Nate Marquardt (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)The MMA Corner Round Table: UFC Fight Night 43 RJ Gardner June 24, 2014 Events, Previews, Spotlight Saturday is surely a day MMA fanatics are looking forward to. On June 28, the UFC will once again be offering up two live events on the same day. The first event of the day takes place at Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, and features a middleweight main event bout between Nate Marquardt and James Te Huna. Both men come into the fight riding losing streaks, and they are in dire need of a victory. The co-headliner of the event is a heavyweight clash between American wrestler Jared Rosholt and Australian knockout machine Soa Palelei. Palelei enters the bout riding an astonishing 11-fight winning streak, with all of those wins coming by way of knockout. Rounding out the main card is a featherweight tilt between Hatsu Hioki and Charles Oliveira and a welterweight bout between Robert Whittaker and Mike Rhodes. The entire event airs live on UFC Fight Pass. The preliminary card kicks off at 2:30 a.m. ET and the main card gets underway at 5 a.m. ET. The MMA Corner’s Vince Carey, Matt Faler and RJ Gardner break down all the action in this edition of the Round Table. WW: Robert Whittaker (11-4) vs. Mike Rhodes (6-2) Faler: The main card kicks off with a pair of welterweights likely fighting to keep their place on the UFC roster. Former The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes cast member Robert Whittaker began his UFC career with two straight wins in the Octagon, but now finds himself on the chopping block after back-to-back losses to Court McGee and Stephen Thompson. His opponent, Mike Rhodes, dropped a unanimous decision to fellow newcomer George Sullivan in his promotional debut last January. Both guys prefer to keep the fight standing, with Whittaker being the one who likes to push the pace using his crisp boxing and natural instincts to throw in combinations. Rhodes is more of a counter puncher and tends to be a bit hesitant at times. Rhodes was a teammate of former Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren and should have the wrestling advantage. In his past fights, most notably in his fight with McGee, Whittaker has shown above-average takedown defense. I like Whittaker to be able to keep the fight on the feet, where he’ll use his hand-speed advantage to outpoint Rhodes to a decision, or possibly even get the late-round TKO. Carey: I had high hopes for Rhodes heading into his UFC debut earlier this year, but a surprisingly timid performance against Sullivan cast some doubt about whether Rhodes can hang inside the Octagon. Luckily, we’ll be able to find out how much of that timidity came from Octagon jitters rather quickly against Whittaker, who is going to bring the fight to the Roufusport product. Rhodes had finished a decent amount of his fights, but he probably could have used a bit more seasoning in smaller promotions, like the RFA, before jumping into the shark tank that the UFC’s welterweight division has become over the past year. He didn’t look completely out of his element against Sullivan, but against a four-fight UFC veteran like Whittaker, I’m not sure that’s going to be the case. I don’t expect either fighter to make a strong push to get this to the mat, and that gives the advantage to the more aggressive Whittaker. Although he’s known to throw a few too many looping punches on occasion, the Aussie is usually great at avoiding getting hit by big shots. Whittaker may have been finished by Thompson in his last bout, but to be real, Rhodes is no “Wonderboy” on the feet. I’ll agree with Mr. Faler here and take Whittaker by decision. Gardner: Whittaker and Rhodes are two young fighters with bright futures ahead of them in this sport, but they will be fighting for their spot in the UFC when they take the cage in New Zealand. The welterweight division is one of the most talented divisions in all of MMA and, as such, it is win or go home time for these young warriors. Rhodes didn’t look great in his UFC debut. The Roufusport fighter will have to be more aggressive against Whittaker. Whittaker has been in the cage against much tougher competition, and if Rhodes wants to even have a chance he is going to need to bring his A game. With crisp, clean boxing, Whittaker should be able to outstrike Rhodes if this fight stays on the feet, but things will even out if Rhodes can get this fight to the ground. Although Rhodes spent time training with Askren, he doesn’t have the wrestling chops to control Whittaker for the length of the fight. Whittaker wins this one via unanimous decision. FW: Hatsu Hioki (27-7-2) vs. Charles Oliveira (17-4) Carey: It seems incredible that Charles Oliveira is only 24 years old. The Brazilian grappling ace has entertained fans from the second his UFC career started in 2010 with his go-for-broke style. Although he may only have a 5-4-1 record inside