There was much at stake tonight for both Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami tonight, with the winner guaranteed a middleweight title shot in 2010 and both men looked wary of making a mistake that might cost them dearly.

Neither man claimed the advantage in the stand-up in the opening round so both looked to takedown attempts to make their mark.  Marquardt was the first to score one but wasn’t able to mount any effective offense from the position.  He then let Okami take top control when he jumped for a guillotine which the Japanese fighter easily slipped out of.  Another takedown from Okami late in the round seemed to offer him a very slight advantage heading into the second round.

Both men looked tentative in the second round, appearing reluctant to commit to their striking and so a takedown from Marquardt was one of the few significant moments of action.  Marquardt seemed content to stall though and Okami showed good hips to get out from under him and back to his feet.  A solid right hand from Marquardt as Okami drove in with a knee late in the round appeared to seal the stanza in his favor but it was certainly close.

Okami began to push the pace in the third and landed some solid strikes in the process without ever really having Marquardt in danger.  Marquardt then secured yet another takedown but again failed to  do anything with it and before long they were back on the feet.  With Marquardt continuing to be cautious Okami continued to press forward until the end of the round.

And so it’s down to the judges to make their decision and it’s undoubtedly a tough one to call.  Marquardt seems to think he’s got it, but he’s wrong, Okami walks away with a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2) to finally earn his shot at the middleweight title.

On reflection this will be a fight that Marquardt will look back on with regret.  His overly tentative approach to the striking and lack of urgency on the ground cost him dearly and leaves his title hopes in tatters.

This night is all about Okami though who, after compiling an impressive 10-2 octagon record finally gets to fight for the belt against the winner of Anderson Silva Vs Vitor Belfort in 2011.