This Saturday (June 28, 2014), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights James Te Huna and Nate Marquardt will throw down in the main event of UFC Fight Night 43, airing live on Fight Pass from Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.
Both fighters are badly in need of a win. Te Huna was last seen losing a vicious knockout at the hands of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC Fight Night 33 in December 2013. Before that, the New Zealand native tapped out to a Glover Teixeira guillotine at UFC 160.
He'll make his way down to middleweight in an effort to reinvent his career, and he'll face another skidding opponent who is returning to the weight class.
Marquardt has dropped three consecutive mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts, his most recent loss a first round knockout to Hector Lombard at UFC 166. Fizzling challenger Jake Ellenberger also put his lights out with ease at UFC 158, proving that "The Great" is a shell of his former self.
The stakes couldn't be any higher for both fighters in New Zealand, because both of their jobs are probably on the line.
It's a bit hard to understand why this fight has been booked as a main event, but let's take at the keys to victory for Te Huna vs. Marquardt:
James Te Huna
Record: 16-7 overall, 5-3 UFC
Key Wins: Ryan Jimmo (UFC on Fuel TV 7), Joey Beltran (UFC on Fuel TV 4), Anthony Perosh (Cage Fighting Championships 10)
Key Losses: Glover Teixeira (UFC 160), Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 33), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 127)
Keys to Victory: With 10 knockouts in 16 wins, Te Huna is a thunderous striker. He's also proven to have an iron chin, the only knockout loss of his career coming to Rua.
With Marquardt absorbing knockouts left and right, the stage is set for Te Huna to score a big finish in front of his hometown fans. He'll come out slugging from the opening bell, and he should have a noticeable power advantage over "The Great."
He just can't let the pressure of fighting in a main event in his own backyard get to him. If he does, any temporary lapse could see him taken to the ground by accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Marquardt.
If and when that happens, Te Huna will be out of his element. Five of his seven total losses have come by way of tapout, and Marquardt has submitted a lofty 15 foes. That means Te Huna has to avoid going to the ground at all costs here.
He isn't exactly known for his grappling, but the fact that he's used to fighting at light heavyweight should give him some extra strength to help stave off any takedown attempts.
If Te Huna can keep this fight standing and land a few bombs, Marquardt will be ripe for the pickings.
Record: 32-13-2 overall, 11-7 UFC
Key Wins: Tyron Woodley (Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy) Demian Maia (UFC 102), Rousimar Palhares (UFC Fight Night 22), Martin Kampmann (UFC 88), Jeremy Horn (UFC 81)
Key Losses: Anderson Silva (UFC 73), Chael Sonnen (UFC 102), Yushin Okami (UFC 122), Hector Lombard (UFC 166), Jake Ellenberger (UFC 158), Tarec Saffiedine (Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine)
Keys to Victory: Marquardt is a well-traveled combatant who has finished 24 foes throughout his 15-year career. While he's proven that he can unleash some of the most devastating combos the sport has ever seen, he doesn't have the extra-added benefit of TRT like he did against Woodley.
His normally stalwart striking defense has hit a landslide in recent bouts, but that may be a product of his overall motivation. He doesn't seem to have the hunger for fighting that he once did, and if you don't want to be in the Octagon, you're probably going to get knocked out.
Marquardt can silence a ton of his critics by defeating Te Huna in hostile territory, and his notable ground skills are going to be the best way to accomplish that. It's no secret that Te Huna is a knockout artist who will bring a ton of power to the cage. Tying him up with a heavy dose of clinch work and takedown attempts will go far in neutralizing his punches.
Marquardt will need to fight much more cautiously on the feet. Rushing in to trade blows with Te Huna isn't likely to end well. If he was knocked out in the first round by Lombard and Ellenberger, a huge opponent like Te Huna can do the same damage, if not more.
Gaining an edge on the ground and looking for a submission is Marquardt's way back to the win column.
Bottom Line from Auckland: The bottom line for this fight is that it may be the most irrelevant main event we've ever seen "grace" a UFC card. That may be a bit of harsh criticism, but since when did two fighters who are 0-5 in their last five qualify for a main event?
In any case, Te Huna will be the fan favorite and will be focused on making a statement. If Marquardt comes out fighting like he has recently, then that might not take long to unfold.
But if Marquardt can show some glimpses of what earned him his "Great" nickname, he should be able to out-grapple Te Huna and make this fight his. He's relied far too much on his stand-up lately and it's failed him. It's time for him to go back to his ground game, especially against a striker like Te Huna.
With both fighters potentially facing their release with a loss, the stakes couldn't be higher for either one. If Te Huna can score a big knockout in his first bout at middleweight, he could earn a decent fight his next time out.
However, with Marquardt then having lost four straight, it won't be that impressive of a feather in his cap. Regardless, the winner will be miles away from true contention, making this a rather anticlimactic main event.
Still, it should end with a finish either way, so enjoy the fight.
UFC Fight Night 43's main event is a must-win situation for James Te Huna and Nate Marquardt. Which struggling competitor will regain some much-needed momentum?