One Step Closer for Marquardt?

'The Great' one dominates at UFC Fight Night 22

Rousimar Palhares covers up as Nate "The Great" Marquardt rains down blows at UFC Fight Night 22. (Photo by Brandon Bollom)

Wednesday's UFC Fight Night 22 proved two things. One, that Austin has a taste for top-tier mixed martial arts. Two, that Nate "The Great" Marquardt is one step closer to a shot at Anderson Silva's middleweight belt.

Even after manhandling Rousimar Palhares with a brutal flurry of punches and a TKO in the first round, he's not quite there yet. After pushing Silva to the limit at UFC 117, Chael Sonnen earned an extremely rare rematch: But after shrugging off an ankle lock, only to turn around and drop bombs on Palhares for a first-round win, there's little doubt that UFC president Dana White must be eying "The Great" one for a big bout next year.

The night also put Austin on the MMA map. A crowd of more than 7,700 at the Frank Erwin Center (including MC Hammer and WWE star Mark "The Undertaker" Calaway) stayed blazing hot all the way through the 10-bout card.

Austin transplant Yves Edwards, high on a hometown wave, pounces on John Gunderson at UFC Fight Night 22 (Photo by Brandon Bollom)

Marquardt's not the only fighter to come out of Wednesday's event with a serious push in his future. In his first trip back into the octagon since 2006, Austin's own Yves Edwards paced himself to a win over John Gunderson. After the bout, Edwards said he was glad to have made his return to the UFC in his hometown. At the end of his first run, he felt that the 155-pound division "was kind of put on the shelf for a while. Coming back, everything changed. The Ultimate Fighter happened, the sport blew up just overnight and it's a completely different atmosphere." There's also a learning curve and a change in style coming ("I don't like to fight off my back," he said, "and in today's MMA world to not be in that position you've got to work the takedown defense."), but now that he's back, he said he intends to stay. "Right now," he said, "I'm just the new guy, I'm at the bottom of the ladder and I don't have a problem climbing." He added, "You want to be the number one guy in the world, the only place to do it is here."

Kyle Kingsbury prepares for a heavy blow from Jared Hamman in the fight of the night at UFC Fight Night 22 (Photo by Brandon Bollom)

Similarly, Kyle Kingsbury may have taken the win over Jared Hamman, but their match was a hard-hitting highlight reel. Some heavy slugging left both men bloodied by the end of the first and Kingsbury ahead on points in the second: But a final flurry in the third from Hamman was more than enough to win them fight of the night.

TJ Waldburger sinks in a choke on David Mitchell in a bout that kept the green room agog at UFC Fight Night 22 (Photo by Brandon Bollom)

It arguably only narrowly pushed aside TJ Waldburger's back-and-forth wrestling struggle with David Mitchell: Even though it was second on the card at barely five in the afternoon, it was so engrossing that (as one wag in the media room noted) compulsive Twitterer White stopped tweeting.

Ready to rumble: Cole Miller readies for his highly-anticipated fight with Ross Pearson at UFC Fight Night 22. (Photo by Brandon Bollom)

The biggest surprise of the night may have been Cole Miller's second-round defeat of Ross Pearson. In a lightweight division fight that never looked likely to go to the distance, Pearson concentrated on Miller's taped left leg, which he favored throughout the bout. The steady stream of kicks seemed to be taking its toll, so even the Brit seemed shocked that he gave up his back so easily after a left hook caught him. Miller's rear naked choke won him submission of the night, but if the slugger Pearson works on his defense, a rematch could be a different story.

In a brutal back-and-forth bout, Charles Oliveira fights off a knee from Efrian Escudero during UFC Fight Night 22 (Photo by Brandon Bollom)

As for a victory of confidence, that prize should probably go to Charles Oliveira: When Efrain Escudero weighed in a full three pounds over weight, he was under no obligation to make the match. Coming into the third round, the two were tied, with every judge giving Escudero the first and Oliveira the second: But a rear naked choke meant that Oliveira walked away with the winner's purse, his own submission of the night bonus, plus 20% of his opponent's pay day.

The real attention remained on Marquardt, who sized his opponent up at a distance before the demolition. Putting Palhares' accusation that he greased up before the bout aside (a claim Palhares has since recanted), he said, "The fans are going to learn to appreciate that I can finish the fight at any time, so these slow moments, they should be on the edge of their seat, waiting for the knockout."

Nate Marquardt (r): "The fans are going to learn to appreciate that I can finish the fight at any time." (Photo by Brandon Bollom)

At the post-show presser, Marquardt said he'd like a quick turnaround on his next fight, possibly within three or four months. However, what he's most bothered about is the quality of the opponent. "A guy like Vitor [Belfort], a guy like Wanderlei [Silva], or anyone else at the top would be a great match-up, a guy like [Michael] Bisping or [Yushin] Okami too."

The reason for holding on for the right fight was simple: After dominating Palhares, he said he's within one good fight of getting to the front of the line for the belt. He said, "For sure. I feel like I'm still at the top of the division. I proved it tonight and I want to earn the title shot."

Rich Attonito lands a heavy kick on Rafael Natal at UFC Fight Night 22. Attonito went on to win the bout by unanimous judges' decision. (Photo by Brandon Bollom)

Full results:

Spike TV Bouts
Nate Marquardt def. Rousimar Palhares by TKO, 3.28 in the first round
Charles Oliveira def. Efrain Escudero by rear naked choke, 2.25 in the second round
Jim Miller def. Gleison Tibau by unanimous decision, 30-27, 30-27, 28-29
Cole Miller def. Ross 'The Real Deal' Pearson by rear naked choke, 1.49 in second round

Preliminary Bouts
Yves Edwards def. John Gunderson by unanimous decision, 30-27 by all judges
Kyle Kingsbury def. Jared Hamman by unanimous decision, 29-28 by all judges
Dave Branch def. Tomasz 'Gorilla' Drwal by unanimous decision, 30-27 by all judges
Rich 'The Raging Bull' Attonito def. Rafael 'Sapo' Natal by unanimous decision, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27
TJ Waldburger def David Mitchell by unanimous decision, 30-27 by all judges
Brian Foster def. Forrest Petz by TKO, 1.07 in the first round

Rafael Natal charges at Rich Attonito at UFC Fight Night 22. (Photo by Brandon Bollom)

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