Nate Marquardt and James Te Huna will make a piece of inauspicious history on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 43.
According to statistical wizard Mike Bohn at MMAJunkie.com, Te Huna vs. Marquardt will be the first UFC main event ever to feature two fighters coming off back-to-back losses in the promotion.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is probably not one the MMA bards will immortalize in song and story.
The last time we saw Te Huna he was being sacrificed at the altar of Shogun Rua, playing the role of stepping stone at a Fight Night event in Australia, so Rua could go on to lose a rematch against Dan Henderson at a Fight Night event in Brazil. Before that, he fought Glover Teixeira as an injury replacement for Ryan Bader, suffering a first-round submission loss to the eventual light heavyweight No. 1 contender.
For Marquardt, things have been even worse. Formerly a member of the middleweight elite, the 35-year-old has likely lapsed into permanent journeyman status after dropping three straight since July 2012. He fumbled his Strikeforce welterweight title in an upset loss to Tarec Saffiedine in Jan. 2013 and—upon returning to the UFC after his TRT-related firing in 2011—suffered disastrous first-round knockouts at the hands of Jake Ellenberger and Hector Lombard.
With Marquardt on the verge of the golden sombrero and Te Huna at risk of conceding his third straight loss, conventional wisdom says whoever loses this one is probably going to get cut. Even in a new reality where the UFC isn’t as liberal with the pink slips as it used to be—it needs warm bodies to staff all these Fight Nights, after all—it’s tough to imagine either of these guys remaining viable after another consecutive defeat.
As my colleague Ben Fowlkes noted on this week’s Co-Main Event Podcast, all of this sends a fairly murky message. What are we to make of a “main event” fight where the loser could be immediately (and justifiably) fired? Have we finally stretched the term as far as it can go? And with nine other fights on this card of lesser quality, what’s the impetus for even the most hardcore fan to tune in?
Clearly, Americans won’t be logging-on in droves to check out an event scheduled to run between 2-7 a.m. ET. New Zealanders who’ve waited years for the UFC to make a pit stop in their little corner of the earth will gladly turn out to support their countryman in Te Huna. Still, hardcore fight fans of any nationality should recognize this as a bit of an underwhelming effort for the Octagon’s first trip to Kiwi country.
For Marquardt and Te Huna, perhaps the one saving grace may be that none of their most recent losses took place in the 185-pound division. Te Huna is cutting to middleweight after making all eight of his previous UFC appearances at light heavyweight. Marquardt, meanwhile, returns to 185 for the first time since his UFC 128 win over Dan Miller.
He told Bohn this week that's what God wanted him to do.
If Te Huna can defeat Marquardt, then maybe he can make a modest run in his new division. A win over a guy with such a prolonged losing streak wouldn’t vault the 32-year-old to the top of any prospect lists, but it would give him some legs. While a Marquardt victory would likely be viewed as somewhat less meaningful, it would obviously be better for him than the alternative.
And that—speaking of stretching things as far as we possibly can—is about all that can be said for potential positive stakes in this fight.
Chances are, the negative stakes far outweigh them. Whoever comes out on the wrong end of this bit of history will likely end up singing a pretty sad song.