. He returns at UFC 103 in Dallas on Saturday, on the heels of a pivotal UFC 97 performance where he defeated fellow cast member Vincent Magalhaes via unanimous decision.

It’s hard to argue with the results this native of Colorado has garnered since joining the UFC ranks. He has a strong team behind him with Greg Jackson leading the helm, and training partners who include Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Nate Marquardt and Georges St. Pierre, to name a few.

Marshall has become accustomed to the hectic pace that his team sets. At least one or two Jackson fighters grace nearly every UFC event.

“What’s crazy is that, you have to make for your own down time because somebody has always got a fight between everyone in the camp,” said Marshall while as a guest on the MMAWeekly Radio show.

“It’s been nice. Nate’s (Marquardt) just got done fighting, Shane’s (Carwin) got Brock (Lesnar) coming up, and they’re with me, so everyone’s been scrapping the last couple of weeks here.

“I love it when everyone’s got a fight because the fight won’t be harder than the camp,” he added.

You wouldn’t be able to tell with his last two fights, but the stand-up game isn’t Marshall’s strong suit. In his fight with Jules Bruchez at the Season 8 finale, Marshall put his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to work, employing the game plan that’s proved effective thus far: staying on the feet long enough to set up the takedown and work for a submission.

It was the match-up with Magalhaes, a world-renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, which proved his most difficult task to date. It also marked a change, a new level that the 29-year-old has reached in his efforts to continue to improve as a fighter.

“Vinny for sure was a very, kind of difficult fight for me just for the fact that his strength was my strength and he might even be a little bit better at it,” said Marshall.

“That fight was very difficult just because my game plan has never been keep it on the feet the whole time, get back up, all that stuff. My game plan has always been, ‘well, I’ll strike, but if we go down, I’m going to try to submit you down there, too, or I’ll try to take you down as well.’ It was a very good learning lesson for me that I can keep it on the feet and win.

“If you want to evolve as a fighter then you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, uncomfortable fights that are going to make you grow and learn and whether you win or lose them, you really don’t have too much control over that, but how you respond during a fight and after a fight is what you have control over.”

Now on course for his third fight in the big show, Marshall faces Jason Brilz, who has also found some recent success in the UFC, going 2-0 in the organization and 17-1-1 overall.

It would be easy to think that out of Marshall’s entire arsenal, his wrestling has been his biggest weakness. This was highlighted in his loss in the semi-finals on The Ultimate Fighter to eventual winner Ryan Bader, who took Marshall down repeatedly throughout the course of the match en-route to a unanimous decision victory.

He’s been taking all the necessary precautions leading up to his match-up against Brilz, who is an assistant wrestling coach at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

“I’ve been wrestling a ton,” said Marshall. “I’ve been wrestling with all these college wrestlers and it sucks to wrestle with college wrestlers because you can’t punch them in the face to try to keep them off you. It’s a great test and I don’t want any easy fights. I’m not in this to be famous or to be a superstar because everybody sees’s who I am.”

A relative unknown to the mainstream audience, Brilz possesses a dangerous style of a strong, disciplined wrestling background that has translated well into his mixed martial career. Soon-to-be-father Marshall knows just what he’s up against, another tough wrestler. It’s exactly what he wants.

“I want tough fights, so this is a tough fight. This is kind of the worst kind of tough fight because not a lot of people know who Brilz is. It’s what I want, I want to test myself.”