UnderGround Forums Nate Marquardt - King of Pancrase

2/2/10 10:05 PM
3/25/04
Posts: 7950
10 years ago - back when the King of Pancrase was still a significant, major-league title in MMA - Pancrase decided to break with its long-standing open-weight tradition and finally add its first weight class championships at 199 ("LHW") and 177 ("MW"), to go along with the original KoP, then held by Semmy Schilt (who was the dominant force in Pancrase at the time).

An unheralded 21-year-old American named Nate Marquardt came out of nowhere to take the 177 tournament to become the first-ever "MW" KoP (and the youngest KoP ever).

The favorites going into that 8-man tournament had actually been Kiuma Kunioku and Shonie Carter, while Nate was still a virtual no-name at the time - and Nate actually ended up upsetting both of them in the same night to surprisingly take the title. Nate had not even been on the A-level radar before that tournament - but he sure was afterwards, as he was now the holder of a major title and ranked as a top-10 WW in MMA.

Nate didn't even cut to fight in the 177 division back then, and said that he walked around at around 175, and could make 170 if he wanted to - which he subsequently proved by doing just that to fight for the vacant IFC WW (170) championship in California against Cesar Gracie student, Gil Castillo. (Where this matchup would directly determine who would then get a title shot in the UFC for their new 185 championship against Dave Menne.)

Nate ended up losing a very close decision to Castillo in a back-and-forth war - and so Castillo is the one who ended up moving up to 185 and the inaugural title fight in the UFC (although Nate would say afterwards that, while he felt he could have beaten Menne, he would have needed to bulk up somewhat to regularly compete at 185 anyway).

Nate then goes back to Pancrase and loses his 177 KoP to Kunioku in a very close, if not questionable, decision - which now evened up their career 3-fight series at 1-1-1 (which really was as close as it could be, and not just numerically - but where each individual fight was close and non-decisive, although Nate seemed to have the edge overall in their performances).

During Kunioku's reign, however, Pancrase revises their weight classes and adds new ones - where their "MW" division now increased from 177 to 181, and Kunioku actually moved down to become the new 166/"WW" KoP, in addition to the 181 KoP - simultaneously reigning in two weight classes as KoP, before going back up to defend his 181 title against Marquardt in their fourth matchup.

And while all 3 of their previous fights had been close - this one was not, as Nate would emphatically KO Kunioku with a spectacular flying knee to both reclaim the title and definitively take the series with Kunioku (where the final fight was not just the tiebreaker, but the only distinctly decisive outcome they had).

Marquardt's tetralogy with Kunioku really served as the defining series of fights for Pancrase's new "MW" division - just as Marquardt himself would serve as the defining champion for that division as a whole (who, along with perennial contenders in Kunioku and Izuru Takeuchi, really formed the core of that division). And Marquardt would ultimately go on to become the greatest under-OW KoP ever.

After winning the now-181 KoP, Marquardt then successfully defended against Takeuchi (decisively avenging a prior loss), and eventually defended against Ricardo Almeida - a top-10 fighter at the time, in what was actually the last matchup between two consensus top-10 fighters to take place in Pancrase (along with another top-level matchup in Kondo-Kikuta on the same night for the LHW KoP - when both titles still meant something at the major-league level of MMA).

Marquardt, however, loses the title to Almeida by submission (with a sliding Gracie dropkick added for good measure) in suffering what was his most definitive - and only unavenged - loss during his KoP run in the MW division.

But Almeida then retired and vacated his championship - leaving Marquardt to take on Misaki for the vacant 181 title (although Misaki wasn't top-10 yet, and wouldn't become so until after he beat Hendo in Pride) - where Nate then beats Misaki to win the KoP for the third time.

Marquardt then successfully defended against Takeuchi again (to take their career series, 2-1), before leaving Pancrase as the reigning 181 KoP and as an established top-10 MW (after having originally been a top-10 WW) - to now go on to the UFC and their 185 division (debuting against another top-10 MW at the time in Ivan Salaverry, in what turned out to be a horribly disappointing fight).

But Nate's departure from Pancrase really marked the finalizing move capping off what had been a gradual ongoing process for years - the decline of Pancrase as a major league. (Where every previous Pancrase great had left, declined, or retired.)

Because Marquardt would be the last fighter from Pancrase who would ever become recognized as a definitively established top-10 fighter based primarily on his accomplishments in Pancrase - and especially for his run as the KoP (which has since been relegated to being largely a minor-league title, although Sandro has been the best guy to win a KoP since - who is a top-level fighter himself, despite a general lack of recognition before his entry into Sengoku).

