UFC Fight Nights 43 and 44: A Complete Guide to the Cards

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterJune 23, 2014

UFC Fight Nights 43 and 44: A Complete Guide to the Cards

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    Cub Swanson
    Cub SwansonDavid Becker/Associated Press

    The demand was too great. The UFC, quite simply, had no choice. The fan outcry was too long, too loud. If the UFC didn't start staging two cards in one day every so often, the global consumer base was going to revolt, atrophy, die or worse.

    Welcome to the brave new world. UFC Fight Night 41 and The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 finale, both held on May 31, were the Lewis and Clark of this subgenre. Let us rejoice in these pioneers and be glad in them.

    Now comes a new chapter, lumbering along in these giant wagon ruts. This Saturday, you have both UFC Fight Night 43, broadcasting early in the morning from New Zealand and headlined by James Te Huna and Nate Marquardt, and UFC Fight Night 44, going down that night and topped by heavy-hitting featherweights Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens.

    Maybe you're one of those people left cold on this. I guess that's OK. It's OK that you don't understand global marketing. As Dana White says, I suppose you're free not to watch. And if you think that's a strange thing for a businessperson to say, well, now you're just being a dummy.

    I was talking about something. Right. Here's a breakdown of both cards. Contained herein are information capsules, predictions and viewing coordinates for each and every main card contest. Basic info is also provided for both undercards, if you're a masochist like that. Please enjoy.

UFC Fight Night 43 Undercard Info

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    Neil Magny
    Neil MagnyUSA TODAY Sports

    Airing on: UFC Fight Pass
    Start time: 2:30 a.m. ET 

    Lightweight: Jake Matthews vs. Dashon Johnson

    Flyweight: Richie Vaculik vs. Roldan Sangcha-an

    Welterweight: Chris Indich vs. Vik Grujic

    Welterweight: Neil Magny vs. Rodrigo Goiana de Lima

    Featherweight: Dan Hooker vs. Ian Entwistle

    Light heavyweight: Gian Villante vs. Sean O'Connell

Robert Whittaker vs. Mike Rhodes

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    Robert Whittaker
    Robert WhittakerUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Robert Whittaker (11-4), Mike Rhodes (6-2)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Gonna be a lot of red meat in this fight. Lots of salt of the Earth here. Nourishing? Perhaps. Toothsome? Oh, very much so. But on the downside, a pretty bland plating may be in the offing.

    Whittaker goes for the top control and the ground-and-pound. Rhodes is more of a wrestler-boxer, with emphasis typically on the boxing, but he has cardio and athleticism issues.

    He will also need to be a lot more aggressive here than he was in his UFC debut, a decision loss to George Sullivan.

    I'll go with the more proven fighter in Whittaker. Either way, this one probably won't be the kind of contest about which great ballads are written, even if it makes for a tasty main card kickoff.

    Prediction: Whittaker, unanimous decision

Hatsu Hioki vs. Charles Oliveira

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    Charles Oliveira
    Charles OliveiraUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Hatsu Hioki (27-7-2), Charles Oliveira (17-4) 
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Hioki was long ago forcibly separated from the hype that accompanied the migration from his glory days in Japan to the big, bad UFC. That was 2011, and the grinder, now 30, has since ground himself into a 3-3 gatekeeper type.

    Oliveira has been a little up and down, but he should have the toughness and skill set to survive protracted ground struggles and damage Hioki from distance, even if a finish is all but impossible.

    Prediction: Oliveira, unanimous decision

Soa Palelei vs. Jared Rosholt

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    Soa Palelei
    Soa PaleleiUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Heavyweight
    Records: Soa Palelei (21-3), Jared Rosholt (10-1)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Palelei has proved to be a hard-hitting and likable heavyweight. He hasn't proved much else, though. Raw power he has in spades, as evidenced once again by that short-shot knockout (and I'm-stronger-than-you submission defense) against Ruan Potts. But things such as footwork, fight acumen and grappling are still works in progress. 

    On paper, that won't fly against Rosholt, who provides the stiff wrestling test Palelei detractors have long desired.

