by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com When Nate Marquardt lost to Chael Sonnen in February it was obviously a setback for the Top 10-ranked middleweight, who had been on a tear up to that point. His mission was to get back to a title shot against Anderson Silva, and he was one step away.

Sonnen’s victory gave him the title shot, and forced Marquardt back into the pack of contenders.

As the Colorado fighter readies for a Sept. 15 showdown with Rousimar Palhares, his focus hasn’t changed, his motivation hasn’t changed, just the timetable.

“When you’re at the top of the division and you’re fighting the best guys, you’re always one or two fights away from a title shot,” Marquardt told MMAWeekly Radio recently. “I think that’s pretty much any division right now, and that’s just the way it is.”

Marquardt has fought and defeated many of the top middleweights in the UFC over the past few years. He wants to position himself for another run at the title and it starts with the Palhares fight.

One thing is clear when talking to Marquardt, he is focused on one ultimate goal, but that doesn’t mean he’s looking past a very dangerous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who has the ability to separate muscles and break bones.

“There’s usually only a handful of guys at the top of the division, and they need title fights. That’s my goal to get the title,” Marquardt stated. “I’m definitely not looking past Palhares. That’s my goal, this is one step in that direction.”

The timing for Marquardt’s showdown with Palhares comes on the heels of the news that Sonnen will get a second crack at champion Anderson Silva, likely during the first part of 2011.

With the middleweight division on hold until they battle it out again, fighters like Marquardt and Palhares, along with Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, continue to fight amongst themselves to see who gets to be next in line.

Marquardt believes that Sonnen vs. Silva 2 was a logical choice for the next title fight, and he’s happy to scout out either of them when he gets another shot at the UFC middleweight belt.

“Watching the way the fight went, I was kind of guessing that could happen. I think it’s a good thing; people want to see that fight go differently. They either want to see Chael getting knocked out, or they want to see him win, which he was very close to doing,” said Marquardt. “I think it’s a good fight, and it just gives me another chance to scope both of those guys out.”

Of course the first order of business for Marquardt is to get past Rousimar Palhares next week, and then size up the rest of the middleweight contenders to see who’s next.