So Nate was really the last great KoP. He was the last top fighter from Pancrase, actually based on Pancrase - and more broadly, the last representative of Pancrase from its days of being a major league, and the last representative of the KoP itself as being a major title in MMA. Up to that point, Nate had been the only great Pancrase holdover who was still a top fighter, still in his prime, still in Pancrase - and thus, his departure ultimately, definitively finalized the end of an era in Pancrase.
2/2/10 10:36 PM
3/10/09
Posts: 2004
 TTT

This cat is the next great fighter coming out of the states. (I know hes not a prospect but hes a legit future HOF)

I thought he would beat Anderson the first time in an upset, he took a beat down but he learned from it.

I cant wait to find out what the line is going to be for the rematch after he walks through Sonnen.

If he is a heavy underdog I will bet big money on him and show my slip here on the UG.

I have faith he is going to take the belt from Silva in an epic fight and reign at MW for a long, long time.
2/2/10 10:37 PM
7/20/05
Posts: 532
Nate is awesome
2/2/10 10:52 PM
1/7/06
Posts: 13131
McSlugga -  TTT

This cat is the next great fighter coming out of the states. (I know hes not a prospect but hes a legit future HOF)

I thought he would beat Anderson the first time in an upset, he took a beat down but he learned from it.

I cant wait to find out what the line is going to be for the rematch after he walks through Sonnen.

If he is a heavy underdog I will bet big money on him and show my slip here on the UG.

I have faith he is going to take the belt from Silva in an epic fight and reign at MW for a long, long time.

i agree with this. the guy has it all. next champ imo.
2/2/10 10:55 PM
10/8/07
Posts: 2922
as usual, great post

Marquardt should walk through Sonnen, he deserves another title shot at this point
2/3/10 12:01 AM
1/1/01
Posts: 2793
So the KoP That used to post here was really Nate?
2/3/10 12:33 AM
7/3/08
Posts: 1183
I didn't know that about Nate. Now I'll root for him. I thought he was TUF chaff.
2/3/10 12:59 AM
8/29/09
Posts: 266
DoctorVanNostran - 
McSlugga -  TTT

This cat is the next great fighter coming out of the states. (I know hes not a prospect but hes a legit future HOF)

I thought he would beat Anderson the first time in an upset, he took a beat down but he learned from it.

I cant wait to find out what the line is going to be for the rematch after he walks through Sonnen.

If he is a heavy underdog I will bet big money on him and show my slip here on the UG.

I have faith he is going to take the belt from Silva in an epic fight and reign at MW for a long, long time.

i agree with this. the guy has it all. next champ imo.
I'm with you guys.  I thought I was the only one who thinks the rematch will be different.
 
2/3/10 1:30 AM
1/12/07
Posts: 248
whistleblower would have been my vote for poster of the year if not for Igor, always love reading his historical accounts shutting down the TUF noobs.
2/3/10 1:37 AM
6/5/05
Posts: 22353
 Great writeup as always WB.

This paragraph resonates the most with me:

"The favorites going into that 8-man tournament had actually been Kiuma Kunioku and Shonie Carter, while Nate was still a virtual no-name at the time - and Nate actually ended up upsetting both of them in the same night to surprisingly take the title. Nate had not even been on the A-level radar before that tournament - but he sure was afterwards, as he was now the holder of a major title and ranked as a top-10 WW in MMA."

It seems like a star is almost always born when you have a good tournament.
2/3/10 2:00 AM
1/4/07
Posts: 8005
Yeah, just yesterday I wrote to my blog that it's crazy that Nate has been fighting over a decade already. Not many people realize that.
2/3/10 5:41 AM
8/25/09
Posts: 184
^ouch
2/3/10 6:01 AM
3/23/09
Posts: 1528
whistleblower - 

Marquardt, however, loses the title to Almeida by submission (with a sliding Gracie dropkick added for good measure) in suffering what was his most definitive - and only unavenged - loss during his KoP run in the MW division.


 
2/3/10 9:37 AM
2/15/02
Posts: 12216
Kneeblock -  Some seasoning to go with Whistleblower's well baked entree:

Marquardt accomplished most of what he did in Pancrase under the tutelage of largely unheralded catchwrestler/judoka Sheldon Marr out in Colorado.  Stories had it that Marr's academy was much like the old Lion's Den or Miletich Fighting Systems in that it was one skilled teacher and a bunch of tough guys just going in and beating the holy crap out of each other until they got better at what was rapidly coming to be known as MMA. Later Marr would work hard with some other folks including Erik Paulson I believe to try to get Pankration considered as an Olympic sport.

Marquardt also famously trained with Ricardo Murgel and under the Pancrase Grabaka dojo.