    But here's the rub: Rosholt isn't exactly a finished product either, at least in an MMA context. He's very strong, but Palelei is stronger. Fighting in friendly territory, Palelei will hulk up on Rosholt, power out of clinches and find a way to land something, anything, on Rosholt's dome. It doesn't take much.

    Prediction: Palelei, TKO, Rd. 2

James Te Huna vs. Nate Marquardt

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    James Te Huna
    James Te HunaJulie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Division: Middleweight
    Records: James Te Huna (16-7), Nate Marquardt (32-13-2)
    See it on: UFC Fight Pass (subscription required)

    Te Huna has heart and hits like a truck. But like Palelei, he lacks a full arsenal, with submission and takedown defense being particular Achilles' heels.

    Marquardt, just doesn't seem like the right opponent to exploit those deficiencies. In fact, he seems slightly teed up to spring the New Zealand crowd into a frenzy. 

    Once a title challenger, Marquardt has lost three straight, his last two by knockout. He just hasn't been the same guy since being released from the UFC in 2011 for elevated testosterone. It could simply be a matter of an older fighter (Marquardt is 35 with 47 pro fights under his belt) losing his chin, though his grappling also hasn't appeared as sharp as it once did.

    Either way, Te Huna should get inside with impunity and unleash some powerful combinations, perhaps closing the curtain with one of those thunderbolt uppercuts. Could this be Marquardt's last fight as a pro?

    Prediction: Te Huna, KO, Rd. 2

UFC Fight Night 44 Undercard Info

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    Johnny Bedford
    Johnny BedfordGregory Payan/Associated Press

    Airing on: UFC Fight Pass (opening bout only), Fox Sports 1
    Start time: 7 p.m. ET

    Lightweight: Colton Smith vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira

    Bantamweight: Johnny Bedford vs. Cody Gibson

    Middleweight: Marcelo Guimaraes vs. Andy Enz

    Flyweight: Ray Borg vs. Shane Howell

    Heavyweight: Oleksiy Oliynyk vs. Anthony Hamilton 

Joe Ellenberger vs. James Moontasri

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    Division: Lightweight
    Records: Joe Ellenberger (14-1), James Moontasri (7-1)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    Jeebus, Mimi and JoJo. It seems like Ellenberger has been waiting to make his UFC entrance for half his natural life. Originally set to debut all the way back in 2009, he was derailed by an extremely rare blood disorder for several years.

    Thankfully, he's in a better place now. But the bad professional luck continues unabated. A last-minute injury to his opponent scuttled his April bout at UFC 172. So he must have been sweating bullets last week when yet another opponent bowed out.

    Luckily, for a change, the UFC found a replacement in Moontasri, and the show goes on. If he can get through fight week without walking under a ladder or what not, Ellenberger should have a win on his hands. Joe is more well-rounded (if less powerful) than twin brother Jake, and you'd think he'll do whatever he needs to do to get that W in his long-awaited debut.

    Prediction: Ellenberger, unanimous decision

Clint Hester vs. Antonio Braga Neto

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    Clint Hester
    Clint HesterUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Clint Hester (10-3), Antonio Braga Neto (9-1)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    No way am I picking against Antonio Braga Neto. He might hear about it and come tear my leg off at the knee. That's not something I want, bro. I use my legs every single day.

    Long a fixture on prospect radars, the world jiu-jitsu champion converted his MMA potential to kinetic energy with no wasted motion, finishing his UFC debut the same way he wrapped up his previous fight: first-round kneebar.

    That was in 2013. More than one year later, he's having his first fight on U.S. soil. The head-hunting Hester is a tough test, but Neto should have the acumen to pass it, especially when you consider that two of Hester's three pro losses came by way of tapout.

    Prediction: Braga Neto, submission, Rd. 1

Ricardo Lamas vs. Hacran Dias

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    Ricardo Lamas
    Ricardo LamasDavid Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Ricardo Lamas (13-3), Hacran Dias (21-2-1)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    In February, Lamas was banished to the back of a long line of vanquished featherweight prospects when champ and pound-for-pound claimant Jose Aldo lit him up like a Hallow's Eve pinball machine for 25 masterful minutes.