the Octagon, his losses have all come against high-caliber competition. Most importantly for this bout, however, is that half of his UFC contests have ended before the first round was over. His tendency to live or die by the sword and go straight for a finish has become a trademark of sorts for “Do Bronx.” Oliveira’s willingness to throw it all on the line almost immediately is what makes the match-up with Hatsu Hioki so intriguing. The Japanese grappler is supremely talented on the mat, but thus far he’s been unable to score any sort of stoppage win inside the Octagon. He has found himself with a 3-3 record with all six fights having gone to a decision. Considering that Oliveira seems to fly at his opponents like a bat out of hell, Hioki’s either going to have to try to stifle his opponent early or play the Brazilian’s game and fight fire with fire. Hioki’s never been finished in his 36-fight career, and although Oliveira is probably the most dangerous submission artist the Japanese fighter has fought, it’s still tough to give the Brazilian the nod here. “Do Bronx” showed some improved cardio and striking when he went the distance with Frankie Edgar last year, but a grappling match with Hioki is going to be grueling. If he can’t put Hioki away early—and I don’t think he can—Oliveira is in serious trouble. Hioki by second-round submission. Gardner: Oliveira and Hioki are two very talented ground specialists, and this fight has the potential to be one of the best grappling fights of the year. As my colleague suggested, though, the result here is going to hinge on Oliveira’s cardio, because Hioki is a grinder and makes guys work. Hioki has been in the game for a long time now and he has faced some of the toughest fighters in the sport. If there is one thing Hioki has shown over the course of his career, it is that he will grind opponents down and force them to break. Oliveira is young and talented, but he has never been in the kind of fight that Hioki is going to put him in. The big thing Oliveira has going for him heading into this fight is the fact he is a finisher—all of his UFC wins have come by way of submission. The problem is, Hioki has never been finished. Oliveira is slick in the submission game and he can catch anyone if they leave an opening, but Hioki is too solid. Hioki wins this one via unanimous decision. Faler: We all love to watch Oliveira fighting with reckless abandon, but, unfortunately, that will likely be his downfall against a technician like Hioki. Oliveira’s clearest path to victory will be on the feet, but very few fighters can stay upright against Hioki for 15 minutes. Oliveira is incredibly active off his back, which will likely lead to some incredibly fun moments, but the probability of him submitting Hioki is unlikely. Missed submission attempts will only make things easier for Hioki to pass guard and improve his position on the mat. I see Hioki getting back control in a scramble and locking in a rear-naked choke in the first or second round for the victory. HW: Soa Palelei (21-3) vs. Jared Rosholt (10-1) Gardner: The fight between Soa Palelei and Jared Rosholt is the contest I am the most excited about. Palelei is a beast and Rosholt is one of the best wrestlers in the UFC heavyweight division, and anytime you get two heavyweights in the cage as skilled and hungry as Palelei and Rosholt, good things happen. Rosholt is a tough, tough wrestler, and he continues to improve the rest of his game with every outing. If Rosholt can get the fight to the mat, he can give Palelei a run for his money. However, that is going to be easier said than done. Palelei is solid in every aspect of the fight game. He is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, a powerful striker and a member of the 2000 Australian Olympic wrestling team. Palelei has won 11 fights in a row, all by knockout, including nine in the first round. As long as he can keep Rosholt from being able to drag this fight to the ground, he will have no problem taking Rosholt out on the feet. Given his wrestling pedigree and grappling ability, Palelei should have no problem keeping Rosholt off of him. Palelei wins this one via first-round knockout. Faler: Despite mostly subpar opposition, Palelei’s winning streak is impressive. At 36 years old, he has shown the power in his hands is still nothing to be messed with. After a somewhat embarrassing performance in his return to the UFC, he’s bounced back with crushing knockout wins over Pat Barry and Ruan Potts. Rosholt finds himself on a nice winning streak of his own. He has earned victories in his last six bouts since suffering his first loss in August 2012. Rosholt has shown fairly well-rounded skills in his MMA game, but it’s no secret his bread and butter is wrestling. This is a stylistic nightmare for Palelei. Rosholt knows he needs to avoid the big shots from Palelei, and the three-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler will likely