One guy WB didn't mention that Marquardt beat in that MW tournament besides Shonie and Kunioku was Daiju Takase.  Takase was at the time almost universally regarded to be "The Best Grappler In Japan" despite the fact that he wasn't then (and ultimately never was) much of an MMA fighter.  Takase's main claims to fame are beating Anderson Silva and Carlos Newton, but otherwise he pretty much was a wash.  Still, almost anyone in Japan would've told you in those days that there was absolutely no one better on the mat in the whole nation except maybe Kikuta.  Marquardt gave him the KTFO treatmentin the second.

When Nate went up against Almeida, it was considered an easy fight on the surface, primarily because of the perception that Marquardt was a can crusher and because Almeida had fought in the UFC and Pride and was one of the best grapplers anywhere.  It may seem in FightFinder hindsight that Big Dog walked all over him, but Nate did his best to take it to him in those first few minutes before getting caught in a perfect gravata (followed by the famous front kick to the chest).  Interestingly, when Kazuo Misaki wanted to become a better fighter and grappler, it was Almeida who he turned to to train with in part because of how soundly he'd dominated Marquardt.

I believe Nate left Marr's school not long after this fight, but I could be wrong.  For all I know they still train together, but I tend to doubt it because back when they were together, Sheldon used to proudly boast that the 7 time K.O.P. was out of his academy and these days I see little to no mention of it.  Nate's eventual switch to Jackson's obviously was a difference maker for his whole game.  When he fought Anderson I thought he'd be his toughest test and I think in a rematch he still might be. 



 As a side note Nate went and trained with Shane Pitts before he went to Jacksons. Shane is a very respected Judoka and BJJ blackbelt here in Colorado.

Sheldon Marr is an awesome guy, teacher and sensei and his gym Grapplers edge is a VERY tough school. I have had the honor to train their a few times under the tutalege of forum member ChadK (Chad is their boxing coach). Every time I have been there I had the toughest workouts ever! (we are talking "throw up" session workouts)
2/3/10 10:14 AM
3/25/04
Posts: 7953
NarlyPersianDude - Great read. I knew Nate was a pancrase force, was really surprised to read he beat Misaki.

Honestly, Nate's wins over Misaki at the time weren't really that surprising or even that big back then. His wins over Kunioku and Takeuchi were actually bigger in Pancrase at that point. The Misaki wins look better in hindsight, though, based on Misaki's subsequent career, especially his win over Hendo and the GP title (however dubiously earned).

But Misaki was not a top-10 fighter yet when Nate beat him.
NarlyPersianDude - Nate is one of the most improved fighters in mma. And he already was great.

I think this epitomizes it perfectly when it comes to Nate's overall, and recent, development. Nate is much improved (and much bigger) from his origins in Pancrase (where he was already a champion) - and even much improved from just his first title shot against Anderson.

He will definitely be coming in on more of a roll now (assuming he gets by Sonnen) - with a distinctly higher level of wins and momentum behind him - than he was then, when he had only beaten Lister, Crafton Wallace, and Joe Doerkson, since coming back from his steroid suspension after his win over Salaverry.

Because aside from the Leites "loss" (a fight where he actually ended up manhandling Leites), Nate has beaten unquestionably better quality of competition during his current streak (Maia, Gouveia, Kampmann), heading into a potential Anderson rematch, than he ever has before in his career.

Anderson should still clearly be the favorite over Nate again in a rematch - but the Nate that Anderson will face this time around is also clearly better, more accomplished, and higher ranked than the one he faced 3 years ago.
2/3/10 10:23 AM
6/18/09
Posts: 57
while I respect the mention of Shane Pitts and Sheldon Marr, it should not be forgotten/overlooked that the true architect of Marquardt should be considered Allistair McNiven. He was the instructer to receive Marquardt in raw form at the age of 16 and initially shape him into a fighter.
Allistair was principal instructer at Advantage Martial Arts in Arvada, CO, which was Nate's first school, where Allistair brought Nate through the ranks of Al Tracey's Kenpo system and then through Bart Vale's system of Shootfighting. The guidance of McNiven is what planted the seed of combat into Nate, which should be considered the catalyst to Marquardt's inevitable rise in mixed martial arts.

Along with Nathan Marquardt, Allistair McNiven is a amazingly selfless person whom I have looked up to for years. Much respect.
2/3/10 10:36 AM
7/9/09
Posts: 141
TTT, Good read!
2/3/10 10:38 AM
3/25/04
Posts: 7954
JimmersonzGlove - This paragraph resonates the most with me:

"The favorites going into that 8-man tournament had actually been Kiuma Kunioku and Shonie Carter, while Nate was still a virtual no-name at the time - and Nate actually ended up upsetting both of them in the same night to surprisingly take the title. Nate had not even been on the A-level radar before that tournament - but he sure was afterwards, as he was now the holder of a major title and ranked as a top-10 WW in MMA."

