Strikeforce Welterweight Championship
Tyron Woodley (10-0, 8-0 SF) vs. Nate Marquardt (31-10-2, 0-0 SF)
The Matchup: It has been a long road back to the cage for Marquardt since his release from the UFC last summer. Then-Bellator Fighting Championships middleweight titleholder Hector Lombard lobbied for a bout with “The Great,” and the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts inked him to a deal, but nothing came to fruition, meaning that Marquardt will have been away from live competition for approximately 16 months by the time he squares off with Woodley for Strikeforce’s vacant 170-pound strap.
Woodley’s combination of speed and athleticism figures to give the former middleweight King of Pancrase a stern test in his welterweight debut. A two-time All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, Woodley is adept at initiating tie-ups and forcing his opponents to the mat, where he takes a conservative approach with top control and occasional short punches and elbows. The St. Louis native has played to his strengths and negated the standup of his foes in each of his last three outings: decision victories over Tarec Saffiedine, Paul Daley and Jordan Mein. His style is not going to win him any post-fight awards, but Woodley is smart to stick with what works. Relying too much his still-developing striking would have been a recipe for failure in any of those bouts. Still, it would be nice to see more activity from Woodley on top, as he is often too content to ride out victories from a dominant position.
Marquardt does well in bouts where he is the superior wrestler. However, against the likes of Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami, the Grudge Training Center product was grinded down over the course of three rounds in decision defeats. To avoid a similar fate, Marquardt must utilize movement, circling constantly to limit Woodley’s opportunities to force clinches. The Coloradan is a well-rounded striker and, with four knockouts in his last five UFC victories, has power aplenty. Although Woodley’s standup is not his strength, it will benefit him to move forward and throw combinations. Both Sonnen and Okami had success by forcing the action and keeping Marquardt on his heels.
If Marquardt finds himself on his back, and at some point he probably will, he needs to either stall to force a standup or create distance with his guard and escape back to his feet. Simply landing elbows and attempting a few submissions from his back will not get the job done.
The Pick: Woodley is going to be dealing with a powerful welterweight, which means his blanketing approach will not be enough to win rounds. Expect Marquardt to fight to his feet, land combinations and avoid some of the mistakes that plagued him in recent losses. Woodley will get takedowns, but “The Great” lands the more significant offense -- both standing and on the mat -- to get a decision.
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