The UFC offered up another onslaught of fights on Saturday, starting with a New Zealand Fight Night card that took place well before the sun rises in North America. The headliner was a middleweight clash between former top contender Nate Marquardt and James Te Huna, while the co-main event was between Soa Palelei and Jared Rosholt. While there were several duds on the fight card, the UFC"s debut event in New Zealand was a success overall, and featured a variety of entertaining stoppages to send the fans home happy.
Nate Marquardt made a emphatic return to middleweight with his first round submission victory over James Te Huna in the main event of UFC Fight Night: New Zealand. Marquardt looked in top form for this fight, as he dominated on the feet before transitioning to the ground, where he sprung a surprise armbar with less than 30 seconds to go in the opening round.
Charles Olivera pulled off arguably the Submission of the Year when he recovered from danger to become the first man to submit Hatsu Hioki with a modified d'arce choke/Peruvian necktie. It was a remarkable transition from the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu blackbelt that led to the finish, and easily set him as the frontrunner for a post-event bonus.
Villante and O'Connell's curtain jerker fight that opened up the evening's proceedings earned "Fight of the Night" honours. The three-round battle, which ended in a split decision win for Villante, saw the two competitors go back and forth in a clash in front of the New Zealand crowd.
While he may not have taken home a bonus in the end, Dan Hooker made a spectacular UFC debut early on in the preliminary portion of the fight card, as he elbowed his way onto the bonus list with his vicious TKO win over Ian Entwistle. It was an entertaining round of action as Hooker was immediately placed on the back foot and was forced to defend a heel hook submission that was seemingly locked in. He began elbowing Entwistle until he opened a cut on his head and then pounced on the opportunity to close out the contest a few seconds later following a barrage of strikes.
Performance of the Night: Nate Marquardt, Charles Oliveira
Fight of the Night: Gian Villante vs. Sean O'Connell