It seems like a star is almost always born when you have a good tournament.

Exactly. Because a tournament has the specific purpose of assembling a field and then definitively proving the best out of that field. When done right, a tournament will almost necessarily determine the rightful champion for an org., if not for the entire division (aside from circumstances with injury substitutions and alternates who already lost, like Misaki).

The defining principle of a tournament is for the cream of the crop to actually prove itself as such by getting a chance against the rest of that crop - even without having been known as the cream beforehand. (Which was exactly the case with Marquardt.)

Just throw them all together and see who comes out on top. And while no one reasonably would have expected it to be Marquardt at that point, and picked him to actually become KoP - the tournament itself is what allowed for someone like Marquardt, and his performances and wins themselves, to prove otherwise.
2/3/10 10:49 AM
1/1/01
Posts: 7459
Good stuff. I'm still sad we didn't get Nate v Hendo though, such a great matchup... Nate will finish Sonnen imo.
2/3/10 11:25 AM
3/25/04
Posts: 7955
Kneeblock - When Nate went up against Almeida, it was considered an easy fight on the surface, primarily because of the perception that Marquardt was a can crusher and because Almeida had fought in the UFC and Pride and was one of the best grapplers anywhere.

This is true. Almeida was definitely considered a step up in competition for Nate at the time - and especially a higher-level grappler than Nate based on Almeida's impressive showings at ADCC.

Almeida was also on a really good run in Pancrase, to have rightfully earned the #1 contender status there - and had also done well at 199 in Pancrase (picking up a meaningful win over perennial 199 contender, Minowa), before beating Misaki to gain a title shot at 181.

The big knocks against Marquardt were twofold - one, that he was not consistently dominant even as a champion in his weight class, in that he would lose fights along the way (but which he usually avenged, at least in Pancrase's MW division, except for Almeida).

And two, that when he stepped up in competition, he would lose and that he generally beat smaller opponents (even though they were still legit contenders in Pancrase's 177-181 division) - but couldn't get it done against better and/or bigger competition (e.g., Almeida, Castillo, former 199 KoP Kei Yamamiya).

Marquardt never beat a truly elite opponent in Pancrase - and the best guy he had ever beaten even up to his first title shot against Anderson was Ivan Salaverry (in what was hardly a definitive, much less impressive, performance at all). But now, after his decisive wins AND impressive performances over Maia, Gouveia, and Kampmann - if he can follow that up with another one of the same over Sonnen as well, he will be at an unprecedented peak of his career. And will have left any (imo, undeserved) "can crusher" label far behind.
2/3/10 11:50 AM
3/25/04
Posts: 7956
Kneeblock - One guy WB didn't mention that Marquardt beat in that MW tournament besides Shonie and Kunioku was Daiju Takase. Takase was at the time almost universally regarded to be "The Best Grappler In Japan" despite the fact that he wasn't then (and ultimately never was) much of an MMA fighter. Takase's main claims to fame are beating Anderson Silva and Carlos Newton, but otherwise he pretty much was a wash. Still, almost anyone in Japan would've told you in those days that there was absolutely no one better on the mat in the whole nation except maybe Kikuta. Marquardt gave him the KTFO treatmentin the second.

This is all true as well. Takase is virtually without question the greatest case of gym-wonder/ring-failure in Japanese MMA history, and maybe in all MMA history. Everyone who had ever trained with the guy really was unanimous about what a wizard he was, and he reportedly would just tool guys in training who were actually much more successful fighters inside the ring. (Gabe Ruediger posted about his reputation as well when he went over to Japan to train, and recounted his experiences here.)

So based on his dominance in training, by all accounts - and by so many reputable, high-level sources - Takase really should have been a great. But not only was he never even an A-level fighter in MMA - he wasn't even a fringe contender. The guy just could not put it together in an actual fight, the way he supposedly did - brilliantly - in training, aside from the Anderson domination.

Seriously, all those reports about his training exploits would just constantly leave me going WTF - especially since he never showed any of those superlative skills in MMA except for the Anderson fight (where he easily outgrappled and submitted Anderson). Even the Newton win was certainly less-than-definitive - and the fight with Nino was especially disappointing, given the grappling fireworks that were expected - but which instead turned out to be a stalled LnP win by Nino with little spectacular grappling at all, and with Takase doing little effective work from the bottom.

