Upon his release from the UFC, Nate Marquardt has become the most intriguing free agent on the Mixed Martial Arts market.
A world-ranked talent, Marquardt was set to make his welterweight debut at UFC on Versus 4 against Rick Story, after establishing himself as a perennial contender in the middleweight division over the last few years.
Until he was suspended by the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission for failing his medical requirements due to high testosterone levels, that is.
As a result, Marquardt was cut from the UFC and has been one of the biggest targets for criticism in all of MMA.
Now, with Bellator Fighting Championships as a possible destination for the newly orphaned fighter, two of Bellator's champions, Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard and Welterweight Champion Ben Askren, have vocalized their desire to fight the former King of Pancrase.
However, while Marquardt intended to make a new home for himself at 170, should he make the move to Bellator, the best matchup for him might actually lie at 185 against Middleweight Champ Lombard.
Here are three reasons why Lombard vs. Marquardt would make a better fight than Askren vs. Marquardt.
In the past, Nate Marquardt has shown a certain level of difficulty getting past high caliber wrestlers, most notably against former NCAA Division I wrestler and consensus No. 2 middleweight Chael Sonnen.
He was also unable to defeat Judo black belt and wrestling based Yushin Okami in another title eliminator back at UFC 122.
Should he opt to fight against Bellator Welterweight Champion Ben Askren, Marquardt would be up against another NCAA Division I wrestler and former Olympian who made a name for himself on the ground, grinding out decisions with his wrestling.
While Askren is set to fight Jay Hieron, he, like Hector Lombard, has expressed a desire to fight Marquardt and add the feather to his cap.
However, for Marquardt the fight could be extremely difficult. Given the weight cut, no one is really sure how well Marquardt would fair at welterweight, especially after his testosterone incident.
Against a wrestler of Askren's level, the fight would probably be taken to the mat, where a possibly weight-drained Marquardt would be ground down to a decision.
In that case, it doesn't sound like the most appealing matchup for a possibly newly-signed Marquardt—both on paper and in terms of profit.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black-belt and former Judo Olympian, Hector Lombard is no stranger on the ground.
However, where Lombard has really made a name for himself has been in the stand-up department. A fierce puncher, Lombard has displayed some really devastating knockout power—especially in his brutal one-punch knockout of Falaniko Vitale.
Lombard also threw his name into the mix of challengers for Marquardt, offering himself up as a possible matchup for the former UFC contender.
Marquardt himself is no stranger to the stand-up, having delivered his own one-punch knockout to Demian at UFC 102, finishing the fight in 21 seconds.
Should the fight go to the ground, Marquardt is also adept enough to hold his own or fight back up off his back to avoid any bombs Lombard might drop on him.
From a striking perspective, the fight has all the makings to be a stand-up war. It just may give Lombard the opportunity to make a big splash with a big-name opponent.
For Bellator Fighting Championships, the recently signed broadcast deal with MTV2 is an opportunity to reach a greater audience. With the few growing champions they have in lightweight, welterweight and middleweight champions (Eddie Alvarez, Ben Askren and Hector Lombard), the addition of Marquardt could only help.
The bout with Marquardt is promising enough that it could potentially open up a lot of opportunities for the company to make a move towards their first pay-per-view.
Though it may not hold the same star power as potential Strikeforce fights, a fight with Lombard could promise an entertaining fight all over the cage, rather than a ground-out wrestling match on the ground against Askren.
Should he sign with them, Marquardt brings a big name to the promotion on the heels of their debut on MTV2, while Lombard brings an opponent competitive enough, in a way, to put on an entertaining fight.