Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami fight this weekend for a shot at the most coveted position in all of MMA, to become a UFC champion. The two clash in the UFC 122 main event on Nov. 5 in Germany and the winner will face the winner of February’s UFC 126 main event between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort for the middleweight crown.
Some of the top middleweights in the UFC share their predictions on this Saturday’s number one contender fight between Marquardt vs. Okami:
Anderson Silva, UFC Middleweight Champion: “This is a very closely matched fight; both competitors are well rounded and could win by strikes or submission. I can’t pick a winner. With a shot at the UFC title for the winner, I am obviously very interested to see who wins. I am excited to see who wins but no matter who it is, I look forward to defending my UFC Middleweight title against him in the New Year.”
Michael Bisping: “I’m actually expecting Okami to pull this off. It’s a great fight between two very tough well-rounded guys. But based on the way Chael Sonnen controlled Marquardt in their bout, I think Okami has a chance to use a similar strategy and take the win. I think Okami will take him down, hold him there, beat him up a little and basically do more damage. I think Nate is much better off making this a striking match, using mixing in his kicks and punches and avoiding the ground altogether if he can. Okami may have been a little unlucky not to have gotten a title shot yet, but now his destiny is in his own hands and I think we’ll see the best of him at UFC 122.”
Wanderlei Silva: “I think this is going to be a good fight between Marquardt and Okami. Okami is very strong and tough on the ground. Marquardt’s good on the ground too, but I think Marquardt is a more complete fighter. He has good hands and I think this is going to be the difference.”
Alan Belcher (lost decision to Okami in 2006): “Okami has all the tools and abilities to win but he has failed to fight to his full potential. If he ever breaks out of his shell and quits being overly cautious he will be a beast. Nate is always a dangerous opponent with athletic explosive striking and a lot of grappling experience. This well rounded fighter will give anyone in the division trouble but sometimes he’s a little wild and out of control and Okami could capitalize on this. My pick is Marquardt; however, I wouldn’t mind seeing Okami take the win so we could set up a rematch with him and me for my comeback fight.”
Tom Lawlor: “This is an extremely tough match-up, and has “Controversial Split Decision” written all over it. On one hand we have perennial top contender, Nate Marquardt, who was viewed as the “next in line” before being upset by Chael Sonnen. On the other, is the last man to defeat current champion Anderson Silva, in Yushin Okami. The key to this fight is going to be takedowns. We saw that Marquardt was susceptible to being controlled by a high level wrestler in Chael Sonnen, while Okami learned exactly the same lesson, from the same man, in a previous fight. In the past, Okami was viewed as a slow starter, however in his past few performances (wins over Lucio Linhares and Mark Munoz) his workrate early on was higher, and he displayed a crisp boxing game.
“Should he attempt to stand and trade with Marquardt, Okami may find himself over-matched despite having a reach advantage. Striking wise it seems that Nate “The Great” simply has more tools to end the fight; Okami would best be served by reverting back to his grappling roots and looking to score takedowns, followed by a smothering ground and pound game much like Sonnen used. I feel that neither man will be able to run away with the fight standing, or with submissions, and that both men will be able to control the fight at different times in all realms, with Marquardt winning by Split Decision despite being taken down each round.”
Kyle Noke: “Easy – Nate! He’s one of my training partners so I guess I would say that but I honestly think he’s got the advantage. He’ll TKO Okami; he will most likely be too strong and in the second round either knock him down or take him down and then ground and pound him out. Nate has been a terror in sparring, I feel a little sorry for Okami.”
Alessio Sakara: “I usually do not make picks for fights, because as you know in MMA anything can happen at the drop of a hat. For the main event of 122, it is especially hard to make a call of who is going to get the victory. Both fighters are very well rounded, and both have a excellent amount of experience inside the octagon. If I had to call this one, I would say maybe Marquardt will pull this one off. He seems to be focused after his loss to Sonnen, and he has a lot of momentum at this moment. His training camp is very strong, regularly training with Rashad Evans, Shane Carwin, ‘Bones’ Jones, and the rest of Team Greg Jackson. I also think that Okami is very well prepared and has also been looking great in his last performances. For this reason, to call this particular fight is very hard. But I think maybe Nate will pull out the “W.’”
Kendall Grove: “I think, honestly, Marquardt is the top of the food chain right now, he’s the one putting it together, he’s on a roll. Okami’s record speaks for itself, though, he’s one of the top guys and he wants that title shot bad. I just think Marquardt is so well rounded, he can do it all so well. Plus, Okami is a big guy but Marquardt is kinda the Brock or Carwin of 185lbs, he’s a big, big put together dude.
“The thing is, at this level and with a title shot on the line, both of them have to go after it. If you are going to throw a kick, throw it as hard as you can, don’t hesitate. If you are going to go for an armbar, go for it, don’t worry about getting swept. And I think Nate has been in these situations before and will keep his head better. It will be tough, I think Nate will finish it in the third round.”
Chris Leben: “People may think it is a little weird because I fight nothing like either of them, but these are two of my favourite fighters in the middleweight division. I love watching them fight. I think Nate Marquardt is probably a little more rounded, and he’s on the top of his game right now. But Yushin Okami is great with his takedowns and on the ground and hits hard too. I really can’t pick a winner, but I think Okami’s size will be a big factor if it goes to the third round.”