One down, one to go.
Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) June double-header began with UFC Fight Night 43: "Te Huna vs. Marquardt," which took place earlier this morning (Sat., June 28, 2014) at The Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.
In the main event, Nate Marquardt returned to winning ways by submitting James Te Huna with a slick armbar in the first round of their Middleweight encounter. "The Great" was controlling the hometown favorite for the majority of their contest on the mat, and even rocked him badly with a knee from the clinch just seconds into the fight.
With the victory, the former Strikeforce Welterweight champion snaps a three-fight losing streak, while finding success in his return to 185 pounds.
Jared Rosholt used his superior wrestling to dominate Soa Palelei in the co-main event, winning their grueling Heavyweight fight by unanimous decision. It wasn't pretty, but "The Big Show" had the upper hand once "Hulk" was on his back, and the American wasn't going to take any risks on the feet.
Charles Oliveira may be in first place when it comes to the "Submission of the Year," tapping Hatsu Hioki with a d'arce choke in the second round of their Featherweight bout. The scrap itself was a pure grappling war that was beautiful to watch, even if some of us were glued to our laptop screens before sunrise.
With that said, it's time to name the biggest winner and biggest loser (and their runner ups) from the event in Auckland.
Biggest Winner -- Charles Oliveira
Out of all the fighters under contract competing in the lower weight classes (Lightweight, Featherweight, Bantamweight and Flyweight), Oliveira has faced arguably the toughest competition out of all his peers for a guy who has never competed for a title.
Statistically, this may not be true, but if you look at who the 24-year-old Brazilian has had to share the cage with, names like Frankie Edgar, Donald Cerrone, Cub Swanson, Jim Miller and Nik Lentz should impress you.
Granted, he hasn't won against any of those combatants, yet submitting a Japanese standout who was never once submitted in his career is quite the accolade. Not only was "do Bronx's" fight against Hioki a treat for grappling fans worldwide, Oliveira leads the pack for the "Submission of the Year" after tapping the former Sengoku and Shooto competitor with a d'arce choke, or an anaconda guillotine, like some pundits are suggesting.
It's Oliveira's sixth win in the Octagon, and they've all come by way of submission. Plus, he's now 4-2 in his last six bouts, which is pretty sweet for him.
Take a bow, young man.
Runner Up -- Nate Marquardt
Praise the Lord.
Since God wanted "The Great" to return to middleweight, you have to feel for Marquardt after tapping Te Huna in the first round, since his career would have been more or less finished with a loss.
He snaps a three-fight losing streak, winning by submission for the first time since 2008. It wasn't exactly a career-defining performance for the American; however, his back was against the wall and he desperately needed the win by any means necessary.
Seriously, it salvaged his career.
Middleweight is definitely the proper weight class for Marquardt, but can he string together wins like these in the near future against his divisional counterparts?
Biggest Loser -- James Te Huna
Losing is bad enough, but when it's in front of your friends, family and a few thousand partisans behind your every move, it stings like hell.
It's obvious Te Huna -- who just lost his third straight fight -- could be on the chopping block. It's somewhat strange to see him go from a co-main event slot against Mauricio Rua at UFC Fight Night 33 in his backyard, to a main event spot versus Marquardt in which he was finished in the first round yet again.
Did he even deserve those high profile fights to begin with?
Being 0-3 with those losses happening in the first round is going to be pretty tough for Te Huna to overcome, and it may be time for the organization to give him his walking papers. He's not the worst fighter on the roster, although maybe UFC can set him up on the Fight Pass "Prelims" of an upcoming card if the promotion still wants to keep him around.
Runner Up -- Hatsu Hioki
There's no way this writer is showing favoritism toward certain fighters, but the Japanese contingent of competitors who found themselves in UFC after their glory years could be a little frustrating for the diehard fans.
Add Hioki to the list of guys who were destined to make an impact on American soil, but never quite got the ball rolling once they stepped foot inside the Octagon (Takanori Gomi, Norifumi Yamamoto and Yoshihiro Akiyama all come to mind, among others).
It's possible Hioki, who wasn't exactly at risk of losing the fight against the Brazilian until he was submitted, will get cut from the promotion after suffering his third straight defeat.
Being 1-4 in your last five really isn't a good thing, even if the promotion is planning to invade your homeland and could use your services.
For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 43: "Te Huna vs. Marquardt," including highlights, recaps and more, click here.