instantly look to take this fight to the mat. There aren’t many guys in the heavyweight division that can stave off a takedown attempt from Rosholt, and Palelei isn’t one of them. For a heavyweight, Rosholt’s got a pretty savvy submission game, and I see him finding an arm or a neck in the first round to force the tap from Palelei. Carey: Since my fellow panelists have completely different views on this one, it looks like I’ll have to break the tie. As my colleagues suggested, this fight is likely going to come down to Palelei’s takedown defense, which has been solid since his return to the Octagon. However, he hasn’t fought anyone with the level of wrestling Rosholt possesses in a long time, and he’s going to need to try and stay upright with everything he has. If he can do that, this fight should be relatively easy for “The Hulk.” If not, it’s likely going to be a short night for the 36-year-old Aussie. As badly as Palelei needs this fight standing, Rosholt may need it to hit the floor even more. Palelei throws some serious bombs, and if “The Big Show” gets tagged with just one solid punch, it could bring an early end to his night. A takedown negates all of that and, perhaps most importantly, gives Rosholt the chance to wear down a fighter who has struggled when the fight gets out of the first round. Usually I tend to side with the grappler in fights like this. After all, a takedown is much easier to come by than a knockout punch. However, everything gets flipped on its head when there’s 265 pounds of Palelei sending those punches. Unless Rosholt gets the fight to the floor in under a minute or two, I just can’t see him surviving for long. Palelei by first-round knockout. MW: Nate Marquardt (32-13-2) vs. James Te Huna (16-7) Carey: James Te Huna and Nate Marquardt are each coming off back-to-back stoppage losses. They are in desperate need of a win in order to continue on with their Octagon careers, so much so that both men decided to change up their weight class heading into this fight. Marquardt moves up after a stint at 170 pounds. Meanwhile, Te Huna drops down from light heavyweight. Fighting at middleweight isn’t exactly foreign territory for Marquardt, who has spent the vast majority of his UFC career competing as a middleweight, but this marks the first time that Te Huna is dropping the additional 20 pounds from light heavyweight. That could easily play a major part in this fight. If Te Huna’s weight cut goes well, he’s going to have a fantastic opportunity to take out Marquardt and revive his career as a middleweight. The Aussie hits like a truck when he lands a solid shot, and Marquardt’s once reliable chin has failed him in his last two outings. If Te Huna wins this fight, it’s going to come by knockout. Marquardt has more ways to win. More importantly, he has the more well-rounded game of the two fighters. As entertaining as he is as a striker, Marquardt is an underrated grappler as well and boasts almost half of his career wins by tapout. That’s a big problem for Te Huna, who has suffered five of his seven defeats by submission. As scary as it is to pick Marquardt against a former 205er after seeing him knocked out by (admittedly hard-hitting) welterweights in his last two bouts, I’m taking Nate “The Great” via submission. Te Huna could easily steal this one with a big shot early, but a patient Marquardt should pull off the win if he stays out of exchanges. Faler: Marquardt’s biggest asset in the fight game for some time was his durability. Unfortunately, fighters tend to get old overnight, and following back-to-back brutal knockout losses to Jake Ellenberger and Hector Lombard, that time may have come for Marquardt. Marquardt has had a lot of success in the cage when he has the wrestling advantage, and that should be the case on Saturday night in New Zealand. Te Huna hasn’t shown much skill in his grappling game during his time in the UFC, especially off his back. The power in Te Huna’s hands against Marquardt’s now suspect chin will always have him one good punch away from a victory, but I see Marquardt getting in close, using the clinch against the cage and working to get the fight to the mat. If he’s successful in getting Te Huna to the floor, the fight likely stays there for the rest of the round. Marquardt grinds his way to a decision victory. Gardner: It’s a little sad that this is the main event the UFC is offering the fans in New Zealand. Te Huna and Marquardt have combined to lose their last five fights, and it is almost certain that the loser in this one will be given their walking papers. Marquardt has always been one of those “What if?” fighters. He has all of the tools and ability, but he has never been able to compete with the best of the best in the UFC. There was a time when many believed that Marquardt was the heir apparent to Anderson Silva’s UFC middleweight title, but that never came to fruition. Now, Marquardt is fighting for his roster spot with the UFC. This