by Ken Pishna
The main event of the UFC’s first live, full-card event on SpikeTV, Ivan Salaverry and Nathan Marquardt has come under fire by some as to its worthiness of that status. That is primarily because Salaverry, though he has fought many times in the UFC, hasn’t been seen much on recent pay-per-view broadcasts. Also, this is Marquardt’s first fight in the UFC, as he is usually fighting for Pancrase in Japan. Other than a lack of exposure in the United States, there is no other reason for this fight not to be considered a main event.

Salaverry has been on a tear recently and is easily only one or two wins away from a title shot. In his last two outings, he has reeled off submissions over both Tony Fryklund and Joe “Diesel” Riggs. With an overall record of 12-4, Salaverry is no slouch. In fact, his only loss in the UFC is to top-ranked contender Matt Lindland.

He may not be all that well known in the United States, but Salaverry’s opponent, Nathan Marquardt, is a superstar in Japan. Fighting under the Pancrase banner, he has achieved heights that no other fighter in the world has attained. He is the only fighter ever to become the King of Pancrase seven times. Not even luminaries such as Frank Shamrock, Bas Rutten, or Ken Shamrock have held the King of Pancrase distinction that many times.

Of course, all the stats in the world won’t convince some people, but what transpires when these two enter the cage on Saturday night should leave everyone convinced of their worthiness of the main event.

At 21-6-2, Marquardt does have the experience advantage over Salaverry, but they have both fought enough times in big enough fights that experience probably won’t be the decisive factor.

They both train with excellent teams. Salaverry trains primarily with Matt Hume and Josh Barnett in Washington, as well as other fighters like Frank Trigg and Tito Ortiz. Marquardt is also big on working with strong training partners. He has trained with various individuals in Japan and also with Team Quest in the United States. More recently, he has joined Greg Jackson’s fight team in New Mexico. Jackson’s team is just starting to scratch the surface with fighters such as Diego Sanchez, Keith Jardine, Joey Villasenor, now Marquardt, and many more gaining in popularity.

So who does the edge go to in this fight? That is a tough call. Both are very well rounded fighters. Both fighters are very active in submission attempts on the ground, but a slight edge probably goes to Salaverry. In the stand up game, Marquardt is probably has a bit of an advantage if only because he has a more powerful build than Salaverry and has seemed more inclined to go to blows. The edge in takedowns would probably also go to Marquardt as he trained for a long time with wrestlers such as Ron Waterman in Colorado and now with Jackson’s in New Mexico.

This is probably one of the most difficult fights on the card to pick a winner. Though the odds makers are heavily favoring Salaverry, much of that is probably due to a lack of familiarity with Marquardt’s game. Marquardt has been burning to be in the UFC for years, that is a deep desire that is difficult to weigh into the scheme of things, but could give him that little extra drive. But as balanced as these two are, it really is anyone’s fight. Whoever makes the first mistake, will likely be going home the loser.