Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Nate Marquardt and James Te Huna faced off in the main event of UFC Fight Night 43 yesterday (Sat., June 28, 2014) from The Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.
To watch full fight video highlights for Marquardt vs. Te Huna click here.
With five consecutive mixed martial arts (MMA) losses between them, both veterans may have been fighting for their jobs. Marquardt came in off of two knockout losses to welterweight sluggers Hector Lombard and Jake Ellenberger. "The Great" was looking like a shell of his former self, so he returned middleweight to face Te Huna in hostile territory.
The New Zealand-born Te Huna had the full support of his home crowd behind him, and he needed every bit of it after cutting down to 185 pounds following finish losses to top-level light heavyweights Glover Teixeira and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
With the home field advantage and a proposed size and strength advantage, the stage was set for Te Huna to rebound in a big way. Unfortunately for him, however, Marquardt brought back some of his old tricks to right the ship with an impressive win.
Not surprisingly, the crowd reached a feverish pitch for their countryman Te Huna, who appeared the much bigger fighter.
The fight began with a right hand and a kick from Marquardt. Te Huna pressed forward aggressively but was met with another kick. Marquardt dropped Te Huna with a huge knee, and then reversed a big takedown attempt to land in top position on the mat.
He rained down with sharp elbows and punches, opening up Te Huna and effectively shutting him down. The crowd grew restless and booed before Marquardt got back up and went to the clinch.
Te Huna countered with a flurry of strong uppercuts, backing up Marquardt on the fence. "The Great" tied up Te Huna and slammed him to the mat to land in the mount. That signaled the beginning of the end, as Marquardt used his grappling skills to lock on a slick belly-down armbar when Te Huna tried to escape, earning the tap towards the very end of the first round.
It was an impressive and telling performance from Marquardt in New Zealand. He did exactly what he had to do, using his Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree to submit a fighter who had tapped in five out of his seven prior losses. "The Great" looked just that in his return to middleweight, and he could play the spoiler for some up-and-coming middleweights.
A bout against Francis Carmont, who recently lost to CB Dollaway at May's UFC Fight Night 41, could make sense for Marquardt, as would a fight against the winner of UFC Fight Night 44's Cezar Ferreira vs. Andrew Craig showdown.
At 35 years old and with the UFC middleweight division growing increasingly talented, his days as true title contender are most likely over.
The loss is extremely disheartening for Te Huna. With three straight finish losses, the New Zealander may see his release from UFC. He was supposed to have a size and strength advantage over Marquardt, and while he may have, he did sparingly little with it save for a late round flurry of uppercuts. His submission defense clearly has to improve drastically if he wants to fight his way back into the Octagon.
The bipolar Nate Marquardt made a successful re-debut at middleweight by submitting James Te Huna in dramatic fashion. What next for the mercurial "Great?"