UFC Fight Nights 43 and 44 Results: The Real Winners and Losers
Did you complete the two-step?
It started at 2:30 a.m. Eastern Saturday morning and didn't end until the wee hours of Sunday morning. It spanned 7,200 miles, from the subtropical climes of Auckland, New Zealand, to the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas.
It wasn't the first time the UFC staged two cards in a day, and it won't be the last. The MMA viewing market will ultimately determine whether this experiment has legs. In the meantime, let's watch some freakin' fights, huh?
Or at least read about them later and say we watched them. I, your intrepid MMA reporter, ran that marathon, watching both cards (with plentiful naps in between) and culling the day's best and worst.
In New Zealand, the highly grizzled Nate Marquardt took on heavy-hitting local favorite James Te Huna. Marquardt has taken plenty of hits in his career, including two bad knockout blows in his past two engagements. Could his chin hold up?
In San Antonio, two of the featherweight division's heaviest hitters, Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens, did battle with the next title shot very likely on the line.
As always, the stat lines only reveal so much. These are Saturday's real winners and losers, from Down Under up to the U.S. of A. We also have full results from both cards at the end of the slideshow for your convenience and enjoyment.
Let's get it on.
Winner: Cub Swanson
Cub Swanson might have earned that coveted featherweight title shot Saturday night.
Jeremy Stephens was game, but Swanson was gamer. Swanson's a fighter in full these days, and he showed throughout that sharp boxing and the kind of aggression that can only come from total confidence in your own abilities.
The key was probably a liver shot in the third, which essentially broke a logjam that had existed to that point. The shot clearly hurt Stephens and took the steam out of his punches (as did an injured hand from Stephens, which he acknowledged in the cage after the contest). Swanson then rode a greater diversity of striking (including a cartwheel kick) to the definitive points lead and unanimous-decision victory.
Champ Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes mix it up in August. Who better to get next than Mr. Swanson?
Loser: Fox Sports 1
Saturday was not exactly a red-letter moment for the MMA media or the UFC's current television home, Fox Sports 1.
The preliminary portion of the card wrapped up, by my count, at 9:32 p.m. ET. Three minutes later, news broke that Chael Sonnen, a UFC commentator for Fox Sports 1 and a recently retired UFC fighter, had failed yet another drug test.
The Fox Sports 1 team had plenty of time to report and comment on the news. Instead, they chose to replay recently concluded fights and make more fight picks. They ignored the news.
I understand why they did it. But I don't agree with the call. It's another smear on the reputation of a media community that already faces plenty of questions about the nature and independence (or lack thereof) of its coverage.
Winner: Kelvin Gastelum
The "Mini-Cain" train rolls on unabated.
After missing weight and looking flat in the first round against a dangerous and underrated Nicholas Musoke, it looked like Kelvin Gastelum might have been primed for his first professional defeat.
But someone lit something under him somewhere between rounds, as he started the second like a man on fire. He pushed forward with that trademark aggression and lit up Musoke with big combinations, often mixing in a thudding kick to the body or a snappy head kick that always seemed to land.
It was yet another display of heart, guts and ever-increasing skill for Gastelum, who might have earned contender status with this unanimous-decision victory, which sent him to 9-0 as a pro. It was a strong performance on the heels of an embarrassing moment.
"I want to apologize for not making weight yesterday," Gastelum said in a television interview in the cage after the fight. "There's no excuse for that."
Maybe not. But he did what he always seems to do when something bad happens, at least in an MMA context: He rallied and prevailed.
Winner: Joe Ellenberger
It wasn't pretty—hey, there's a case to make that he didn't even win the fight. But the judges made their decision, and it went the way of Joe Ellenberger. And that's your feel-good moment of this MMA marathon.
Jake's fraternal twin overcame an extremely rare blood disorder and several hard-luck opponent backouts to finally make his UFC debut. And he did just enough to nab the split decision over James Moontasri, who took the fight on 10 days' notice.
It's impossible to be unhappy about that outcome. Here's wishing the young man a smoother road and more success in the future.
Winner: Nate Marquardt
Nate Marquardt was in a bit of a pickle. A loser of three straight coming into the Fight Night 43 main event, the well-season veteran had to put up or shut up.
