As Nate Marquardt was about to walk in front of the capacity crowd Saturday night in Portland, Oregon a firm grin stretched across his face. Surrounded by his team he walked towards the hexagonal cage, blocking out the past sixteen months with the objective to add another championship to his mantle for the first time since 2004.
When Jimmy Lennon Jr. introduced both challengers for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight championship, he stared across at his opponent, two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler and unbeaten prodigy Tyron Woodley.
Within moments of the fight, Woodley showed that despite wrestling being his bread-and-butter he had improved his boxing game too, landing a lightning-fast right hand that sent the 33-year-old crashing to the canvas before unsuccessfully trying to finish the fight with ground-and-pound.
When Marquardt returned to the feet he took control of the action, having more experience in hand-to-hand combat and an extra trick or two up his sleeve striking he was able to set the tempo of the fight and forced Woodley to play into his game.
Right when it looked to be smooth sailing for the Greg Jackson trained veteran Woodley once again wobbled him with a hard-shot that sent him to the floor but once again he was unable to capitalize which forced them to return to the feet.
As we entered the championship rounds, Woodley had stolen the last round on most score cards but was fading fast which is where things took a turn for the worse with a series of hard elbows stunning Woodley before he threw a hard uppercut that sent the slouching against the six-sided cage.
Instead of inflicting more punishment to his fallen foe he walked away from the action and raised both hands in celebration, a genuine bright smile stretched across his face as he felt on top of the world for those brief few seconds as he’s awarded his first championship since his King of Pancrase title.
But it hasn’t always been an easy road for the newest Strikeforce titlist, just sixteen months ago he was exiled from the Ultimate Fighting Championship after testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone literally hours before he was slated to face Rick Story in the evening’s main event.
This wasn’t the first time Marquardt failed a drug test though, in his UFC debut, after defeating Ivan Salaverry he tested positive for nandrolone, a popular anabolic steroid that has been found in the systems of Josh Barnett, Sean Sherk and Royce Gracie, among others.
It was later revealed on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour that he was tired and moody before his doctor discovered that he had low levels of testosterone thus beginning him on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) but he wasn’t within his levels when he was tested.
Now he has made the questionable decision to move forward without TRT and pursue his race up his third weight-class as the champion of the sister-organization to the UFC.
Whether you love him or hate him, Marquardt has had a year that most men couldn’t endure, let alone as a professional athlete in the publics limelight but now he’s returned to action with a few more good years under his belt.