The UFC’s debut in Auckland, New Zealand made for an entertaining 10-fight card, worth staying up for if you were on the Western Hemisphere. Overall it was a successful evening for Australians and Kiwis, going 4-1–with Soa Palelei being the lone loss (not including the Aussie vs Aussie bout).
Honorable Mentions: Neil Magny, Jake Matthews
3rd Star – Robert Whittaker
UFC Fight Night in New Zealand was a successful night for Aussies, going 3-1 on the card, most impressive performance of the four fights goes to the TUF Smashes’ welterweight winner, Robert Whittaker. Matched up against Roufusport’s Mike “Biggie” Rhodes, you knew there was going to be a potential for a fun standup battle, and they certainly did not disappoint.
Whittaker showed more versatility in his strikes, adding a couple kicks to his arsenal that already consists of strong technical boxing and head movement. The head movement proved to be a huge difference in this fight, Whittaker threw first and moved out of the way, not allowing Rhodes a chance to counter. Over 3 rounds, Whittaker’s striking proved superior to that of Rhodes’, earning the 30-27 unanimous decision and bouncing back from two straight losses. At 23 years old, Whittaker shows a lot of promise and continues to improve and add to his all-around game.
2nd Star – Nate Marquardt
After an unsuccessful run at welterweight, going 1-3 while suffering back-to-back losses, Nate Marquardt moved back at middleweight—where the former title challenger found the most success in his career. Marquardt disposed of hometown favourite James Te Huna in the first round. The New Zealander dropped to middleweight but it did not seem to affect Marquardt, who was able to use his speed and wrestling to avoid the powerful punches of Te Huna.
Marquardt rolled into an latched onto an armbar to submit James Te Huna, and earn his first win back at middleweight since 2011–and his first submission win since 2008 (over Jeremy Horn). The submission earned him a $50,000 performance of the night bonus.
11-4 now at middleweight inside the UFC, compared to 1-3 at welterweight, Nate Marquardt has found his permanent home after experimenting with the weight change. The weight cut to 170 may have diminished his ability to perform on fight night, despite giving him the size advantage over his opponents. While moving back up to 185, Marquardt shows a speed advantage that he can once again utilize.
1st Star – Charles Oliveira
Charles Oliveira became the first man to ever finish top Japanese featherweight Hatsu Hioki in 37 fights, and finish him in spectacular fashion with what he called an arm-triangle choke. Two high level grapplers, Oliveira and Hioki engaged in two back and forth entertaining rounds on the mat, that saw both exchange position battles and submission attempts. While finding himself on the bottom for most of the exchanges, he secured the choke and closed his guard to get the tap. Oliveira overcame an eye poke in the 2nd round that seemed to put the bout in jeopardy.
Submitting what is thought to be one of the best grapplers in the division in Hatsu Hioki, Charles Oliveira really notched a feather in his proverbial cap. The 6th win in his UFC career, and all 6 by submission–and the most impressive one to date.
At just 24 years old, Charles Oliveira has fought the who’s who of the UFC’s featherweight division in his 4 years in the promotion. Now he seeks a rematch with Nik Lentz–following their controversial no-contest in 2011 after an illegal knee landed by Oliveira that led to a submission win.