James Te Huna was younger, bigger and favored, both by oddsmakers and the crowd of his fellow New Zealanders. The style equation tipped toward him as well, with the knockout artist seeming well-positioned to capitalize on Marquardt's chin, which had let him down quite emphatically in each of his last two defeats.
It didn't go that way. Marquardt, fighting at middleweight for the first time in three years, had pop in his limbs and spring in his step. Te Huna is not exactly Mundial material, but Marquardt still dominated him on the ground, preventing an escape from back mount before locking on the fight-ending armbar with less than 30 seconds remaining in the round.
Though I'm not ready to join the chorus of new and rediscovered Marquardt converts, it was an impressive and necessary step forward for the 35-year-old ex-contender. Middleweight certainly agrees with the man.
Loser: Jared Rosholt
Yes, Jared Rosholt defeated Soa Palelei by unanimous decision in the Fight Night 43 co-main event. And no, it wasn't particularly close.
But he winds up in this L column for sucking the air out of every viewer and everyone in attendance, including, it seemed, himself.
It's not just the lack of action. It's the lack of strategic need or desire for anything beyond persistent inaction.
It's not like Palelei is such a grappling threat that he justifies being pasted to the ground and held there. But that's what happened; it was like Rosholt was protecting him from some unseen rain shower. Even Rosholt didn't look like he wanted to be there, stubbornly hanging onto side control while landing strikes that could most charitably be described as glancing, simply because he didn't know what other options he might have.
Hey, I love the grinders. But you have to be a fighter, too. The latter instinct wasn't evident in the much-ballyhooed wrestler's effort in New Zealand.
Winner: Charles Oliveira
Here was the UFC Fight Night 43 bout that made the diehards happy they woke up early.
It was the jiu-jitsu chess match everyone hoped it would be. After several back-and-forth minutes, around 5:50 a.m. ET Saturday morning, Charles Oliveira swept from the bottom of Hatsu Hioki, wrapped his arm around Hioki's arm and leg, threw his own legs over Hioki's back for extra leverage and forced the tap to an anaconda choke-Peruvian necktie thing. It was the first submission loss of Hioki's career.
The slick sequence netted Oliveira a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus from the UFC.
It feels like he has been 24 years old for about five years now, but he just keeps plugging along. Was this the fight that finally moves him, for good and all, up to the elite echelon?
After the fight, "Do Bronx" called out Nik Lentz. I believe I'd watch that.
UFC Fight Night 43 Complete Results
Nate Marquardt def. James Te Huna by submission (armbar), 4:34, Rd. 1
Jared Rosholt def. Soa Palelei by unanimous decision
Charles Oliveira def. Hatsu Hioki by submission (anaconda choke), 4;32, Rd. 2
Robert Whittaker def. Mike Rhodes by unanimous decision
Jake Matthews def. Dashon Johnson by submission (triangle choke), 3:16, Rd. 3
Richie Vaculik def. Roldan Sangcha-an by unanimous decision
Vik Grujic def. Chris Indich by TKO, 4:55, Rd. 1
Neil Magny def. Rodrigo de Lima by TKO, 2:32, Rd. 2
Dan Hooker def. Ian Entwistle by TKO, 3:34, Rd. 1
Gian Villante def. Sean O'Connell by split decision
UFC Fight Night 44 Complete Results
Cub Swanson def. Jeremy Stephens by unanimous decision
Kelvin Gastelum def. Nicholas Musoke by unanimous decision
Cezar Ferreira def. Andrew Craig by unanimous decision
Ricardo Lamas def. Hacran Dias by unanimous decision
Clint Hester def. Antonio Braga Neto by split decision
Joe Ellenberger def. James Moontasri by split decision
Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Colton Smith by submission (rear-naked choke), 0:38, Rd. 1
Cody Gibson def. Johnny Bedford by TKO, 0:38, Rd. 1
Marcelo Guimaraes def. Andy Enz by split decision
Oleksiy Oliynyk def. Anthony Hamilton by submission (neck crank), 2:18, Rd. 1
Scott Harris writes about MMA and other things for Bleacher Report and other places. Follow him on Twitter if you feel so inclined.