is going to be Te Huna’s first fight at middleweight, so the weight cut could become a factor. A good cut would mean that he will have a major size and strength advantage, but a bad cut would mean he is going to be drawn out and depleted. Marquardt, on the other hand, is moving back up to middleweight after a four-fight stint at welterweight. Marquardt has more tools in his toolbox than Te Huna. When he is on his game, he is one of the most talented fighters in the sport. Regardless of where this fight takes place, Marquardt will be the better fighter. Marquardt wins this one via second-round submission. Preliminary Card LHW: Sean O’Connell (15-5) vs. Gian Villante (11-5) Faler: Gian Villante was once a highly touted 205-pound prospect, but he hasn’t been able to string more than three wins together since February 2010. He holds all the tools to be an elite mixed martial artist, including a solid wrestling foundation and sound kickboxing technique with reasonable power in both hands. Sean O’Connell is a decent grappler, but seems more comfortable getting himself into striking exchanges with his opponent. Villante’s biggest issue in the cage is his cardio. If O’Connell can survive the early onslaught from Villante, the fight could tip into his favor. However, it’s more likely O’Connell will find himself in a brawl early, with Villante getting the TKO win in the first. Gardner: O’Connell was riding a six-fight winning streak when he entered the UFC. Then, he ran into the buzzsaw that is Ryan Jimmo. O’Connell is a tough fighter, but he really isn’t a UFC-caliber fighter. Villante hasn’t lived up to expectations, but he has the tools to take O’Connell out. Villante wins this one via second-round TKO. Carey: I’ll make it three for three by joining my colleagues in picking the former Strikeforce veteran for the win. RJ’s right when he said Villante hasn’t really lived up to expectations at this point in his UFC career, but Villante will start to turn that around this weekend and walk away with an early TKO win. O’Connell’s a decent fighter, but he’ll likely end up getting overwhelmed here. FW: Ian Entwistle (8-1) vs. Daniel Hooker (10-4) Gardner: Ian Entwistle and Daniel Hooker are making their UFC debuts in New Zealand, and they are looking to make waves in the UFC featherweight division. Hooker is a little better on the feet, whereas Entwistle feels more at home on the mat. Considering Hooker will be fighting in front of his home crowd, he will have the edge. Hooker wins this via third-round TKO. Carey: Entwistle is a veteran of the Cage Warriors promotion, where the submission-based Englishman has secured four straight wins by tapout heading into his first scrap in the Octagon. Standing across from him will be New Zealand’s own Hooker, who has a five-fight winning streak of his own on the line. Although I agree with RJ that Hooker’s hometown advantage could help propel him to a win, his two losses by submission make me a bit too nervous against a finisher like Entwistle, so I’ll take the Brit by a late submission. Faler: Hooker is the more controlled fighter of the two. He has okay striking skills, but his slow reaction time, along with a tendency to keep his hands low, makes him extremely hittable. Entwistle starts fights energetic and wild, occasionally diving or baseball sliding into his opponent’s legs looking for leg locks. His high-paced style makes his cardio a concern in later rounds, but, through nine professional fights, he has yet to see even the second round. That streak continues when he submits Hooker in the first round. WW: Rodrigo de Lima (8-1-1) vs. Neil Magny (10-3) Faler: With consecutive dominant victories over Gasan Umalatov and Tim Means, The Ultimate Fighter 16 alum Neil Magny seems to be hitting his stride. He meets UFC newcomer Rodrigo Goiana de Lima, who’s currently on a three-fight winning streak. Six out of eight career victories for Lima have come via submission, so he’ll likely look to take the fight to the mat. One of Magny’s strengths is being able to use his long reach to his advantage, keeping his opponents at his striking range. I see Lima having problems getting inside for takedowns, while Magny boxes his way to a clear-cut unanimous decision. Carey: Magny has really upped his game in his last few bouts, and it would be pretty surprising to see that momentum slowed by a UFC newcomer, even one as talented as de Lima. Matt hit the nail on the head with this one—Magny’s range and overall striking skills are going to be a nightmare for the Brazilian grappler. The former TUF 16 contestant should be in line for an easy victory. If de Lima can somehow get this to the floor, he can give Magny some trouble. However, II don’t see it happening. Instead, Magny is likely taking home a decision win. Gardner: At 6-foot-3, Magny is one of the tallest welterweights out there, and he has learned to use that length effectively. Magny still has a long way to go before we