By Rick LaFitte @RickLaFitte on June 29, 2014
The UFC delivered another action-packed doubleheader for fans with events in New Zealand and Texas. Nate Marquardt and Charles Oliveira produced slick submission victories on a surprisingly good card in Auckland, while Cub Swanson likely earned a future featherweight title shot by outgunning Jeremy Stephens in an entertaining main event in San Antonio. Here are the top five fights to make in the wake of UFC Fight Nights 43 and 44.
Charles Oliveira showcased his remarkable ground game in producing a Submission of the Year candidate against Hatsu Hioki. The 24-year-old Brazilian became the first man in 37 fights to finish the ultra-tough Japanese fighter. Oliveira is clearly ready again for top-10 opposition and a rematch against the No. 9 ranked Nik Lentz would fit the bill. They have unfinished business after their first fight in 2011 ended in a no-contest.
Nate Marquardt kept his Octagon career alive with a first-round submission of James Te Huna. He spoiled the party for the New Zealand native and ended a three-fight losing skid in making a successful return to the 185-pound division. “The Great” should face the winner of the Tim Boetsch/Brad Tavares matchup next. Those two top-15 competitors will meet at Fight Night 47 in August, and either man would present a solid next test for Marquardt.
Gastelum remained unbeaten by earning a unanimous decision victory over Nicholas Musoke at Fight Night 44. The TUF Season 17 winner is closing in on top-10 territory but needs to make weight moving forward. He forfeited 20 percent of his purse after missing the welterweight limit in San Antonio. A matchup between two standout prospects should be seriously considered if Nelson emerges victorious at Fight Night 46 in Ireland against Zak Cummings.
Stephens fell shy in his battle against Swanson, but turned in a game effort. The loss doesn’t diminish his stock and he's still a major player within the 145 pound division. A bout between the hard-hitting Stephens and “The Korean Zombie” would produce a thriller. Jung has been on the shelf since sustaining a shoulder injury in his UFC 163 title loss against Jose Aldo. His granite chin would get a major test against "Lil Heathen's" power.
Cub Swanson showcased a diversified striking attack and was more accurate and active against Stephens in their pivotal five-round main event clash at Fight Night 44. Swanson earned his sixth straight win and deserves his title shot after the Fight of the Night performance. While Swanson has suffered career losses against both Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes, he’s done enough to face the winner of their UFC 176 title rematch.
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