After claiming a first round TKO win over Rousimar Palhares last night, Nate Marquardt stated that he is now keen to take on a top contender in the middleweight division as he looks to get back into the title hunt.

“A guy like Vitor or Wanderlei or anyone else at the top would be a great match-up,” Marquardt said at UFC Fight Night 22’s post-fight press conference.  “A guy like Bisping or Okami too. I want the title I want the belt. I fell like I am still at the top of the division. I believe one fight with a top contender and I should be there.”

This seems like a reasonable request.  Marquardt’s unanimous decision loss to Chael Sonnen earlier in the year was undoubtedly a set-back, but when you consider that he’s won four of his past five fights against good opposition like Palhares, Demian Maia, Martin Kampmann and Wilson Gouveia, he is certainly still worthy of a place in the upper reaches of the 185lb weight class.

It’s highly unlikely that he’ll be fighting Wanderlei Silva next though as he will be out for some time due to a knee injury and is currently lobbying for a fight with Chris Leben when he returns.  I also expect that Vitor Belfort will automatically gain a title shot against the winner of Anderson Silva Vs Chael Sonnen if he can get past Okami in November.

That leaves Yushin Okami or Michael Bisping as the most likely options dependent on how their upcoming fights go, and either would be a good match-up for him and could set him up as the division’s next No.1 contender.

The only drawback is the need to wait until October of November to find out who he would be facing, which could result in it being into 2011 before we see back in the octagon.

After emerging unscathed from his quick win over Palhares it may be that the UFC will want to get him back into action sooner rather than later.  With that being said I’d also throw in Chris Leben, who’s now on a three fight unbeaten run and currently not schedule to fight, as a possible outside bet to face Marquardt towards the end of the year.