No disrespect, but I have always compared Takase to Liborio, who was likewise unanimously supreme in training - even Rickson-like or maybe even better (at least according to Carlson and his guys) - where according to everyone who ever trained with him, Liborio was just The Man on the mats, almost on another level (and given the all-time-great talent on the Carlson team especially, that was really saying something).

But while he did have some major competitive accomplishments (and was nowhere near the pushover that Takase was in MMA), Liborio never accomplished nearly as much as his transcendent gym-legend would portend - just like Takase.

I don't know if it was just a case of competition-jitters and fight-nerves with Takase like it reportedly was with Liborio (along with the outside factor that Liborio couldn't even compete as much because it would reportedly jeopardize his good job at a bank, when BJJ still had somewhat of a stigma attached) - but Takase ended up being the most disappointing Japanese gym-alpha ever.

There was just a stark, almost irreconcilable, contrast between Takase's reported dominance in training and his actual performances in the ring. Again, he really only put it all together in that one fight against Anderson. (Aside from running around and tiring out Yarborough, before then battering the exhausted behemoth - which was actually still a rather impressive feat at the time given the 500 lb. weight disparity.)

Btw, just a thoroughly GREAT post, KB. Appreciated. (As are all the other posts here with more insights into Nate's training and background.)
2/3/10 11:54 AM
3/25/04
Posts: 7957
Timmy B -
BROTHER WISDOM - So the KoP That used to post here was really Nate?

I don't think so. That guy was an internet troll who hated the UFC and acted like everything in Japan was the greatest.

Seriously, LOL @ you even taking that question seriously. "I AM 100% SURE" that went over your head.
2/3/10 10:51 PM
3/25/04
Posts: 7958
Kneeblock - Totally unknown Marquardt beating Takase was definitely a bigger deal than beating Shonie Carter on that night, but to beat Takase, Carter AND Kunioku is probably the biggest relative rookie splash to hit Japan until Joe Warren.

KB, I appreciate your whole post overall (and definitely the vid contribution), but really have to take exception to the part about how "beating Takase was definitely a bigger deal than beating Shonie Carter on that night." Again, Shonie along with Kunioku was one of the two rather clear favorites - and the most established and highly regarded names - going into that tournament.

Takase - while a stud in training - was already becoming known as a relative disappointment and even a scrub in MMA competition, when the fights actually counted. A win over Takase might have been "a bigger deal" to the Japanese MMA community who either trained with or knew of Takase's gym exploits - but to everyone else, Takase was just the guy who had beaten Yarborough (which was a literally "big" win) - but had overall been a distinct failure in MMA thus far.

Takase was still best known at that point, aside from his Yarborough win, for being the victim of what was a conspicuous (and at the time, notorious) size-mismatch against Horn in the UFC, where he ended up being hopelessly manhandled and squashed (an obvious bully-mismatch so bad that it even raised concerns about having turned off commissioners to potential sanctioning for the UFC).

Takase had also been submitted by Minowa in Pancrase (although honestly, no real shame in that in itself, since Minowa was becoming a legit contender in Pancrase - but still, relative to Takase's dominant gym-hero status, getting submitted was definitely an unexpected disappointment).

And Takase was even unable to win a really rather weak UFC Japan tournament field, which - again, based on his training preeminence - he really should have outclassed. So once again, Takase's actual performances and results to that point had hardly measured up to his in-gym supremacy. Really, not even close.

Whereas Shonie even at that point was already a FAR more proven and accomplished fighter in MMA than Takase was (which honestly wasn't saying much at all). Even in Pancrase, Shonie had drawn with top contender Kunioku already - and then beat Chris Lytle in the semis (although Lytle himself was not a distinguished fighter yet, either), to make it to the finals later that night, as expected.

Except the only thing that wasn't expected was that Marquardt would be the one Shonie would face there - where Marquardt had upset Kunioku in the semis to derail the expected Shonie-Kunioku rematch for the final.

So overall - at least outside of the circle that actually trained with and/or knew of Takase (and how much better he performed in training than in his actual fights so far) - Shonie was rather clearly more highly regarded at the time (and rightfully favored) than Takase. Shonie was a more known, established and credible contender in the WW division. While Takase was already (and would still remain) a definite disappointment and underachiever in MMA.
2/4/10 2:03 AM
1/12/07
Posts: 250
TTT for another great whistleblower post...this guy should write a book on the history of MMA...it would be the most unbiased.
2/4/10 4:32 AM
1/1/01
Posts: 16096
I remember Todd Atkins posting that Takase was tooling pretty much every big name in Japan on the mats back when people were shocked that he submitted Anderson so easily and made him look like a beginner on the ground