Key Victories :
Marquardt (Demian Maia, Martin Kampmann, Jeremy Horn, Wilson, Gouveia, Rousimar Palhares, Dean Lister, Joe Doerksen, Ivan Salaverry, Kazuo Misaki)
Okami (Mark Munoz, Evan Tanner, Dean Lister, Jason MacDonald, Mike Swick, Alan Belcher)
The battle for middleweight supremacy continues in this No.1 contenders bout. Vitor Belfort was originally penciled in for this fight, but he was promoted to a 2011 title fight with Anderson Silva after Chael Sonnen tested positive for PEDs.
After being dominated by Sonnen in February, Nate Marquardt quickly finds himself back in the hunt. In a twisted way, Sonnen's failure has brought holiday bliss to Marquardt and Belfort. We'll see if Marquardt can capitalize on this golden opportunity when he takes on Top 10 contender Yushin Okami.
Fighting out of Denver, Colorado, Marquardt trains at Jackson's MMA, High Altitude Martial Arts, and Grudge Training Center. He is a second degree black belt in BJJ. In 30 wins, 15 have come by submission. Along with BJJ, his style consists of boxing, kickboxing, and gaidojutsu.
Before the start of his UFC tenure, Marquardt was noted for being a three-time Pancrase Middleweight Champion. He notched up a first round TKO stoppage over Rousimar Palhares at UFC Fight Night 22.
Okami was born in Kanagawa, Japan. He trains out of Team Wajyutsu Keisyukai, but recently he has been working with Chael Sonnen and Team Quest. In the UFC Okami has racked up an impressive record of 9-2 with his only losses coming to Sonnen and former Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin.
At UFC on Versus 2, Okami took a split decision victory over Mark Munoz.
Keys to Victory
At UFC 109, Sonnen was persistent with his wrestling and painted the mat with Marquardt's back sweat for three rounds. Marquardt has to stay active in all areas because Okami can present some of the same technical problems.
On his feet, Marquardt should have the slight advantage. The strides Okami has made in improving his striking shouldn't go unnoticed. He will be a formidable threat on the feet. Marquardt needs to best the exchanges and be prepared to defend the takedown when Okami changes levels.
He'll have to be careful in his pursuit of Okami in the standup. Okami is a great counter-fighter, and he'll be looking to take advantage if Marquardt gets overly aggressive.
If taken down, Marquardt needs to stay active from bottom. Okami has strong top control and doesn't make a lot of mistakes. It will take constant vigilance and scrappy scrambles to escape "Thunder's" top game.
If he doesn't want to get Donkey Kong'd on, Okami can't overstay his welcome on the feet. Marquardt packs a lot of power to go along with good technical boxing chops.
Okami needs to push the action and work for takedowns. Against Sonnen, Marquardt had no answer for the constant pressure and multiple takedowns. Okami should be able to implement a similar strategy. On the ground, he should prioritize control over passing. Marquardt's frustrations tend to lead to idleness when trapped underneath a domineering grappler.
If you're a gambling man, Okami may be a nice pick up as an underdog. Styles make fights, and Okami certainly has the tools to pull off the upset.
With that said, fans can expect a slow and technical chess match in this one. Okami will try to force Marquardt's hand by staying patient on the outside, but the lessons learned in Marquardt's loss to Sonnen will carry over. Look for Marquardt to take his time on the feet and edge out the exchanges.
Okami will struggle to find his range as he opts to stand and trade instead of mixing up his offense. The inability to keep Marquardt guessing will hurt Okami in snagging the few takedowns he does pursue—stuffed like a turkey—Marquardt takes this fight by unanimous decision.