Wednesday night used to be home to crappy sitcoms and whatever reality television dreck the suits are using to mesmerize the masses. Thankfully, that night has been transformed into serious fistic business by the UFC Fight Night series.
UFC Fight Night 22 is the latest addition to the ongoing saga, and it meets the same standard as every Fight Night show: free fights starring world-class fighters. I don't think I need to diagram this for you.
Read. Learn. Deify.
There isn't a whole lot to be said about fights involving Palhares beyond the obvious. That is, if Palhares gets a hold of a leg early, then the local arthroscopic surgeon will have some work to do that night. Of course, if that early submission doesn't materialize, it's typically downhill given his one-note style and minimal cardio.
Which scenario plays out depends largely on how Marquardt chooses to approach this fight. Any attempts to fight at Palhares' pace will be disastrous. The Brazilian's combination of raw strength and learned skill make him an absolute beast on the floor, especially early on. However, in bouts with Jeremy Horn and Dan Henderson, it became obvious that Palhares' offense grows exceedingly predictable over time and his cardio is all but used up if his opening salvo fails.
Marquardt might not be a great defensive wrestler, but neither is Henderson, who was able to frustrate Palhares with basic techniques like lateral movement and grabbing underhooks. That's a strategy any semi-credible world-class fighter can replicate, and Marquardt has the added benefit of having the grappling chops to at least give himself a shot at survival if Palhares puts him in a tight spot. Although anyone who hits the floor with a fresh Palhares is in danger, Marquardt is no Tomasz Drwal or Lucio Linhares.
On the feet, Marquardt can pick apart Palhares, who basically throws nothing but telegraphed power punches. Not only is Marquardt more versatile, he sets up his strikes better and can put together slick combinations when he finds his groove. The other variable here is the tutelage of Greg Jackson, who doesn't get the best results with undisciplined freelancers, but given a focused professional like Marquardt, the results speak to a strong focus on strategy.
Palhares wouldn't be the first one-dimensional fighter to beat Marquardt, but his inability to sustain offense over time makes it dicey to pick him in this bout. No one should blink if Palhares puts Marquardt's foot on backward, but "The Great" should survive a tough first round and rally for a decision win. Regardless, anyone who has sprained an ankle is advised to look the other way if Palhares gets his hands on one of Marquardt's feet.
Thanks to a torrent of last-minute injuries that forced some creative matchmaking solutions, undefeated fistic ingenue Oliveira will now take on "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 8 champion Escudero. Make no mistake, this fight will likely produce the lightweight division's next contender, which is why it feels like such a quantum leap in competition for Oliveira.
Cleaning up against no-name competition on Brazil's regional circuit is a good way to get some seasoning. It's poor preparation for the caliber of wrestling common at the world-class level, though. Oliveira's own arrogance with regard to the supposed superiority of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is even more worrisome in this bout, as Escudero is a far cry from a clueless wrestler. Every time Escudero looks to ground this fight, he will succeed -- and Oliveira's willingness to abide by those terms seems reckless at best.
All due credit to Oliveira: He's a fine grappler and has tremendous timing on his submission attempts. But he wasn't blowing away everyone on the Brazilian scene, and Escudero has a combination of wrestling and submission skill that "Do Bronx" simply hasn't encountered yet. Further complicating matters is Escudero's striking, which is flat-out better than Oliveira's.
Again, the issue isn't one of talent but refinement. Oliveira doesn't yet have the technique to translate his athleticism into fundamentally sound striking. This manifests itself as a lot of single strikes with little connection or flow between them. While Escudero does have a tendency to freelance in the cage, his boxing technique has come along just enough to enhance the natural power and speed behind his punches.
For Oliveira to win he'll need two variables to dovetail perfectly. First and foremost, Escudero has to show some of the same recklessness that cost him his fight with Evan Dunham. Second, Oliveira has to be up to the task of pulling off a win in a fight that he'll most likely be losing. It's all just too much to ask of a prospect who is still just that -- a prospect.
Tomas Rios is a contributor to Sherdog.com.