Unless you’ve been kidnapped by the Christmas Grinch you will surely know that UFC 168 goes down this Saturday, December 28, from the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas and is shaping up to be one of the most eagerly anticipated cards in the promotions twenty-year history.
The main event, Chris Weidman versus Anderson Silva has captured the attention of combat sports fans be they fanatic or casual and is preceded by a grudge match of epic proportions between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. So after all that mulled wine and turkey it would be easy to forget that there is an entire night of action to enjoy with an undercard that features a host of intriguing match-ups which will decide the imminent future of some of the most exciting fighters in the sport –
John Howard vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
It all kicks off with a welterweight tussle between two heavy hitters who desperately need to create some traction in an ocean deep division that is as competitive as they come. After being cut by the UFC following a loss to Matt Brown, Howard has rebounded with seven wins in eight contests, including a triumphant return to the UFC where he stepped up on short notice to edge a decision over TUF assassin Uriah Hall. In stark contrast his opponent, Bahadurzada, has not fought since losing a lop-sided decision to Dong Hyun Kim in March and after a series of injuries that have kept him out of action, a win this Saturday is an absolute must for the Afghani standout.
Prediction – Howard by unanimous decision.
Dennis Siver vs. Manvel Gamburyan
It is easy to forget that the 145lb division is still a relatively new addition to the UFC yet it has already produced some scintillating performances that showcase why the lighter-weight fighters have become a must-watch for the discerning MMA fan. Dennis Siver is one such fighter who has consistently produced and entertained, irrespective of the outcome and after claiming ‘Fight of the Night’ honours against Cub Swanson he will be desperate to return with another dominant, highlight-laden performance. Gamburyan enters the contest after back-to-back wins but a victory over Siver would represent a huge step forward for the fight hardened Judo specialist.
Prediction – Siver by TKO.
Gleison Tibau vs. Michael Johnson
Two powerful lightweights will collide with the added spice of bragging rights up for grabs as American Top Team’s Gleison Tibau tangles with Blackzillians own Michael Johnson. The simmering tension between Florida’s finest fight camps has threatened to boil over in previous bouts and the evergreen Tibau will look to respond by focusing solely on the task at hand, nullifying the enigmatic Johnson who has shown intermittent signs of producing his immense talent since emerging from season eleven of TUF. After two defeats in a row, Johnson found himself edging toward the MMA abyss yet he bounced back with a superb display against Joe Lauzon and another impressive victory would signal a timely reverse in fortunes for ‘The Menace’.
Prediction – Johnson by split decision.
Chris Leben vs. Uriah Hall
The middleweight division then plays host to what shows every sign of being an absolute barnburner, as two generations of Ultimate Fighter graduates fight to remain a part of the organization that they have made their name with. Despite a career that has been plagued with intense trials and tribulations, Chris Leben has managed to remain a mainstay of the UFC and a firm favourite of its President, Dana White. Yet defeat here would be Leben’s fourth in succession and ’The Crippler’ will know that he has to deliver an eye-catching performance at the very least, if he is to stand any chance of remaining a UFC employee. His opponent, Uriah Hall, finds himself in a position no one could have predicted after demolishing his rivals on season seventeen of TUF. He is now faced with the very real possibility of losing his UFC fighter status and if he does not manage to break his duck for the third time of asking, his position could become untenable.
Prediction – Hall by TKO
This may well have been the UFC’s greatest year of action to date. Let us hope 2014 brings us more of the same!