    That's part of the reason Lamas is back in the middle of the pack on a cable main card. But losing to Aldo does not a jobber create.

    Lamas still has the strength and surprisingly slick mat game to get past Dias, a talented veteran who was bullied in his last outing versus Nik Lentz. As it happens, bullying is Lamas' specialty.

    Prediction: Lamas, unanimous decision

Cezar Ferreira vs. Andrew Craig

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    Andrew Craig
    Andrew CraigJeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Division: Middleweight
    Records: Cezar Ferreira (7-3), Andrew Craig (9-2)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    This one seems destined for fireworks. Both of these guys wade into the breach and sling nasty stuff, mixing big punches and big kicks to big effect.

    Before you get too lathered up, though, one caveat: This could become a grinding stalemate. That's how "Mutante" beat Daniel Sarafian, and it's how Craig beat Chris Leben, among others. They know how to set up and score takedowns and how to maximize damage and control on the canvas or along the fence.

    For the sake of everyone's entertainment prospects, let's assume a slugfest, even if neither direction would be a surprise. Here's guessing Mutante overextends himself with something a little too fancy and falls victim to Craig's blue-collar power.

    Prediction: Craig, TKO, Rd. 2

Kelvin Gastelum vs. Nicholas Musoke

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    Kelvin Gastelum
    Kelvin GastelumUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Welterweight
    Records: Kelvin Gastelum (8-0), Nicholas Musoke (12-2)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    Give it up for Mini-Cain. He is "The Underdog" no more.

    Gastelum's new moniker is gaining traction. And it's not just because either man could pass for Ernie's roommate. Like heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez, Gastelum is a ground-and-pound guy first, with all of it pivoting off steamroller takedowns.

    But there's some calculating (if not picturesque) stand-up in there too. That, surprisingly, was Mini-Cain's weapon of choice when he vanquished aggressive striker Rick Story in March.

    No one's saying Gastelum is contender material or anything like that, but that zero at the end of his record is getting harder to ignore.

    Musoke is a nice fighter; the well-rounded Swede is 2-0 in the UFC and last lost in 2011. But he won't have what it takes to handle Mini-Cain. He'll go down and stay down like the headpin of a dysfunctional bowling lane. Boo-ya.

    Prediction: Gastelum, unanimous decision

Cub Swanson vs. Jeremy Stephens

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    Jeremy Stephens
    Jeremy StephensUSA TODAY Sports

    Division: Featherweight
    Records: Cub Swanson (20-5), Jeremy Stephens (23-9)
    See it on: Fox Sports 1

    You may want to batten down the hatches for this one.

    Both men are fearsome, well-honed violence machines, and both are on the best streaks of their careers.

    Swanson has five straight wins over guys such as Dennis Siver and Dustin Poirier. Stephens is a man reborn after dropping to 145 pounds, where he's 3-0 with one of the best knockouts of 2013, that 40-second head-kick shuttering of Rony Jason.

    The two men own 23 knockout wins between them, but the difference here might emerge in the ground game. Swanson has better submission and control tools. But in defeating Darren Elkins in January, Stephens displayed stellar takedown defense, turning back all nine of Elkins' attempts, according to UFC stats provider FightMetric.

    You know what? If Stephens can stuff Elkins that way, it stands to reason he can do the same to Swanson. If that holds true, the favorite better watch out. While standing, both men are bombers at heart, but Stephens may just have the sharper combos. He definitely has more power, what with that lethal right hand and all.  

    I talked myself into something as I wrote this. I started out leaning toward Swanson, but now I am thinking the other way. Swanson is extremely tough, but he may very well be worse for wear after these five rounds. We have a new contender. Sound the alarms.

    Prediction: Stephens, unanimous decision

    Scott Harris writes about MMA and other topics for Bleacher Report and other places. He also likes to do all this Twitter. Follow him there if you feel so inclined.