When discussing upcoming fights, it's easy to fall back on the "biggest fight of his career" cliche. Nearly every card there's at least one fight that is The Biggest Fight Of X's Career! Of course, that can't always be true. Some fight matter more than others, no matter how much emphasis we want to put on every fight. And yet...
In the career of Nate Marquardt there has been no shortage of big fights. He challenged Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight title; he was in the main event of UFC 122 against Yushin Okami; he faced Ricrado Almeida in a major Pancrase battle. But tonight, against Woodley, things are different.
That's because in this fight, Marquardt is fighting for more than the Strikeforce Welterweight title. He's fighting for his legacy. This is Nate the Great's first fight since being very publicly fired by Dana White last year due to high testosterone levels. Marquardt is far from the only fighter who has used testosterone therapy, or who has been caught by the state commission for it. But between his change in physique over the years, a 2005 steroid related suspension, and the very public way the situation went down last summer, Nate is one of the fighters who now has a lot of questions surrounding him. Just how long has he fought with elevated testosterone levels? Is that why he was able to put on so much muscle mass during his UFC tenure? And, most importantly, without the help of extra testosterone, can he still win?
That last question is the big one, and it's the one we will begin to answer tonight. If Marquardt comes in, impressively defeats Woodley, and (it must be said) passes a post-fight screening, it will go a long way towards erasing the image of Nate as an illegally chemically enhanced fighter. If he loses - and worse, if he looks weak - it will provide a lot of vindication for those who look at Marquardt and see a questionable history.
So is this truly the biggest fight of his career? Probably not. That fight happened at UFC 73 against Silva. That night, Marquardt failed to write his name into the UFC history books, and he probably will never have that chance again. Tonight, he has one more opportunity to add to his MMA legacy - either for the good, or the bad. And though it's a smaller stage, in the grand scheme of Nate Marquardt's career, this may be the fight that determines just how he's remembered.
Is he a very accomplished fighter who deserves recognition for his strong UFC run? Or a fighter with questions marks surrounding his entire career who still never made it to the top? Let's see what the verdict is tomorrow.