Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Nate Marquardt Will Do What It Takes to Get UFC Gold

Image via UFC.com

The first thing you notice about Nate Marquardt when you meet him is his smile. It's infectious. He seems to enjoy life, the kind of joy that's hard not to be inspired by. Soft spoken, funny, quick with a laugh, Nate could be a youth counselor at your church or the best player on your Thursday night softball squad. Instead, he's a cage fighter. A first look captures the smile. It's a second look that is the dead give away. As we noted in The MMA Encyclopedia, it's only then you notice the tools of his trade:

The middle knuckle on both hands is swollen all the time. On his left hand, one of the knuckles is missing, pushed up into his hand courtesy of a long-ago bare-knuckle fight early in his career. Make no mistake: Marquardt is a great guy, a religious family man from Colorado. But he can and will throw down with the best of them.

Marquardt has the reputation, because of this easy going attitude, of being one of the sport's nice guys. But if opponents mistake that kindness for weakness, they'll be in for a long night. Marquardt is a vicious competitor, not just an aggressive fighter, but one that is constantly walking the thin line between right and wrong.

Trouble seems to follow Marquardt, across promotions and even across continents. Every conceivable manner of foul play has Marquardt's name stamped all over it. There was the incident when he attacked Ricardo Almeida after the bell in a Pancrase bout. Against Ivan Salaverry he tested positive for steroids. And then there was the Thales Leites bout.

At UFC 85, Marquardt broke nearly every regulation in the book, landing an illegal knee, illegal elbows, and a piledriver that skirted the line. Poor Leites could do little but hold on for the ride, eventually winning a decision when Marquardt was penalized for his foul play.

Accusations of greasing followed his recent win over Rousimar Palhares, a leglock expert who claimed Marquardt was greasing when he slipped out of an ankle lock in the first round. As Palhares turned to complain to the referee, Marquardt unleashed with devastating ground and pound. After the fight, Palhares joined a group of detractors that includes BJ Penn, by accusing Team Jackson of greasing. Marquardt and Jackson denied the claims, and Palhares later retracted his accusations, but there's no doubt the controversy affected the fight. When some might have paused to let the official sort things out, Marquardt went on the attack:

"It's kind of disappointing to have to try and defend yourself over something like that. I'm not a dirty fighter, and I don't cheat. I don't grease."

"I didn't really know what he was doing, but I saw his hand was kind of pointing toward the ref or something. He took his eyes off me. Once he took his eyes off me, that's when I jumped in... I guess I was surprised, but at the same time, I was watching him the whole time for an opening. That was it... I was very excited for the win, but that kind of took a little bit of it out of it for me."

For Marquardt, the ends justify the means - in the case the ends being a title rematch with champion Anderson Silva. Marquardt has visualized a method of beating Silva, one he won't share but feels increasingly confident in. Now Yushin Okami is standing in the way of that opportunity. On Saturday the Team Quest fighter better be ready for whatever Marquardt throws at him - whether it is within the rules or not. Don't be fooled by the smile Yushin- a stone cold killer lurks behind it.

Nate Marquardt vs. Ricardo Almeida after the jump

Almeida vs Marquardt (via UVray2)

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