The UFC makes its debut in New Zealand with a fight card headlined by two fighters desperately needing a win, as the main event is the first time in UFC history both fighters are coming off of back-to-back losses (three in a row for Marquardt). The card also features a top-flight featherweight clash along with an assortment of regional talent.
Will Marquardt be able to get back on the winning track or is Te Huna ready to make his mark in his new home of middleweight? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: UFC Fight Night 43 (UFC Fight Night: Te Huna vs. Marquardt)
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland, New Zealand
When: Saturday, the six-fight preliminary Fight Pass card starts at 2:30 a.m. ET and the four-fight Fight Pass main card starts at 5 a.m.
This is probably a closer fight than the odds have it, which as of the time of this writing have Te Huna as the clear favorite. I'm going to agree with the odds makers, although maybe not for the reasons they would. For me, Marquardt is going back up in weight at a time when Te Huna is going down, which means he likely won't have the physical advantages. Marquardt is the better technician, but is longer in the tooth in the game. His reflexes aren't what they once were and, more troublesome, his ability to take a shot is compromised. I can see a case where Marquardt is winning the fight, right up until the moment where he's not. Te Huna will likely be too big, too fresh for Marquardt to overcome.
Pick: Te Huna
I'm not sure how much one can accurately predict what's going to happen in this sort of fight. Both fighters have decent ability in certain aspects of their game - Rosholt in wrestling, Palelei in ground and pound - but both also have a ton of liabilities. Add in the heighented chaos factor heavyweights bring with their power and fatigue and pinpointing one direction here becomes difficult. Rosholt could over commit on a takedown and eat it or Palelei could wilt under the relentless pressure of Rosholt. I'm going to side with the wrestler, but I don't have a ton of confidence about it.
By far, this is the best fight on the card. It's not even a contest. These two are elite fighters still capable of giving the very best in their division a hard time. This one also has decent upset potential. Oliveira can easily match Hioki's jiu-jitsu and I don't suspect he'll spend a lot of time on the bottom, although he might choose to because he's so capable there. I give Oliveira the striking advantage and in the clinch insofar as striking is concerned, but Hioki gets the nod there if we're measuring the clinch as a conduit to control for the takedown. In the end, Oliveira probably has more tools to win, but it'll be up to the Brazilian to avoid being controlled for too long.
This is actually a really close fight between two talented fighters who could still benefit from additional time on the regional circuit. That said, Whittaker is the more well-rounded and proactive of the two, but leaves all sorts of openings for a counter fighter. Rhodes looked terrible in his UFC debut, which is as due as much to inexperience as it was the tremendous weight cut from short notice. Rhodes, though, is a good striker and has enough defensive fundamentals to stymie Whittaker. I'm not sure he'll get a stoppage, but I do believe he can take two of three rounds. I'll go with the upset.
From the preliminary card: