Lessons Learned, Marquardt Aims For Middleweight Elite

Nate Marquardt has been in this position before.

Last February, the perennial middleweight contender stepped into the cage with Chael Sonnen at UFC 109, a solid favourite in a bout to determine who would earn the opportunity to face Anderson Silva for his 185-pound title. Riding a three-fight winning streak, all of which came by stoppage, Marquardt was expected to have his way with the less athletic, less dynamic veteran.

The exact opposite happened.

As soon as the fight began, Sonnen took the fight to Marquardt, wrestling him to the canvas and pummelling him on the ground. While the 31-year-old Colorado native had a couple quality moments, the fight as a whole was as one-sided a beating as Marquardt had taken since facing Silva himself two-and-a-half-years earlier. Marquardt says he worked on correcting the problems that led to a loss.

“When I fought Chael, one of the main [mistakes] was that I didn’t follow the game plan, and that was the main thing I needed to change. That has been something I worked on very hard for my last fight and this fight as well, and really just showed me how badly I want to be the champion and fight for the title. If anything, maybe [that loss] was a blessing in disguise because I lost sight a little bit about my goals and what I want to do in the sport.”

That ultimate goal is the middleweight title, but Marquardt is not looking beyond Okami.

While Marquardt may be the first name on the marquee and boast the higher profile training partners and conquests, Okami has long been considered one of the top threats in the division. Back-to-back dominant performances have elevated his profile with the casual fans, but the fighters themselves have always known that the Japanese middleweight is a more than game competitor, Marquardt included.

“He’s a very tough fighter with some good skills. I don’t really pay attention to the fact that maybe he isn’t as well known, because everyone I talk to knows who he is and knows how tough he is, so that’s not even a factor. The only thing that possibly makes it a little tougher on me is that I don’t hear him doing any interviews, but other than that, I know he’s a great fighter.”

One thing Marquardt can also be sure of is that his meeting with Okami will not follow the same blueprint of his last bout, a curious encounter with Rousimar Palhares that saw his opponent pause mid-fight to petition the referee with a complaint. When no break was given, the former King of Pancrase pounced, blasting Palhares with a big right hand and following up to a finish. Needless to say, it was not a scenario Marquardt was expecting.

“As it happened, I had no clue what he was doing. I spun out of the heel hook and immediately turned around to attack him, and the fact that when I turned around, his focus wasn’t on me, it made me hesitate to hit him because I wasn’t really sure what was going on. So I feinted first to see how he was going to react, and when he didn’t, I hit him and it wasn’t until afterwards that I realized what was going on.”

There will be no confusion this time around, as these two battle to take one step closer to their ultimate goal.

For Marquardt, this is a chance to make good on the opportunity he missed against Sonnen, and perhaps do the same against Silva sometime next year. As the old saying goes, “those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.”

Marquardt has learned his lessons and is ready to prove that Saturday in Germany.