by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
MMAWeekly has had it confirmed from reliable sources close to the Jackson’s fight team that Nate Marquardt (who also confirmed the news to MMAWeekly) has signed to fight UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, and that Rashad Evans has signed to face Tito Ortiz on the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s July 7th fight card. The July 7th event is scheduled for Las Vegas, Nev., but no venue has been mentioned at this point.

The fight with Marquardt will be Anderson Silva’s first title defense since taking the belt from former champion Rich Franklin at UFC 64. He has defeated Travis Lutter since that time, but the fight was not a defense due to the fact that Lutter was unable to make the appropriate weight, thus the fight took place as a 3-round non-title bout.

Marquardt gets his first shot at a UFC title since first entering the Octagon in August of 2005. He has amassed a 4-0 record in the UFC after leaving the Pancrase organization as the only 7-time King of Pancrase titleholder.

Marquardt is currently the #8 Middleweight in the MMAWeekly Rankings, while Silva is the #2 Middleweight in the MMAWeekly Rankings.

Rashad Evans, a teammate of Marquardt’s at Jackson’s, makes his return to the Octagon in the highest profile bout of his career to face Tito Ortiz. Since he started fighting in 2004, Evans has amassed a 10-0 record, reeling off 5 straight victories in the Octagon.

Ortiz, one of the most popular fighters in UFC history and currently the #8 Light Heavyweight in the MMAWeekly Rankings, will be looking to bounce back against Evans after losing his last time out to current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell on Decembenr 30th. Prior to that fight, Ortiz had won five consecutive bouts against Ken Shamrock (twice), Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort, and Patrick Cote.