In the UFC Fight Night 22 main event, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and Greg Jackson student Nathan Marquardt (29-9-2, 8-3 UFC) will hope to keep himself in the mix as a potential candidate for contention as he battles Brazilian jiu-jitsu leg snapper Rousimar Palhares (11-2, 4-1 UFC) in a highly relevant middleweight showdown. For Palhares, a victory on Wednesday night could vault him into unknown waters at the very apex of the division, a spot that many felt he could not attain due to his short reach and small size. Marquardt stands to spoil that dream and certify that he still has what it takes to battle for the title once the smoke clears from the rematch between Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva.
As aforementioned, Marquardt currently sits just outside the two top spots in the division, and having lost to current UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen at UFC 109 -- he's in somewhat of a tough spot here as he's beaten most of the better fighters in the division while losing to both Silva and Sonnen in his career. Most top fighters get second, sometimes even third chances at the title, and Marquardt can only hope that the UFC brass will give him the opportunity.
But the UFC hasn't given him the easiest task in Rousimar Palhares. The 5'8", 185 pound Brazilian makes up for his small height and size by packing enormous power and strength. "Toquinho", as he's nicknamed, means little tree stump, and while that seems non-threatening without any context, Palhares' performances are anything but non-threatening. In fact, "Toquinho" has made a name for himself as being one of the few fighters in mixed martial arts who actually delivers the extreme end result of submission attempts -- broken limbs. While his submission of Tomasz Drwal at UFC 111 deservedly earned him a suspension due to holding a heel hook submission too long, it serves as a picture perfect example of how quickly Palhares can win a fight... against anyone.
Stylistically, Marquardt has all the advantages if we look at this fight from a standpoint of who is more well-rounded. He has solid power, good stand-up ability, decent wrestling, and excellent defensive jiu-jitsu skills off his back. As with any fight involving Palhares, Marquardt will enjoy a reach and height advantage, but that is a bit of a deceptive advantage as Palhares' short frame is tailor made to crank limbs. If Marquardt isn't careful, he could find himself on the wrong end of a kneebar, heel hook, or Achilles lock.
This is a fight that tugs at my inner fan. I've followed Rousimar Palhares for quite some time, and became an instant fan of his when he broke off two legs at Fury FC V to win the tournament. The guy can flat out fight, and he's one of the more exciting fighters in this sport because he can rip your leg off in a matter of seconds. He's a bullet waiting to be shot out of the gun, and that's why many fans like myself are drawn to his fighting style.
But this is a fight that's going to be very tough for him to win. Marquardt's striking is likely going to stifle Palhares on the feet for lengthy periods of time, and I think it's going to be a tall task for Palhares to take down Marquardt. There are, however, some question marks, the main one being whether Palhares has continued to improve his striking ability to a point where he can accurately time his opponents and land his power. He's already at a disadvantage with his height, but his power is formidable enough in combination with his speed to slip incoming attacks and bomb opponents.
I took the safe bet in the prediction post by picking Marquardt by decision, but my love for Rousimar Palhares has taken over. Palhares via awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, knee ligament tearing... heel hook!