Fight fans, dig in. The UFC has a doubleheader coming at you again this Saturday. It wasn’t too long ago the idea of a UFC doubleheader was laughable, but now this will be the second time within a month that the UFC has hosted two events on one day. UFC Fight Night 43 airs very early Saturday morning from Auckland, New Zealand, and UFC Fight Night 44 airs Saturday night from San Antonio. The cards aren’t the most stacked on paper, but we are sure to get some fun fights in what amounts to a 21-fight marathon of UFC action. Now, here’s the question: if you were forced to only pick one card to watch, then which card will it be?

We can start by looking at the main events.

The New Zealand card is headlined by two men moving to middleweight. James Te Huna is heading to the 185-pound weight class after suffering some tough losses as a light heavyweight. He fights close to home while looking for a new lease on his career. Te Huna’s opponent, Nate Marquardt, is moving back up to middleweight after a failed run in the UFC’s welterweight division. He found success at 170 pounds as Strikeforce’s final welterweight champion, but he couldn’t continue that success upon his return to the UFC’s roster.

The San Antonio card, meanwhile, is headlined by a fun featherweight-contender bout between Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens. Swanson has been on fire over the last two years, racking up a five-fight winning streak and putting his name in the hat for a featherweight title shot. Stephens has righted his own ship since moving to featherweight after a three-fight skid at lightweight. He’s found new life at 146 pounds, where he has amassed three straight wins to join Swanson as a potential title challenger.

Let’s face it. Neither of those bouts are the greatest we’ve ever seen headline a card. I would even go as far as to say that the Te Huna-Marquardt fight might be the most lackluster in the history of UFC main events, simply because of the recent won-loss record of both competitors. That’s not to say that the middleweight affair will be the worst main event of all time. We have certainly seen our fair share of duds in UFC headliners, and there’s plenty of reason to anticipate a very good fight between the two new additions to the middleweight division.

What makes Marquardt vs. Te Huna an odd choice for a main event is the sense of meaning of this bout and where it would be placed on any other card. Marquardt is clearly on the downside of his career. He challenged for the UFC middleweight championship way back at UFC 73. Te Huna might not be on the downside of his career yet, but a loss to Marquardt could spell doom. Te Huna looked like he might become a darkhorse contender at light heavyweight, but now he drops down a weight class after falling to two of the light heavyweight division’s elite in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Glover Teixeira. This fight is the main event because Marquardt is still a recognizable name, Te Huna is a Kiwi, and Mark Hunt wouldn’t have been ready to fight on this card. If this fight was, say, part of UFC 175, then it wouldn’t even be the featured preliminary bout on Fox Sports 1.

Swanson and Stephens, on the other hand, combine for a match-up that is more worthy of its headlining status. This fight is the reason why the UFC instituted the rule that main events would always be five rounds. It truly has high stakes and title implications. Swanson was in the conversation for the next featherweight title shot against Jose Aldo before the shot was ultimately given to Chad Mendes. Stephens has been on a tear since dropping down to featherweight and is always a threat to knock someone out. Both men are truly one stellar performance from finding themselves in a title bout. That could be said more for Swanson than for Stephens, but you never know what a big knockout from Stephens could do to improve his odds of a title berth. This fight could be a showcase for Swanson, and that—a rising star becoming a true superstar—is what a Fox Sports 1 main event should entail.

Based on the two main events, it seems like it would be a slam dunk that UFC Fight Night 44 is the one to watch. However, it isn’t that simple. MMA isn’t like boxing, where fans are only tuning in for one fight. In MMA, fans tune in for an entire card, and the card in New Zealand might just be better from top to bottom.

New Zealand’s UFC Fight Night 43 sees Soa Palelei look to continue his rise through the heavyweight division, Charles Oliveira seek to further solidify himself as a future featherweight contender and an intriguing welterweight match-up between Mike Rhodes and Robert Whittaker. UFC Fight Night 44, the card in San Antonio, has two more fights on the main bill and features some good names in Ricardo Lamas, Clint Hester and Andrew Craig, but the card really took a hit when it lost the fight between Abel Trujillo and Myles Jury.

So, now that we’ve put it all out on the table, which event is the one you watch if you only get to choose one? The answer is actually quite simple, and it has nothing to do with what fights are on the card. It has to do with what time the fights are taking place.

For an East Coaster, myself included, the New Zealand card will air live during the middle of our typical hours of slumber. The prelims start at 2:30 a.m. ET, and the main card will probably come to a close around 7:30 a.m. Most fans would have a hard time waking up at 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday for UFC 175, much less a UFC Fight Pass card. Thank goodness Fight Pass has an on-demand feature, though, because this card is definitely worth watching…just not in the wee hours of the morning.

That isn’t the only reason UFC Fight Night 44 gets the nod in this win-win battle. San Antonians will also get to witness the most intriguing fight of the day in their co-main event, where Kelvin Gastelum and Nicholas Musoke face off in a welterweight battle. Neither man has lost inside the Octagon, and Gastelum stands as a man who has great potential to return big-time relevance and a championship belt to the fraternity of The Ultimate Fighter winners. Gastelum faces another rising star in this one in a fight he will be favored to win. It is also the highest Gastelum has been placed on the card, so it is time to see if the youngster steps up and moves into a position where he could face a top-10 welterweight in his next outing.

In the end, UFC Fight Night 44 is a better watch on paper because the fights have more impending implications in the UFC. If you have to pick just one event, the San Antonio-based show is going to be the frontrunner. But let’s be real: we don’t have to pick just one card. Technology and the growth of the sport we love has allowed for days like this Saturday. So, let’s wake up early, stay up late and nap in between. We have a pretty sweet weekend ahead of us, fight fans.

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.