It’s a bit like blood in the shark tank.
UFC middleweight champ Anderson “Spider” Silva — once a dominating fighter who laboured little to make short work of his opponents — looks beatable.
So the race to take his belt is on.
First dibs have to go to the man who manhandled him for 4˝ rounds only to lose by submission with less than two minutes left in the fight.
But the lineup doesn’t end at Chael Sonnen.
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort will take on Yusin Okami at UFC 122 in Germany, with the winner jetting straight into title contention. UFC president Dana White has said Belfort would be next to challenge for Silva’s middleweight title — but that was before Sonnen showed the world he could bully the champ.
Jake Shields, who is set to make his UFC welterweight debut on Oct. 23 against Martin Kampmann, is still ranked as one of the top five middleweights in the world and is a former Strikeforce champ in that weight class.
Then there’s Nate “The Great” Marquardt — one of the many men who has fallen to Silva in a title bout — who is champing at the bit to get another shot at the lanky 185-pounder.
Marquardt (29-9-2) will be the first among the congested list of contenders to prove he is worthy of another title shot.
The Greg Jackson MMA-trained 31-year-old takes on Rousimar Palhares Sept. 15 in the headlining match at Ultimate Fight Night 22.
He says he’s not looking past the Brazilian black belt, but what he ultimately wants to achieve is clear.
“My goal is to become the champion,” says Marquardt, whose Jackson teammates include Rashad Evans and Georges St. Pierre.
“Right now I’m focused on my fight with Rousimar. You know, he’s a very tough, dangerous opponent, and I’m taking him seriously. And like I said, that’s my goal, is to win the title. And right now, that’s the way I’m going to do it, is by beating Rousimar.”
The fight was originally slated as part of UFC 118, but was moved to the free-for-the masses Ultimate Fight Night — which is fine by Marquardt.
“Now, I’m headlining,” says the Colorado-born fighter.
“I don’t feel extra pressure. Every fight I go into, I have a strong will and a strong want to win. And, you know, I don’t think I need to add any extra pressure to myself by worrying about it being a main event or whatever.”
Ultimate Fight Night 22 will also feature a fight between Efrain Escudero and Charles Oliveira as well as Jim Miller taking on Gleison Tibaua. The card is available on Spike TV and airs directly before the Ultimate Fighter 12 debut featuring coaches St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck.