Tomorrow night brings us UFC 168: Weidman vs. Silva II, perhaps the biggest and most important MMA event since UFC 100. This is the one we have been waiting for since Chris Weidman ousted Anderson Silva as UFC Middleweight champ back in July and the one that has gripped the MMA world thanks to the intense rivalry of the two biggest female mixed martial artists in the sport.
UFC Middleweight Championship
Chris Weidman (c) vs. Anderson Silva – 185lbs.
With one fell swoop Chris Weidman changed the game. Anderson Silva, famed for his clowning and baiting of opponents, dropped his hands and danced around Weidman one too many times and paid the price with his middleweight gold. This is the most intriguing fight of the year and for as long as I can remember. How will Silva react to being dethroned? Can Weidman silence the remaining doubters and cement his name at the top of the division? I cannot wait.
The pair’s first fight answered a lot of pre-fight questions surrounding Weidman’s calibre and ability to take Silva down to the ground, but there were more questions raised than answered after the bizarre conclusion of the bout. The main source of contention centred on Silva’s peculiar in-cage antics and if he had not indulged in a spot of dancing, would he still be champ? For me, the answer is no. I had picked Silva going in to the first fight, but Weidman surprised me with his calmness once locked inside the Octagon with arguably the greatest fighting talent we have seen, a vision many other renowned fighters have broken before. Weidman was able to catch Silva at times and always had the threat of the takedown to keep Silva relatively guarded which prompted the over elaborate taunting from Silva in order to get Weidman flustered and to fight sloppy. Weidman stuck to his game plan and executed it to perfection.
While it would be pleasing to see Silva reclaim his belt and add a further tale to his already secure legacy, Weidman came along at a bad time for the 38 year old Silva and although I do not think that it will be as devastating a conclusion as their first encounter, I still see Weidman with his hand raised.
Prediction – Weidman
UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Miesha Tate – 135lbs.
It’s safe to say that this one has got a little heat to it. After their first match-up, we knew that Rousey and Tate were not exactly BFF’s but from the moment that Tate replaced an injured Cat Zingano as coach for the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter and would be assuming Zingano’s role as number one contender, we were treated to a week-by-week check-up of just how much Ronda Rousey cannot stand Miesha Tate. While these clashes proved entertaining on the whole, the brash, dismissive demeanour that Rousey showed towards Tate lost her many fans and Tate became the breakout star of the season. That is all well and good for TV, but Saturday night in the Octagon is where the real competition starts and ends, and I’ve read this script before. Tate did not show me anything in their first contest, nor in any of her subsequent performances, to suggest that she can place Rousey in any real danger. For me, this again is Rousey’s fight to lose and I will be shocked if we are treated to anything other than a display of evolution in Rousey’s fighting skills.
Prediction – Rousey
Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne – 265lbs.
With the victor of this contest already aware that they will face Fabricio Werdum in what would very likely be a No. 1 contender’s match-up if they are able to triumph, the stakes are pretty high for this heavyweight clash. Barnett enters this bout on the back of a two-fight win streak, having finished off Frank Mir with strikes in his last fight, his first fight back in the UFC, at UFC 164. Browne will step in to the Octagon fresh off the biggest win of his career after dropping Alistair Overeem in spectacular fashion as a result of a front kick to the face back in August. This fight will likely be decided by whether or not Barnett is able to take his larger opponent to the mat, as Browne will hold an advantage on the feet. Unfortunately for Browne, I see Barnett having his way and dragging this one to the floor for a comprehensive grappling clinic.
Prediction – Barnett
Jim Miller vs. Fabricio Camoes – 155lbs.
Jim Miller has been one of the UFC’s most consistent performers in their lightweight division since he first set foot in the Octagon in 2008, only losing out to the best that the 155lbs ranks has to offer. Fabricio Camoes, while talented and a real danger for most on the ground, is not one of the top fighters in the division. If Miller can keep it standing, which I think he should be able to do with relative ease, then I fail to see how this can go any other way than a shutout on the side of Miller.
Prediction – Miller
Dustin Poirier vs. Diego Brandao – 145lbs.
This is a highly significant fight for both men here. Brandao, the former TUF standout, has shown glimpses of genuine brutality in its finest form, with equal measures of aggressive striking and fluid jiu-jitsu, however he has been found wanting when he has come up against the upper echelons of the division. The very same could well be said of the dangerous, well-rounded Poirier but the advantage in big league experience that he possesses over Brandao will weigh in his favour and play a significant role in this contest. I expect Poirier to be that little bit savvier than Brandao on the feet in avoiding the on-rushing Brazilian so as to keep the exchanges at a distance and point score.
Prediction – Poirier