Nate Marquardt file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
A little nip and tuck here and there and it’s entirely possible the UFC will one day be broadcasting biweekly or weekly fight cards, completing their assimilation of pro wrestling marketing. Shave down those 10- or 11-bout pay-per-views, absorb the WEC and recruit some of the global talent they’re grooming for international expansion, and you’ve got at least 26 weeks of programming.
Until then, you’ll have to settle for Wednesday’s broadcast of UFC Fight Night 22, headlined by Nate Marquardt mixing it up with Rousimar Palhares. Marquardt was last seen suffering a debilitating, contender-nicking loss to Chael Sonnen; Palhares drew some heat for cranking a submission on Tomasz Drwal after a tap. While Palhares has only lost to Dan Henderson in the Octagon, his other opposition has been less than stellar: Marquardt represents a quantum step in competition since Henderson. The story of how Palhares responds to those new demands on his ability is probably the most intriguing of the night.
What: UFC Fight Night 22, a 10-bout card from the Frank Irvin Center in Austin, Texas
When: Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 8 p.m. ET on Spike
Why You Should Care: Because Marquardt has an opportunity to reestablish his credibility as a 185-pound contender; because 13-0 Charles Oliveira will learn whether his impressive record is the result of talent or under-qualified Brazilian opposition against Efrain Escudero; because Jim Miller is probably in the sights of the Gray Maynard/Frankie Edgar winner if he defeats Gleison Tibau; and because, really, what else is there to do on a Wednesday night?
Fight of the Night: Ross Pearson/Cole Miller, which involves aggressive striking (Pearson) frustrated by significant reach (Miller).
Hype Quote of the Show: “The thing is, he’s getting all decisions, and his one stoppage was over Aaron Riley and it was a cut stoppage. He wants to score, then clinch, and score and clinch. I’m sure this guy’s got knockout power -- he’s built like a tank -- but it just doesn’t seem like he’s really down to put forth that type of commitment to ending a fight. I think this is bad for the sport, it’s bad for the UFC.” -- Miller on opponent Pearson, to UFC.com.
Even in a sport known for bursts of gore, the idea that an athlete would step outside the boundaries of regulation to inflict unnecessary harm is treated with scorn. Prizefighting is a pretty deliberate crime scene, and random violence isn’t welcome.
Palhares took his hits after cranking a submission on Drwal last March, earning a 90-day suspension and the stink-eye of observers who recoil at unfair or excessive behavior. Whether that translates into playing heel during Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night main against Marquardt is up to the arena audience.
Unfortunately for Palhares, they probably have their minds made up. Marquardt is one of the more likeable contenders around -- unfailingly polite, mannered, and respectful of his opposition. He can hit, he can grapple, and his head is screwed on straight thanks to a relationship with Greg Jackson. He’s probably the most well-rounded middleweight to never earn a UFC title.
If he wants to re-enter that discussion, he’ll have to figure out a way to remain safe on the ground with Palhares -- a tenacious submission man -- while avoiding his power and attitude standing. This is a winnable fight for Marquardt, but will not be in any way fun for him.
Might Look Like: Marquardt’s bout with stifling jiu-jitsu artist Thales Leites -- Marquardt’s second loss in the UFC.
Wild Card: The bout was originally scheduled for an Aug. 28 UFC event -- will the two-week delay affect either athlete’s ability to peak on time?
Who Wins: Marquardt has more tools in the shed and more to lose. Marquardt via TKO.