There are far bigger, more relevant fighters to main event a mixed martial arts card than James Te Huna and Nate "The Great" Marquardt. However, when it comes to sheer desperation, Te Huna and Marquardt should have plenty.
Both men are on a losing streak and can ill-afford another loss. That dynamic could make the feature bout of UFC Fight Night 43 in New Zealand a smashing affair. This card will be exclusively broadcast Saturday, June 28, on UFC Fight Pass. Click here for details.
UFC Fight Night 44 will take place later in the day from San Antonio.
Marquardt has dropped three fights in a row, and that includes back-to-back first-round KO defeats at the hands of Hector Lombard and Jake Ellenberger.
Te Huna has lost two in a row himself. Most recently, he was knocked out by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in Dec. 2013. In the fight before that, he was submitted by Glover Teixeira.
Te Huna is a native of New Zealand, and he talked about how much of an honor it will be to main event a card in his homeland.
Te Huna told MMA Kanvas: "For me it's an honour to represent my country and headline the card. I dreamed about this when I was a kid, and for me to fulfill these dreams is the best."
While neither man has fallen to flimsy competition, the name of the game is winning. Neither of them have been accomplishing that goal of late. Something has to give on Saturday—unless there's a draw, of course. That would likely be terrible for fans.
Let's hope for a winner. Here's a look at the entire card, viewing information and predictions.
Deeper analysis into the picks for the top main card bouts is below.
|Prelims on UFC Fight Pass at 2:30 a.m. ET|
|Gian Villante vs. Sean O'Connell||Light Heavyweight||O'Connell by TKO|
|Dan Hooker vs. Ian Entwistle||Featherweight||Entwistle by submission|
|Neil Magny vs. Rodrigo de Lima||Welterweight||de Lima by decision|
|Chris Indich vs. Vik Grujic||Welterweight||Indich by submission|
|Richie Vaculik vs. Roldan Sangcha-an||Flyweight||Vaculik by decision|
|Jake Matthews vs. Dashon Johnson||Lightweight||Johnson by KO|
|Main Card on UFC Fight Pass at 5 a.m. ET|
|Robert Whittaker vs. Mike Rhodes||Welterweight||Whittaker by decision|
|Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira||Featherweight||Oliveira by submission|
|Soa Palelei vs. Jared Rosholt||Heavyweight||Palelei by TKO|
|James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt||Light Heavyweight||Te Huna by TKO|
Card per UFC.com, picks by Brian Mazique
Charles Oliveira vs. Hatsu Hioki
As prospects 25 and under go in the UFC, few have a brighter future in the sport than Oliveira. He appears to get better with each fight. His long arms have helped to augment his budding striking skills, and that only complements his superb ground game.
The UFC obviously recognizes and appreciates Oliveira's talent and potential. Dann Stupp and Christian Stein of MMA Junkie write:
During a 10-fight UFC career, the 24-year-old has collected six fight-night bonuses worth $295,000. Additionally, even after a two-fight skid, he got a main-card slot at the recent UFC Fight Night 36 event, where he submitted Andy Ogle earlier this year.
Against Hioki, Oliveira will be facing another hungry fighter. Hioki snapped a three-fight losing streak with a unanimous-decision win over Ivan Menjivar in March. Both Hioki and Oliveira will be looking to establish momentum.
Oliveira won't have the same height advantage he enjoys over most featherweights. In fact, Hioki is listed at one inch taller by UFC.com. Still, Oliveira's overall repertoire will prove too much for Hioki.
Oliveira is adept at using strikes to set up trips and takedowns. Once the fight goes to the ground, few can match him there. Oliveira will win by submission.
Soa "The Hulk" Palelei vs. Jared Rosholt
From the looks of the images Palelei has been posting on Twitter, he'll be in the best shape he's ever been in for a UFC bout on Saturday.
No one would ever doubt The Hulk's strength or ground-and-pound prowess, but his conditioning has been suspect in the past. If he's in great shape, he could be a real force in the heavyweight division. How he handles Rosholt will give fans the first indication of how serious a contender Palelei is.
Rosholt has a solid record overall, and he's undefeated in two UFC bouts, but it's hard to go against a fit Palelei—especially in front of his home crowd. Hulk will smash his way to a first-round TKO.
James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt
At 35 years old, Marquardt could be making his last stand in the sport. Having lost three straight, he has to be dangling by a thread as it pertains to release from the promotion.
Te Huna, who is also not the most secure talent in the UFC, will nudge Marquardt over the edge. With faster hands and harder punches, Te Huna will win what figures to be an exciting stand-up clash.
Marquardt's best approach will be to take the fight to the ground, but that could be easier said than done. In limited UFC action, Te Huna has thwarted 66 percent of the attempts to take him down.
Because he knows Marquardt will likely try to turn the bout into a grappling contest, Te Huna should be ready.
B/R's Sean Smith chimes in:
Neither man has shown an overly sturdy chin lately, and they have nearly identical striking stats, with both fighters landing 52 percent of their strikes thrown and absorbing 46 percent of opponent attempts. So, the advantage has to go to the harder hitter, which one would have to think should be Te Huna, given that he's coming down from 205 pounds.
Marquardt has faced and defeated some of the best fighters in his era, but it's about time to call it a career.
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