Two of the promotion's brightest prospects met in a Middleweight King of Pancrase title match in what seems like a lifetime ago. Both men then, and now, are well-mannered, respectful sorts who take competition serious -- no funny business. There is an exception, however, after their fight in Tokyo ended in sheer mob chaos. "Cachorrao" caught "The Great" in a tight guillotine choke nearly five minutes into the fight, forcing him to tapout rather than blackout. It was a "quick" tap, however, which Almeida and the referee were both slow to react and free Marquardt from the stranglehold. When Almeida finally released the choke, a frustrated Marquardt blasted him with a post-fight, knee-jerk punch. Renzo Gracie -- Almeida's trainer who had already stormed the ring to celebrate his student's win -- witnessed the strike and immediately reacted by kicking Marquardt in the face. The scene afterward was much like the recent Strikeforce brawl on CBS, without the sinful Gus Johnson commentary. It was ugly. Cooler heads eventually prevailed and Marquardt even congratulated Almeida on his big win. But an otherwise forgettable fight is now immortalized forever thanks to one perfectly-placed Renzo Gracie face kick. See the glorious video below.
Nate Marquardt vs. Ivan Salaverry
UFC Fight Night 1
Aug. 6, 2005
Cox Pavillion in Las Vegas, Nevada
Marquardt was lured from "The Land of the Rising Sun" and hailed as a high profile acquisition who could add zest to a very bland 185-pound division, which at the time was ruled by Rich Franklin. His coming out party was to be showcased in the main event of the inaugural UFC Fight Night series on Spike TV, taking on the resurgent Ivan Salaverry. It turned out to be an awful fight that many rank among the worst main events in the promotion's relatively short history. Marquardt went on to win a dreadfully dull decision; however, to add insult to injury, he tested positive for a banned steroid known as Nandrolone. He claimed it was from an over-the-counter supplement and two follow up tests, which came back negative, helped his argument. His suspension was lifted five months later and he was free to get back in the Octagon. Salaverry, meanwhile, wasn't, getting a pink slip for his embarrassing performance.
Nate Marquardt vs. Anderson Silva
UFC 73: "Stacked"
July 7, 2007
ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California
Marquardt hadn't lost a fight in nearly four years, winning six consecutive fights, four of which were under the UFC umbrella. Three of those four wins were decisions against competition that was far from fantastic. But the division at the time was shallow -- there certainly wasn't a logjam of worthy challengers. Marquardt was winning, albeit blandly, which was enough to award him with the opportunity to squish the "Spider." That opportunity didn't last long, less than five minutes to be precise. He scored an early takedown, but that was the extent of highlights for Marquardt. Silva blasted him with a punch and he crumbled to the canvas in a heap. The champion then finished him off via strikes without even breaking a sweat. Back to the drawing board.
Nate Marquardt vs. Chael Sonnen
UFC 109: "Relentless"
Feb. 6, 2010
Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada
This was Marquardt's golden opportunity to earn a championship rematch with Silva. He was enjoying a three-fight win streak, all finishes, over much improved opponents. He appeared to finally be coming into his own, establishing himself as worthy of a chance at redemption. All he had to do was dispatch of Chael Sonnen, and Olympic-level wrestler with strength and endurance to grind out just about anyone. And that's exactly what he did to Marquardt. He took him down early and often, implementing a ferocious ground and pound attack that had Marquardt on his back, on the defensive, for nearly the entire 15-minute bout. Marquardt was completely manhandled and ragdolled in the second biggest fight of his life. It earned Sonnen a future title shot against Silva and forced Marquardt to head to the back of the line and work his way back up the ladder.
Marquardt rebounded after the Sonnen loss with a first round technical knockout over Rousimar Palhares. Perhaps the lopsided loss was an anomaly, chalk it up to him just having an off night. He'd get a chance to prove if that was the case when he stepped inside the cage with Japanese import, Yushin Okami. "Thunder," like Sonnen, was a strong wrestler who was capable of employing the exact same strategy. And that's pretty much what he did on fight night. Okami went on to nab a unanimous decision, and just like Sonnen, a date with the Brazilian bomber. Once again, Marquardt came up short when it mattered most, prompting UFC President Dana White to brand him a "choker." Despite a decision win over Dan Miller in his next fight, Marquardt opted to abandon the middleweight division and drop down to 170 pounds and try his luck at welterweight, where his good friend and training partner, Georges St. Pierre, rules the roost. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
(The five fights mentioned above are listed in chronological order.)