UFC 168: Early Main Card Preview and Predictions
Come one, come all. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is presenting to you for your viewing pleasure UFC 168, set to transpire Dec. 28 from the clandestine desert outpost of Las Vegas, Nev.
Curiosities abound. Will Anderson Silva regain his middleweight title, or will he be turned away by new champion Chris Weidman? Does Miesha Tate have a snowball's chance in Hades of upsetting the great and powerful Ronda Rousey, and if she does accomplish this unlikely feat, will Miss Rousey spontaneously combust with rage, reduced to a mere pile of ashes before our very eyes?
These are the questions with which we wrestle. And they are but the tip of the iceberg. So get excited.
To aid you in the process, here are quick previews and predictions for each of the five main card bouts. Step right up.
Dustin Poirier vs. Diego Brandao
Records: Diego Brandao (18-8), Dustin Poirier (14-3)
Poirier is right in the thick of his division's top 10. Brandao has been breathing down the neck of the top 10 for months now, and it has become slightly creepy.
"Oh, that's just Diego Brandao," the top 10 says when asked about the neck breathing. "We don't know how to make him leave."
The 26-year-old winner of The Ultimate Fighter 14 has an uneven career track record, but he won three straight after gutty veteran Darren Elkins out-gutty-veteraned him at UFC 146.
Brandao isn't always pretty, and he's no technical marvel, but the W's are there, and the ladder is deployed and ready at UFC 168. Bad news, though: Poirier's in front of it.
People like to think of Poirier as a grappler, but the Louisianan unfurled an elite striking game in February against Cub Swanson. Poirier lost that fight (thanks, oddly, to Swanson's superior ground attack) but used that stand-up to disarm and defeat Erik Koch in August.
Brandao has earned this chance, and if he wins this fight, he'll have earned that top 10 spot. But Poirier is too skilled. He will have faster hands and feet, and he will deflect Brandao's aggression. Brandao has been a little calmer of late, but he'll look back on this one and see he could've ground out a boring decision rather than getting battered for 15 minutes in an exciting loss.
Prediction: Poirier, Unanimous decision
Jim Miller vs. Fabricio Camoes
Record: Fabricio Camoes (14-7-1), Jim Miller (22-4-1)
Camoes is a name fans in the know like to throw around. The guy's a veteran brawler from the Vale Tudo trenches of Brazil, with only six decisions in his 22-fight pro MMA career. He's dangerous, he's charismatic and he's decidedly non-conservative.
But come on. Seriously. He's 1-2-1 over the course of two separate stints in the UFC, and he's not going to prevail over Miller, a top-shelf grappler who needs a good showing after dropping two of his last three.
Prediction: Miller, Unanimous decision
Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne
Records: Josh Barnett (33-6), Travis Browne (15-1-1)
Travis Browne is a bad man. In his last two, he only needed a combined five minutes and 19 seconds to earn $100,000 in knockout bonuses at the expense of Alistair Overeem and Gabriel Gonzaga.
Eight times Browne has walked into the octagon, and only once did he walk out without having his hand raised. And that one setback, a knockout at the hands of one Antonio Silva, is getting a lot better with age.
This is the fight where Barnett shows his age. The 36-year-old must be pretty shopworn after 16 years in pro fighting. There's a mismatch on the ground, sure, but I see a bigger one on the feet.
He'll have a good UFC run this time around, but it will include time as a trophy buck for big-game hunters like Browne. No chess match to see here.
Prediction: Browne, TKO, Rd. 1
Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
Division: Women's bantamweight
Records: Ronda Rousey (7-0), Miesha Tate (13-4)
The only thing that will be different in this rematch is the cheer-boo ratio, which should tip more in the favor of Ms. Tate following their coaching stint on TUF, during which Ms. Rousey unveiled her own unique brand of white-hot wackiness.
But the fight? Yeah, put me down for a first-round armbar and keep me subscribed until further notice.
Prediction: Rousey, Submission, Rd. 1
Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman
Division: Middleweight (for UFC middleweight title)
Records: Anderson Silva (33-5), Chris Weidman (10-0)
Fair warning: This fight is going to be scrutinized. You may hear some opinions. I just don't want you to feel blindsided.
Because here, still about two weeks away, we're only going ankle-deep into that bottomless pit, I'll just say that I'm personally flip-flopping on this. I had Silva in the first one. In this one, I have Weidman. Even before the backfired trolljob heard round the world, he was winning the fight with the conventional Silva solution: put him on his back, lie on him, stay busy by striking him.
So now I'm going with Weidman. Here's also guessing he refrains from submission-fishing this time as well. Of course, that will probably mean it's Silva all the way. But whatever. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Prediction: Weidman, Unanimous decision
Scott Harris is a writer for Bleacher Report MMA. For more predictions and so forth, follow him on Twitter.