Life is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Ditto being a UFC fan.
As most hardcore combat sports devotees are aware, UFC cards are multiplying like someone poured Spanish fly into HQ’s water supply. A record 35 events will go down in 2014, with no apparent plans to slow the growth rate in coming years.
It can be a good thing, especially for those with a bottomless appetite for MMA. It can also be a lot to process, especially on a day like this Saturday, when two separate cards will unfurl 21 fights into viewers’ laps over a 20-hour time period.
UFC Fight Night 44 is, at least in theory, the more promising of the two events. Higher-profile fighters and a friendly evening start time have a lot to do with that. But on the other side of the tracks, you have Fight Night 43, going down from Auckland, New Zealand and kicking off at 2:30 in the a.m. on the American East Coast. It airs entirely on UFC Fight Pass, the promotion’s digital subscription service.
It might be tempting to sleep through the day’s appetizer. But there are reasons to set the alarm and fire up the laptop. Just pace yourself for the marathon, and you’ll be fine.
Oh, would you like those reasons? Here they are.
1. Technically Speaking, You Don’t Even Have to “Wake Up”
Now, I’m not the sort to encourage deviant behavior. But you could make a full night out of this. Grab a few like-minded compatriots and enjoy a night on the town. After the watering hole or group of watering holes of your choice has shuttered for the evening, retire to your residence for a little UFC after-partying. When you think about it as the last stage of your night instead of the first stage of your morning, suddenly the timing makes a little more sense. Just saying. Or, you could make it the centerpiece of a delightful slumber party. Pop some popcorn, bring your favorite Beach Boys LPs, and right at the apex of your merry-making, you’ll have the fights to look forward to.
2. Is Nate Marquardt on His Last Legs?
I guess I should say something about the actual fights. No better place to start that conversation than Nate “The Great” Marquardt, who was a bona fide middleweight contender four years ago. Can you believe he once knocked out Demian Maia, among with a bunch of others? In fact, when he steps in there against James Te Huna in the UFC Fight Night 43 main event, it will be the 48th time he’ll do so as a pro.
Plainly put, Marquardt hasn’t been the same since the UFC released him in 2011 after he failed a test for elevated testosterone. He’s 1-3 since, with all three happening consecutively and convincingly. His last two came by clean knockout.
When the chin goes, it goes quickly. Is it gone for the 35-year-old Marquardt, once one of UFC’s best and most popular middleweights? James Te Huna, the heavy-punching New Zealander, will be fighting in front of a friendly crowd. This fight seems tailor made to serve as a Marquardt status check. Where is he at? We’ll know Saturday.
3. Is Soa Palelei For Real?
Fans of Palelei have long admired his power, manifested in 17 pro KO wins and a 3-0 UFC record, with all three wins coming by the knockout. He justified that admiration once again when he used a short ground strike to KO Ruan Potts in his last fight. That’s like cutting down a cherry tree with, I don’t know, pinking shears.
But Palelei and his straightforward skill set also have detractors. His grappling, in particular, has borne its share of scrutiny. As it happens, his Saturday opponent, Jared Rosholt, is a three-time All-American college wrestler. Rosholt is not exactly a polished product himself, but if Palelei wants to win Saturday, he’ll probably need to be more than a powerful punch.
4. Neil Magny: Call Him The Streak
Maybe we’ve been overlooking Neil Magny all this time. His 81-inch reach is only 2.5 inches shorter than that of Jon Jones, and he fights two divisions below the champ. All to say, Magny has some great physical tools, and he may be on the best streak of his UFC career.
After losing two straight in 2013, he’s already 2-0 in 2014, with wins over well-regarded prospect Gasan Umalatov and rock-solid veteran Tim Means. This will be his third fight this year, and it’s still June. If he can get past newcomer Rodrigo Goiana de Lima this Saturday, it’ll be three straight and perhaps a ticket off the undercard for the 26-year-old welterweight.
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