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UFC 102 Preview: Nate Marquardt vs. Demian Maia

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Nate Marquardt is, without question, one of the more underrated fighters competing today. Although his name is not often mentioned when discussing top middleweights, one could make an argument that he's as deserving of a world title shot as anyone. Nate possesses solid, sharp striking which he uses to rattle off effective combinations. This former King of Pancrase also possesses solid wrestling and a sound submission game. Given the fact that he's now training with Greg Jackson and is getting regular sparring with some of the game's top talent, Marquardt could be poised to make a serious run at becoming a world champion. Marquardt's professional record is 28-8-2 with six wins coming by way of knockout and fifteen wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced is 66.9%.

In covering the sport of MMA you'll hear phrases used such as "He's a good striker" or "He's a good grappler." You'll usually hear a lot of hyperbole so that a fighter's strength can be conveyed to you. And oftentimes it's true that the fighter in question really IS very good in the discipline that he has a background in. Then there are fighters like Demian Maia. To say that this 31-year-old is great at jiu-jitsu is an understatement. One would be hard pressed to find many high level MMA fighters that are better with submissions and submission defense than Maia. The question that observers of the sport still have is "What else does he bring to the table?" It's a legitimate question as we haven't had the chance to see Maia tested to the point where he's been taken totally out of his comfort zone. We have the chance to see just that at UFC 102. Maia has a professional record of 10-0 with one win coming by way of knockout and eight wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced is 68.4%.

Will Nate be able to use his more well-rounded game to take out the surging prospect? Will Demian Maia come through in his first big-time fight and live up to the early hype that has surrounded him? These questions make this the fight that I'm most looking forward to on Saturday. There are very good arguments that make the case for Nate winning this one. He has a significant advantage in MMA experience and has displayed a much more versatile skillset in his fights. However, something has told me from the beginning that Maia is going to win this match. I've got to go with my gut even though I could very well end up regretting it. My prediction: Maia by submission in the third.