It's not that I don't appreciate the transatlantic bumper cards featuring the likes of Lesnar vs Velasquez, I sincerely do.
However, as teleportation is a distant, faint hope and the television station haven't (as yet) given me free reign of their coveted credit card, reality dictates that for now staring bleary eyed at my wonky, black and white tv in the wee small hours must suffice (okay I'm playing to the gallery and to my bosses at this point).
That is until I saw Nate Marquardt's curious yet brutally effective expulsion of Rousimar Palhares from the middleweight title race at UFC Fight Night 22. Marquardt's first round ko intrigued me and sometime last month I decided that I wanted to cast my eye over the title shot eliminator between the Greg Jackson product and Japanese stalwart Yushin Okami.
The reason for my eagerness to travel into the industrial heartland of the former West Germany is to answer the question of which of these two top tier 185lbers would be most likely to topple an elite level striker.
That inevitable challenge will be presented sometime in 2011 in the form of current kingpin Anderson Silva or possibly Octagon legend Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort (if a mooted title fight in early 2011 comes to fruition).
Prior to "The Spider's" precarious recent title defense against Chael Sonnen in California, I would have labeled the Oberhausen title eliminator as academic simply because of the aura of invincibility which surrounded the world's pound for pound greatest fighter.
Likewise I felt that Belfort's stand-up would be too aggressive for either championship challenger to overcome. Sonnen's success in the grappling and indeed stand-up department against Silva has led me to believe that either Okami or Marquardt would pose any middleweight champ serious problems over five rounds.
Whilst I am eager to find out who will be challenging for the middleweight belt in 2011, the actual battle between Okami and Nate "The Great" is an absorbing one. Whilst neither man poses the mercurial striking talents of a Silva or Belfort, try telling Martin Kampmann, Demian Maia, Alan Belcher or Mike Swick that these aren't two tough hombres. These are just some of the elite contenders which pepper the resume of UFC 122's main eventers.
Okami is a savage in the clinch and on the mat. A big middleweight by anyone's standards, he has the innate ability to wrench his opponents out of their own game plan and into a dogged war of attrition, from which he usually comes out the victor.
Okami won't become a UFC poster boy anytime soon but he has gained alot of respect amongst hard core fans for his low key, technique laden game and of course his habit of grinding out "the W".
Marquardt is a cerebral student of the game. Always learning and adding to his skill-set he is a much evolved fighter from the overwhelmed 28 year old who attempted in vain to seize Silva's belt way back at UFC73.
That defeat to Silva was like a release valve for the Wyoming native. Marquardt (as he has admitted recently himself), had stopped taking chances in his fights and was fighting more to win than to finish opponents convincingly. His stand up has become fearsome in its own right and when backed up by his always solid ground game, he has developed into an extremely well rounded top tier middleweight.
This fight is pivotal to the career of both fighters. A loss and poor performance by either would mean slipping to the middle of a shark infested, unforgiving middleweight division. Recent fights which have been imbued with title eliminator status have been cautious and restrained due to their importance.
Whilst I believe that Okami will utilise his usual conservatively aggressive style and solid technique, Marquardt will see this as his opportunity to attain for his unexpected loss to Chael Sonnen and make an unambiguous statement to whoever he meets in 2011 inside the octagon.
The Denver based BJJ black belt simply has more ways to win. With six out of Okami's last eight UFC appearances going to a decision I believe that this one is Marquardt's to lose. I see a tough, grinding fight going his way via referee stoppage midway through the third.
Another fight which will effortlessly fuel my trip across Europe on the 13Th of this month will be the guaranteed slugfest between Denis Siver and Andre Winner. Having watched Siver at close quarters a number of times I can attest that this guy can strike.
He has dynamite in his stocky frame and as his crushing fight with Liverpool's Paul Kelly ably demonstrated, a back kick which can end any fight in an instant. As impressive as Siver's finish of Kelly was at UFC 105 in Manchester, Andre Winner's clinical disposal of Rolando Delgado on the same bill also got me off my seat in a hurry.
Winner displayed silky footwork and proper power at 155lb's in his most impressive MMA victory to date. With both of these men being big punchers and willing to stand and bang this bout has real fight of the night potential.
I expect Siver's slight edge in experience and the support of the partisan crowd to make all the difference as he wins by ko midway through the second round.
As always, interested in your picks...
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