Dance Floor Fills for UFC 111


D. Mandel/Sherdog.com

“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner Nate Diaz will ascend to the welterweight division and meet International Fight League veteran Rory Markham in a preliminary matchup at UFC 111 “St. Pierre vs. Hardy” on March 27 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Ten bouts are now booked for the event.

Diaz has dropped three of his last four fights, including a split decision defeat to the unbeaten Gray Maynard at UFC Fight Night 20 last month. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt under Cesar Gracie, the 24-year-old Stockton, Calif., native owns noteworthy victories against Melvin Guillard, Kurt Pellegrino and former Ring of Fire lightweight champion Alvin Robinson. Diaz has secured eight of his 11 career wins by submission.

A potent stand-up fighter who has knocked out UFC veterans Brad Blackburn, Mike Pyle and Pat Healy, the oft-injured Markham has not competed in nearly a year. He last appeared in February 2009, when he was leveled by Dan Hardy in just 69 seconds. Spawned by the famed Miletich Fighting Systems camp, the 27-year-old Markham has never gone the distance as a professional -- a span of 21 bouts.

Meanwhile, Rousimar Palhares will lock horns with Polish standout Tomasz Drwal in a pivotal middleweight showdown.

The twice-beaten Palhares, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, last competed in December, when he submitted Lucio Linhares at UFC 107. Anchored at Brazilian Top Team, he has won eight of his past nine matches, losing only to two-time Olympian Dan Henderson in that span. Wins over Pride Fighting Championships veteran Daniel Acacio, Ivan Salaverry and former UFC light heavyweight title contender Jeremy Horn buoy his resume.

One of the middleweight division’s best-kept secrets, Drwal has put together a three-fight winning streak since his 2007 technical knockout loss to the world-ranked Thiago Silva. The rugged 28-year-old Pole submitted the heavy-handed Drew McFedries with a rear-naked choke in September and has not gone the distance in more than five years. Drwal has delivered 16 wins in his past 17 appearances.

The lightweights will also share the UFC 111 stage, as Kurt Pellegrino will collide with Strikeforce veteran Fabricio Camoes on the “St. Pierre vs. Hardy” undercard.

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Pellegrino will carry a three-fight winning streak into the match. The 30-year-old Point Pleasant, N.J., native has not competed since he cruised to a unanimous decision over Josh Neer at UFC 101 in August. “Batman” has never been knocked out and counts victories against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 6 winner Mac Danzig, former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Alberto Crain and Sengoku veteran Sergey Golyaev among his 14 career conquests.

Unbeaten in his past eight fights, Camoes last appeared in November, when he fought Caol Uno to a majority draw in his promotional debut at UFC 106. The stalemate snapped a string of seven consecutive victories for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Based out of San Diego, the 30-year-old has secured eight of his 10 wins by knockout, TKO or submission.

A welterweight title match pairing champion Georges St. Pierre with Hardy will headline UFC 111, along with a showdown pitting Frank Mir against the undefeated Shane Carwin for the interim heavyweight championship.

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