start talking about him being a contender, but he is moving in the right direction. Magny gets a tough test in UFC newcomer de Lima, but he should be able to keep the Brazilian off balance with his length. Magny wins this one via unanimous decision. WW: Vik Grujic (6-3) vs. Chris Indich (5-2) Carey: It’s rare for a fighter to lose his first bout outside of the TUF house and hold onto a job, but both of these Aussies somehow found a way to stick around for a win-or-go-home fight. Vik Grujic and Chris Indich suffered disappointing decision losses in their UFC debuts in April. To avoid a second consecutive blowout loss and remain on the UFC roster, one of these two is going to have to show up in a big way and defeat a former teammate. Neither guy has the skill set to stick around in the UFC for too long, but Grujic, with a 1-3 stretch since late 2011, has been struggling and I have my doubts that he can turn it around. Therefore, the pick has to be Indich by decision. Gardner: With losses in their UFC debuts, neither man can afford to lose another bout if they want to stick around for very long. Indich in much younger. He also has more tools to work with, and he shouldn’t have an issue winning this one in impressive fashion. Indich via first-round submission. Faler: This is a tough one to pick, considering there’s not a bunch of tape on either guy. Grujic looked more polished than Indich during their time on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations. Plus, Grujic is expected to be the stronger fighter, since he’s dropping from middleweight. I’ll take Grujic in a close decision. FlyW: Roldan Sangcha-an (4-0) vs. Richie Vaculik (9-2) Gardner: Richie Vaculik lost to Justin Scoggins in his UFC debut, but he is getting another shot in the Octagon. He welcomes Roldan Sangcha-an to the UFC. Sangcha-an may only have three fights under his belt, but he has a ton of potential. Sangcha-an makes a statement and wins this one via first-round submission. Faler: This is another tough fight to call. Vaculik was once thought to be a decent prospect, but he has been fairly inactive over the last several years, slowing the buzz. Now, at 31 years old, his better days are likely behind him. Sangcha’an is the latest prospect from the PXC in the Philippines to make his way onto the UFC roster. Vaculik has the experience advantage. Furthermore, he has fought and defeated stiffer competition in his career. So, I’ll pick Vaculik to win by decision. Carey: Vaculik ran into a killer in Scoggins in his UFC debut, and I’m not sure I like his chances at earning his first Octagon win against the undefeated Sangcha-an. There isn’t a ton of tape to watch on Sangcha-an, but I’ve really liked what little I’ve seen, especially when it comes to his kicking game. I’ll take Sangcha-an by knockout in one of the later rounds. Don’t be surprised if it comes from a kick upstairs. LW: Dashon Johnson (9-0) vs. Jake Matthews (5-0) Carey: It’s always fun when two undefeated prospects step into the cage opposite each other, but this fight is even more interesting due to the finishing acumen of Dashon Johnson. The California-based fighter has finished all but one of his nine MMA victories inside the first round, and only one of those stoppages came after the two-minute mark in the first. Simply put, Johnson is a scary dude. Jake Matthews put on a game performance against Olivier Aubin-Mercier in the first round of their fight in the TUF Nations house, but I think he still has a bit of work to do before he’s ready for the Octagon. I’ll pick the Team Xplode fighter to live up to his billing and score a quick TKO win. Faler: Johnson has the potential to be something special in the UFC. He has lightning-fast hand speed and seemingly natural power in his right hand. He also has the ability to change levels quickly for a double-leg takedown, which is rare for a guy with a boxing background. Matthews has decent stand-up, but he’s shown to be much more fluid in his jiu-jitsu game. In previous fights, Matthews has shown to be tentative on the feet and extremely hittable, which could be a problem against an aggressive fighter like Johnson. Although Johnson has looked impressive in his first nine fights, it’s been against pretty weak opposition. Matthews will be a big step up in competition, and I expect a fairly close fight. That being said, Johnson has more in the arsenal and will get the decision victory by outworking Matthews on the feet, while mixing in takedowns and some ground-and-pound. Gardner: Johnson and Matthews are two prospects with very promising futures in the world of MMA. Both men will be making their UFC debut on the 28th. Matthews is still a very raw prospect and, at 19, he has all the time in the world to achieve greatness. This opportunity will be huge for his development as a fighter. Johnson, with his blend of power and athleticism, is ready for the big time right now. Johnson wins this one via second-round TKO.