Even though the returning Vitor Belfort may have cut the line of hungry middleweight contenders, UFC President Dana White confirmed at the Feb. 4 pre-fight progress conference that the upcoming 185-pound scrap between Chael Sonnen and Nate Marquardt at UFC 109 will indeed determine the number one contender for the division title.
That is, the winner of Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi.
Marquardt (29-8-2) made a strong case for a rematch with "The Spider" with a "Great" knockout over undefeated submission wizard Demian Maia at UFC 102 for his third straight win.
Silva spokesman and manager Ed Soares suggested the unofficial match-up of Marquardt vs. Dan Henderson following UFC 102 in order determine a number one contender for the division title while Silva took a break from competition to heal an ailing elbow.
Sounded good on paper -- except they probably didn't realize "Hollywood" was no longer under contract after air-mailing Michael Bisping across the pond at UFC 100.
Life goes on -- and so too must the quest for middleweight gold. With Hendo in Strikeforce, "The Phenom" managed to leapfrog the competition for a crack at the crown, so Marquardt will be forced to quell the uprising from the suddenly relevant Chael Sonnen.
Despite a boatload of trash talk, Sonnen (23-10-1) has a history of beating middleweight champs from Brazil. At WEC 36, Sonnen outpointed a bloated and barley sane Paulo Filho back in 2008 in his last appearance for the Zuffa sister promotion.
He was quicly written off following a quick tapout to grappling ace Demian Maia at UFC 95, but stormed back into relevancy with dominating decision wins over venerable middleweight threats Dan Miller and Yushin Okami.
Can he continue his unlikely rise to the top with a win over Marquardt?
UFC 109: "Relentless" will also feature a light heavyweight battle between elder statesmen Randy "The Natural" Couture and Mark "The Hammer" Coleman in the main event of the evening.
To check out the complete UFC 109 fight card click here.