In perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening, the planned five-rounder between Nate Marquardt and then-undefeated Tyron Woodley wound up stealing the show last night (July 14, 2012) in the co-main event of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy in Portland, Oregon.
Woodley had entered the bout with a perfect 8-0 record inside the Strikeforce cage, but the former All-American wrestler out of Missouri had been taking some flack from fans for his performances in recent fights against Paul Daley and Jordan Mein in which he used his wrestling and not much else.
But that wasn't the case against Marquardt.
"The Great" forced Woodley to engage him in every facet of the sport, which resulted in an extremely entertaining back-and-forth battle that will likely be on many reporters' top 10 lists for "Fight of the Year" when it is all said and done.
So how in the world did Marquardt force Woodley to utilize the rest of his game? And what happens next for both men?
Follow me after the jump for our Nate Marquardt vs. Tyron Woodley Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy post-fight review and analysis.
Woodley came out swinging early and actually caught Marquardt with a solid overhand right about a minute into the bout, staggering the UFC veteran and leaving him exposed to the takedown. The Missouri native charged in and put Marquardt on the ground but he was too focused on using his wrestling here instead of damaging his opponent more and gaining a bigger advantage.
Eventually Marquardt cleared the cobwebs and got back to his feet and then it was Marquardt who dropped Woodley with a straight right. Woodley shot in for a desperation takedown but it was fended off by the veteran with relative ease and Marquardt scored big points with his striking in the final half of the round.
Marquardt really started to settle in during the second round, even scoring a takedown on the wrestler which completely caught Woodley off guard.
In the third, many would have expected Woodley to have faded by this point, but the undefeated prospect clocked Marquardt with a pair of right hands, rocking him and then scoring a huge takedown and dropping bombs in the opening two minutes. The ref forced a quick stand-up once Woodley's pace slowed on top and despite Marquardt bouncing back with some superior stand-up technique, the round was Woodley's.
By round four, Woodley was pretty much spent. He was flat-footed, had little to no head movement and his explosion was completely gone in his strikes. Marquardt keyed on this, backing him into the fence and then ending the fight with a beautiful combination that started with a pair of brutal standing elbows.
With Woodley out on his feet, Marquardt finished him off with a pair of uppercuts which sent him crashing to the canvas in a heap as the referee jumped in.
Nate Marquardt is the new Strikeforce welterweight champion.
For Tyron Woodley, even though he lost this fight, he has a lot to hang his hat on. He came out and held his own with Nate Marquardt, one of the most experienced and dangerous fighters in the world, even dropping him twice in the bout. I hope the knockout loss doesn't make him gunshy and he uses it as an learning experience more than anything. Conditioning is what cost him last night. He was just spent and the fresher Marquardt was able to take over. Who knows what would have happened had Woodley had more gas left in the tank.
Potential next opponents for Woodley include Nah-Shon Burrell, Quinn Mulhern or perhaps Evangelista Santos. I'd like to see him continue to grow from this performance as he definitely still has potential.
For Nate Marquardt, his striking was in rare form at times last night. While he got caught a couple times on the feet, his combinations and aggression were very impressive and hearkened back to his Wilson Gouveia knockout back in the UFC. What I love about him is that when he has an opponent hurt, Marquardt doesn't just throw the same strike over and over, he wings out kicks, elbows, uppercuts and hooks, really mixing up his attack and then his opponent has no way to defend it.
Potential opponents for Marquardt's first title defense include Kazuo Misaki, Tarec Saffiedine, Jordan Mein or perhaps the wild card of Jason High. Either way, it was nice to see Marquardt back in the cage and I can't wait to see him again.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did this bout surprise you when it ended up being a barnburner? What did you make of both Woodley's and Marquardt's performances? Where do you rank Marquardt in the welterweight division after his victory?