For the second time in a calendar month, the UFC will be hosting two events in one day, when UFC Fight Nights 43 and 44 take place on Saturday. While the latter will be televised, will take place in the United States, and features some relevant fights, Fight Night 43 features one fight with future contender implications.
The rest of the main card features fights where the loser should get cut, including the main event. If there was any more blatant way for the UFC to persuade people to not subscribe to Fight Pass, I’m not sure what it is.
I’ve been on a hot streak with my picks lately, going a combined 19-3 over the past two UFC events, upping my overall record to 131-52-1, with a no contest. This card, however, will create some problems. Almost every fight is a pick ’em, so anything can happen.
The prelims will begin around 1:30 a.m. Central time, while the main card will likely begin around 4:00 a.m. Hopefully, the card is a good one.
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass, 2:30/1:30 a.m. CT)
Gian Villante (11-5) vs. Sean O’Connell (15-5)
Up first is a light heavyweight battle in which the loser, well, might be out of the promotion. Villante has lost two of his last three, all in the UFC. O’Connell lost his debut to Ryan Jimmo via tko, making Jimmo actually look exciting for just the second time in the Canadian’s UFC career. O’Connell was on a six-fight winning streak prior to the loss, but I think he’ll lose this one. Prediction: Villante via unanimous decision.
Daniel Hooker (10-4) vs. Ian Entwistle (8-1)
Up net, the hometown hero Daniel Hooker looks to make his UFC debut against another debutante, the British Entwistle. Both guys are finishers on nice win streaks, with Entwistle being a submission specialist on a four fight streak, as nine-time finishing victor Hooker can get it done in any which way. Ultimately, I’ll go with the Brit, since he can pull off heel hooks. Prediction: Entwistle via heel hook, round 2.
Neil Magny (10-3) vs. Rodrigo de Lima (8-1-1)
Grinding wrestler and TUF 16 alum Neil Magny goes into New Zealand to face Brazilian submission specialist Rodrigo de Lima up next. Magny is far from exciting, but he’s the lone bright spot from arguably the worst season in Ultimate Fighter history. I always think he’ll lose, but I wind up picking him, and he wins. I don’t know anyone who thinks Lima will win.
That said, I can’t help but pick de Lima. I think he’ll somehow find a way to lock in a submission in this one. I don’t know how, but I’m going for it. Prediction: de Lima via submission, round 3.
Vic Krujic (6-3) vs. Chris Indich (5-2)
Up next is another welterweight matchup, featuring two guys who took part in the relatively “meh” TUF Nations. Both looked awful in their UFC debuts, and it’s surprising that either was allowed to fight for the promotion again. Alas, I guess that’s to be expected, when the main event of the card features two fighters on losing streaks. Neither guy is anything special, and I’m not a fan of either one. This one is a coin flip, so I’ll just go with Indich, since he isn’t the one who’s lost three of his last four. Prediction: Indich via boring decision.
Richie Vaculik (9-2) vs Roldan Sangcha’an (4-0)
Next up is another fight that’s hard to care about, if you haven’t seen Roldan’s spectacular head kick against Alsan Toktarbaev from December 2012. For that reason alone, I’ll pick him. Prediction: Sangcha’an via tko, round 2.
Dashon Johnson (9-0) vs. Jake Matthews (5-0)
Undefeated lightweights Jake Matthews and Dashon Johnson take the stage in the final preliminary bout of the card. Each guy is a finisher, having gone to decision just once apiece. Matthews was a TUF Nations competitor, while Johnson hasn’t fought anyone of note, and seems cocky. I think he’ll leave himself exposed here, and Matthews will capitalize. Prediction: Matthews via submission, round 2.
Main card (5/4 a.m. CT)
Robert Whittaker (11-4) vs. Mike Rhodes (6-2)
In the opening fight of the main card, TUF Smashes welterweight winner Robert Whittaker will aim to stop a two-fight losing streak against former RFA Welterweight champ Mike Rhodes. Whittaker is a black belt in both Karate and Hapkido, meaning he should be well rounded and elite. Unfortunately, his latest octagon performances have reflected the exact opposite.
As for Rhodes, well, the guy is solid. He may have lost his UFC debut to George Sullivan back in January, but aside from a previous loss to the vicious Brandon Thatch, the guy has been pretty good. Unfortunately, I think he got called up too early. He hasn’t faced the competition Whittaker has and, unlike Whittaker, I don’t think Rhodes is ready for the big show just yet.
A loss may send him back to regional competition, but a return to RFA would be something I’d love to see. There, he’d be able to hone his skills further, while utilizing his UFC experience to maximize his potential, before soon returning the the UFC. Prediction: Whittaker via unanimous decision.
Hatsu Hioki (27-7-2) vs.Charles Oliveira (17-4, 1NC)
Finally, a matchup where the casual fan may actually have heard of both fighters! Each guy is in a similar position, in a variety of ways. Hioki is looking to avoid losing his fourth fight in five tries, while Oliveira is trying to avoid losing three of his last four. Both guys won their last fight, each is a Brazilian Jit Jutsu black belt, both have double digit submission victories, and each has been fighting in the UFC for several years.
Ever since his first UFC fight, Hioki has always gone the distance. Meanwhile, Oliveira has only gone the distance twice in his MMA career. Hioki has gotten much slower over the years, and while I am tempted to pick him, I won’t. Prediction: Oliveira via unanimous decision.
Soa Palelei (21-3) vs. Jared Rosholt (10-1)
In the card’s co-main event, fans will be treated to the closest fight between contenders that the card has to offer. Both fighters put forth opposing styles, as Rosholt is a wrestler who has won both of his UFC fights via unanimous decision. Meanwhile, Palelei is a BJJ black belt with 17 knockout wins, and has knocked out all three of his opponents in his second UFC stint. He’s never gone to decision, and while Rosholt will do all he can to break that trend, I see him on the canvas, unconscious. Prediction: Palelei via tko, round 1.
Nate Marquardt (32-13-2) vs. James te Huna (16-7)
In the night’s main event, we have a guy who is moving up to middleweight after losing three straight welterweight bouts (Marquardt) facing a New Zealander that’s dropping to middleweight after back to back losses at light heavyweight (te Huna). Marquardt is a finisher, who has won nine times via knockout, and has utilized his second degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to amass 15 submission wins.
Meanwhile, te Huna has won 10 times via knockout, but has lost five times via submission. I like him and am not a fan of Marquardt, but that concerns me. However, Marquardt is a steroid abuser who has lost his last two fights via knockout, and is smaller. That is reason enough to cause me to pick against him. Prediction: te Huna via tko, round 2.