Almost every UFC card has at least one bout where the fighters are in the proverbial pink-slip match-up, but it’s very rare that this bout takes the spot of the main event. As the promotion makes it debut in New Zealand for UFC Fight Night 43, hometown Kiwi James Te Huna faces off against longtime MMA veteran Nate Marquardt in a fight that will most likely send one fighter packing.

Nate “The Great” Marquardt has traveled a somewhat tumultuous road in the UFC. On the positive side, the Colorado resident and Wyoming native has had spectacular victories over Rousimar Palhares, Demian Maia, Wilson Gouveia and Martin Kampmann. His only losses came courtesy of elite fighters, such as Anderson Silva, Yushin Okami and Jake Ellenberger. On the negative side, he has had repeated issues with steroids, whether considered legal or not, and was told by UFC President Dana White that he would never fight in the UFC again, only to be given a second chance in 2013. Unfortunately, after being given a second chance, he has been knocked out twice. His career is on the bubble as he approaches Saturday night’s main event.

Until May 2013, Te Huna had been on a 5-1 streak in the UFC, with his only loss coming against No. 1 light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson. Then, in his seventh Octagon appearance, the New Zealander was submitted by Glover Teixeira. He followed that up with a one-minute knockout loss at the hands of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in December. Dropping down to 185 pounds for the first time in his career, Te Huna will be looking to make a big statement on his home turf, and he’ll look to do so against a guy who fights his heaviest at middleweight.

UFC Fight Night 43 will air live on Saturday night, local time, from the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, as Marquardt and Te Huna face off in what is sure to be a barnburner. Both are former champions from other promotions, and both know what it takes to get back in the win column. Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up, and as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Te Huna – 10, Marquardt – 9

Te Huna and Marquardt have both displayed tremendous striking power, and the majority of their respective wins in the last five years have come by way of knockout. On the flip side, both men have relatively predictable striking attacks. Te Huna loves to attack with this hook-hook-uppercut flurry, which carries a ton of heat, and Marquardt has a poking jab, followed by a kick or two, and always finishes with his straight right bomb.

Marquardt may have pulled off a win against a shorter fighter like Tyron Woodley, but Woodley packs much less power than Te Huna, and he rattled Marquardt a couple times. If Te Huna slips in a couple shots like Woodley did, Marquardt will be out cold.

In his last fight, against Hector Lombard, the Denver-based fighter was retreating early, before eventually getting caught with a fight-ending shot to the chin. Te Huna’s last loss was a hands-down rookie mistake against one of the top strikers in the light heavyweight division. Shogun dropped him as he was coming in for an uppercut.

Both of these guys have knockout power and a fairly simple attack to figure out, but Te Huna is coming down from a much larger division. If Marquardt was hesitant against a much smaller Lombard, he will probably be looking at a tough showing on his feet against Te Huna, giving the Kiwi the edge in the striking game.

Submission Grappling: Te Huna – 9, Marquardt – 10

Although Marquardt has been of a stand-and-bang mentality in his most recent fights, his grappling is something that is much better than a lot of people see. As a second-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Ricardo Murgel, Marquardt has the ability to be an absolute stud on the ground, if he chooses to take it there. Against a guy like Te Huna, that will be the best course of action.

In his fight against Teixeira, Te Huna kept raising his hands in anticipation of head shots, showcasing his boxing-oriented mentality. This allowed Teixeira to shoot in and take Te Huna down with relative ease, leading to a first-round submission. Te Huna may have had a few submission wins way back in his early days, but two of his three UFC losses were by tapout. Marquardt has the ability to add one more.

Overall, Te Huna’s large frame may pose problems, but, with 15 submissions under his black belt already, Marquardt definitely holds the upper hand in this department.

Wrestling: Te Huna – 10, Marquardt – 10

Marquardt may be the superior submission grappler, but he has shown some holes in his wrestling game against guys much smaller than him, including Woodley. Granted, Woodley was a NCAA Division I wrestler and Te Huna has no wrestling background to speak of, but, as stated above, he is much larger than Marquardt.

Statistically, Marquardt has a better takedown defense. Te Huna averages more takedowns per fight, but it would be unwise for Te Huna to take this to the mat unless it’s due to some serious top-side damage. Chances are, most of the wrestling in this fight will take place in the clinch, where Te Huna’s power will be matched up against Marquardt’s Muay Thai clinch style. The outcome of that battle could go either way.

Both guys use this more as a tool than any sort of bread-and-butter technique.

X-factor

With TRT back on the banned list and Marquardt having needed this stuff in the past, one has to wonder what will happen as he sets foot on foreign soil—in Te Huna’s home country, nonetheless. Will he take the juice and hope it comes out okay? If he doesn’t, what will his conditioning be like, between the traveling, massive jet lag and lack of that extra energy boost?

On the other hand, will Te Huna be prepared for a fight that could go to the ground? Or, will he try too hard to finish this on the feet and get caught with Marquardt’s power right as he steps in for that devastating uppercut?

There are so many x-factors in this fight, it would make even the most savvy fan’s head spin. In the end, though, the biggest factor is probably geography. It’s not just the home-field advantage as the UFC sets up shop in New Zealand, it’s also the big travel factor for Marquardt, even though he used to fight a lot in Japan. That was nine years ago, though, and his body won’t adjust as quickly as it used to.

Total: Te Huna – 29, Marquardt – 29

Verdict: On paper, this fight is a complete toss-up. Both guys have the power, the experience and the pure necessity to get a victory. Marquardt has the advantage in submissions, but Te Huna has been fighting at a much larger weight class and will be in front of the most favorable crowd of his career.

Most likely, this one will go as most people suspect. The two men will meet in the center of the cage. Te Huna will push the pace, and Marquardt will try to keep distance and look for that shot. Te Huna will have learned from his Teixeira fight, stuff the takedown attempts, and ultimately catch Marquardt with a lights-out punch (if he doesn’t get caught first) and finish up with a couple hammers on the ground.

Te Huna by first-round TKO.