James Te Huna’s UFC career hangs in the balance after a devastating first round loss in Auckland tonight.
In New Zealand’s inaugural event at Vector Arena, Nate Marquardt proved too crafty for the local favourite. The veteran
American had the Kiwi in trouble from the opening bell and finished the fight with an arm bar submission.
Coming off two losses, Te Huna dropped to middleweight to revive his career and was given the chance to make a statement as the main event on home soil.
The 32-year-old came out to rousing haka reception and Prince Tui Teka’s Poi-E theme song, but his performance failed to live up to the hype.
His eighth loss, and third in a row, will leave him soul searching as to where to next.
Comparatively, Daniel Hooker couldn’t have wished for a better UFC debut.
The Auckland featherweight extended his overall win streak to six with an impressive first round stoppage of Englishman Ian Entwistle. Hooker was caught in a leg lock early but kept his composure on the sport’s biggest stage.
With a relentless flurry of furious elbows, Hooker split open Entwistle’s head and then went for the kill. The TKO was sealed after just three-and-a-half minutes.
‘‘Our city baby. Auckland, New Zealand,’’ an enthusiastic Hooker said in celebration of his debut win on home soil.
‘‘That’s being a warrior. That’s what Kiwis are. All the hard work New Zealanders have been putting in… I get to show how good we are.’’
New Zealand-born Robert Whittaker continued Hooker’s success with a unanimous win over American Michael Rhodes.
Australian-based welterweight Whittaker, who consistently found his range, had Rhodes bleeding from the nose in the final round after being the aggressor throughout.
‘‘It’s an incredible feeling,’’ Whittaker said. ‘‘I always like striking and keeping it a standing match, especially in my home town. I want to keep going forward and keep building momentum.’’
Samoan heavyweight Soa Palelei had his 11 fight win streak ended in underwhelming fashion. Three-time American wrestling champion Jared Rosholt ensured the fight stayed on the floor – a tactic which left Palelei shattered.
Brazilian featherweight Charles Oliveira won a similar ground war over Hatsu Hioki, forcing the Japanese grappler to submit.
At just 19-years-old, the future seems incredibly bright for Australian light heavyweight Jake Mathews.
In his octagon debut Mathews showcased a wide range of skills to force a third-round submission from Dashon Johnson, a previously 9-0 American.
Johnson took immense punishment in the first round alone. He copped a series of vicious elbows early and was deducted one point for elbowing the back of the head. Mathews finished the fight with a clinical triangle choke hold, a manoeuvre that summed up his dominant display.
Fellow Australian, flyweight Richie Vaculik, grabbed his first UFC win and ended Roldan Sangcha-an four-fight undefeated run with a unanimous decision victory.
Sangcha-an, from the Philippines, survived a choke hold in the first round and showed an array of kicks from the outside, but struggled to counter Vaculik’s favoured grappling and copped two solid right hands in the final round, which must have impressed the judges.
American Neil Magny stopped Brazilian Rodrigo de Lima after recovering from a poor first round to finish the job early in the second.
Vik Grujic won a brutal battle with fellow Australian Chris Indich and improved his record to 7-3.
And in the opening all-American light heavyweight brawl, Gian Villante upset Sean O’Connell. Despite being rocked with a left hand in the second round, Villante secured a split decision win with two judges scoring 29-28 in his favour.
Of these accolades, which would you like to win most?