This weekend, Roy Nelson and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will headline the UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi at Fight Night 39. It’s a card that literally has dozens of fans brimming with excitement and one that will surely be viewed by dozens more. But while it’s easier to understand why two familiar faces like Big Nog and Big Country could find themselves headlining an event despite going 2-4 in their past six fights combined, today brings news of a headlining matchup so thoroughly meh that it threatens to redefine our understanding of the term “oversaturation”: Nate Marquardt vs. James Te Huna.
I’m using hyperbole for dramatic effect of course, but let’s look at the facts of this matchup, which was recently announced as the headliner for the UFC’s first (and last, amiright! *crickets*) trip to New Zealand on June 28th:
-Since returning to the UFC, Marquardt has gone 0-2, with both losses coming via first round knockout
-Te Huna has also dropped his last two, in the first round, by submission to Glover Teixeira and KO to Mauricio Rua
-The fight will be held at 185 pounds, meaning Marquardt will be moving up from welterweight for the first time since 2011, and Te Huna will be dropping from LHW for the first time in his career.
If you haven’t guessed by now, this card will air exclusively on Fight Pass.
Although Marquardt has fallen on hard times as of late, there’s no denying that he is capable of some amazing things in the octagon. The same goes for Te Huna, who has looked spectacular in his wins over guys who have all since been cut and Ryan Jimmo. But seriously, what is this matchup? The UFC couldn’t find Te Huna an actual middleweight contender for his last ditch weight cut, so they brought up a former middleweight who is also in a do-or-die position with the promotion? And they made that the headliner because Te Huna is from New Zealand? Does the winner get to face Rich Franklin at 195 for the inaugural whatisthisweight championship? World fucking domination, ladies and gentleman.
If the UFC wants to kill two birds with one stone, that’s fine. But don’t piss in my hand and tell me it’s raining by booking Marquardt vs. Te Huna as your headliner and then trying to sell it as “a collision course between contenders” as the UFC inevitably will*. Given where they currently stand, Marquardt vs. Te Huna is a decent supporting fight at best, and to bill it as anything other than that is insulting to your audience’s intelligence. Main event status should have to be earned by something, God damn it, and uncompelling headliners like this are one of the many reasons the WWE network is soaring and Fight Pass not so much.
Then again, maybe the UFC just assumes that anyone dumb enough to purchase Fight Pass is incapable of having their intelligence insulted, which isn’t a terrible assumption to make.
*Who am I kidding? They don’t market these things.