For the second time in the promotion's history, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will run two events in the span of one day, presenting UFC Fight Night 43 and 44 this Saturday (June 28, 2014), from Auckland, New Zealand (Fight Pass), and San Antonio, Texas (FOX Sports 1).
Headlined by James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt and Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens, respectively, it's obvious that these are not blockbuster cards. Nonetheless, they should deliver solid mixed martial arts (MMA) action. With cards that will only sell based on its main events, let's take a look at some of the other fights (and fighters) who may be worth watching between these two events, as well as potential bonus/award winners.
Here we go ...
Nate Marquardt (Fighting James Te Huna): Marquardt has been around for quite some time. And it's safe to say he has more tools at his disposal than the rather predictable Te Huna. What he gives up in size he makes up for with agility and technique, which "Shogun" Rua proved to be an effective means to defeating the Aussie slugger. Unless Te Huna gets lucky and clips Marquardt's now-suspect chin, expect The Great" to win this fight impressively.
Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira: These two are pretty similar in many ways. They're terrific grapplers with respectable striking games, and both have uncommonly lanky frames for the 145-pound weight class. Hioki has a definitive edge in top-level experience, but Oliveira is a young, high-paced fighter who will test him whenever possible. From interesting range striking to incredible scrambles and ground exchanges, expect this fight to be a showcase of two very fun fighters.
Robert Whittaker vs. Mike Rhodes: Whittaker, a TUF alum, is showing some pretty nice improvements to his game since coming off the show. His crisp kickboxing is highlighted by a very effective jab, but a flaw in his game is that he still seems a little too hittable. Rhodes is a talented fighter in his own right, with good stand-up as you'd expect from a Roufusport product, as well as solid takedowns. Ultimately, I just think this fight will be one in which both fighters get after one another from the opening bell, more willing to deal out damage than avoid it, which always makes for a fun spectacle.
Neil Magny (Fighting Rodrigo De Lima): Magny is a solid fighter, with a respectably rounded skill set, highlighted by a formidable wrestling game. De Lima's game is submissions, and I just don't see him getting the fight to the mat, and Magny is definitely the better striker of the two. Magny's going to employ a classic "sprawl and brawl" gameplan to wear De Lima down and likely finish him with strikes at some point.
Gian Villante (Fighting Sean O'Connell): O'Connell is neither a good athlete nor a good fighter. Villante is markedly better in every aspect and should bounce back from his loss to Fabio Maldonado with ease here.
And now on to UFC Fight Night 44:
Cub Swanson (Fighting Jeremy Stephens): Stephens can talk all he wants about who has the greater knockout power between the two, but Cub easily has the better track record and is by far the more complete fighter. Cub's striking is slicker than ever these days and after seeing what Yves Edwards did to Stephens, I think Cub replicates that with style here.
Kelvin Gastelum (Fighting Nico Musoke): Gastelum has been very impressive since coming off The Ultimate Fighter, and seems to have a lot of potential as a fighter. His striking has developed very nicely, which is complemented by his excellent wrestling game. Musoke is a big step down from Rick Story, and Gastelum should do away with him easily.
Cezar Ferreira (Fighting Andrew Craig): Craig is your average-everywhere journeyman that is going to give everyone some problems. That said, Ferreira is also very well-rounded, in addition to being more physically imposing and more athletic. I think Craig is going to get bullied here by Ferreira, and quite possibly finished.
Ricardo Lamas (Fighting Hacran Dias): Lamas is a legitimate top-10 featherweight, whereas Dias is still unproven against top fighters. If Nik Lentz could beat Dias, Lamas definitely can, and I think he gets the finish here as his striking and power will give Dias more than he can handle.
Cody Gibson (Fighting Johnny Bedford): Bedford is a solid fighter who can probably test Gibson everywhere, but his submission defense is just awful. Gibson is pretty talented, albeit not a world beater, but I think he catches Bedford in a submission and gets the finish.
Andy Enz (Fighting Marcelo Guimaraes): Guimaraes is awful and hasn't fought in more than one year. Enz is not awful and will be better than Guimaraes in every area. This looks like a clear submission win for the Alaskan.
There you have it.
These cards are not by any means must-watch, but looking at them from top to bottom there should be some solid entertainment throughout. These events take place at the beginning and end of the day, which is odd, but if you're into that sort of thing, you'll have some UFC fights and an unholy amount of advertisements to keep you occupied.
Remember too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 43 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 2:30 a.m. ET, right on through the main card -- also on Fight Pass -- which is slated to begin at 5 a.m. ET.
Enjoy the fights!