Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva 2: One Thing Each Fighter Must Do to Win
With another title fight on the card, a heavyweight bout with major championship implications, a bout between rising featherweight contenders, and a pair of grappling aces squaring off, there's plenty to like about the UFC's year-end offering.
Here's a single thing that each one of tonight's competitors must do to take home the win.
Poirier draws Diego Brandao in a tough test at 145lbs., and though Brandao missed weight by a near-comical amount, rest assured Poirier isn't laughing. He's landed a serious handful in the young Brazilian, and a misstep will end his night violently.
To be successful the former WEC standout has to survive the early onslaught. Brandao is ruthless in the octagon, but he's particularly dangerous in the early going. He's not near the top of the division with his gas tank, and the problematic cut likely exacerbated that for 168, but he'll be trouble early.
Get out of the first few minutes and this one should be an attainable win.
On the other side of the coin, Brandao has tarnished his first major jump in competition by missing weight. The added pressure of that from UFC management and fans is tough, though his history suggests this isn't a regular occurrence and his TUF pedigree will give him more leeway anyway.
Poirier is a cagey veteran despite his young age and he's fought some of the best in the world at 145. Brandao is looking to snatch his spot in the upper tier of the top-10, and if he does it there's a good chance he'll do it in wildly violent fashion.
For that to happen he has to ignore the external pressure that comes with missing weight. That part is over with and there's nothing that can be done about it, all he can do now is win the fight.
Miller is a perennially underrated engineer of mayhem, a guy who routinely puts on great fights and always brings the best out of an opponent. In Fabricio Camoes he'll face a grappling whiz who's finally being given his shot in the UFC.
While most might look at it and suggest that Miller would be wise to make it a kickboxing match, there's a track record there for success when he fights fire with fire. He tapped Charles Oliveira when most thought it impossible, he beat Melvin Guillard by simply out-aggressing him, and he bested Joe Lauzon by fighting fire with even more fire.
Miller does his best work when he fights to his opponents strengths, and that's what he should do against Camoes. Go out there and beat him at his own game, an act that will surely turn some heads.
Camoes is a veteran of the sport but has had limited success in the UFC with a 1-2-1 record. Time isn't on his side, and though he's training with the best the sport has to offer he surely needs a big win against Jim Miller at UFC 168.
For that reason he needs to throw caution to the wind and be aggressive from the opening bell. There's no room for tentativeness, no time to be bashful. He has to go right after Miller - who has occasionally wilted under high octane attacks from the likes of Nate Diaz and Benson Henderson - and prove he belongs in the world's biggest promotion.
If he doesn't, he could be collecting unemployment by Monday.
Browne is in a position enviable to most of the heavyweight division: he's no more than two fights from a title shot, and he'd likely be a fight away if not for a Cain Velasquez injury. As it stands, he'll fight Josh Barnett for the right to fight Fabricio Werdum for the right to fight Velasquez for the right to be called the Baddest Man on the Planet.
Got all that? Good.
To get down that line though it starts with Barnett, a man who poses a tough out for anyone. He's durable, experienced and among the meanest competitors in the sport. No one makes it ugly the way Barnett does, and you need to be ready for that if you're going to fight him.
Such is the case for Browne, who has to be willing to endure anything to get the win. He has to come ready for a dogfight for 15 minutes, because if he's not there's no question that Barnett will eat him up.
Barnett is in the middle of his last run at the top of the mountain, an aging veteran who can still lay waste to most of the best heavyweights in the world. His loss to Daniel Cormier in 2012 is the only one he's suffered in seven years, and that's nothing to be ashamed of.
Like most of his fights, his best path to victory is unrelenting ugliness. He needs to mix up his grinding wrestling, clinch work and dirty boxing before taking Browne down to finish him on the ground. There's a very specific, unsurprising form that a Josh Barnett win usually takes, and he needs to follow its formula if he's going to topple the rising Hawaiian at UFC 168.
Is there even a question of what Tate needs to do to win? Stay out of the armbar. If there's one thing she's ever going to be prepared for it's Ronda Rousey's signature finish, but that doesn't mean she can stop it.
While there's reason to believe that a more focused, less emotional Tate can hang more convincingly that she did in their first meeting, it really is that simple. Avoid the armbar to have any hope at all. If she can't, she doesn't.
Conversely, Rousey has only one thing to do to win, and that's land an armbar. Independent of gender, she may be the best practitioner of the move in the world and has a host of setups and positions from which she can finish it.
If she hits it once, it's a near certainty the fight is going to end. If Tate somehow survives it, it's academic that it will happen again and it's not likely to be survived a second time.
There's no way to know if Rousey is a one-trick pony because she's never needed to show any other tricks. If that holds true at UFC 168, she'll come out victorious.
It's going to be a weird night for Anderson Silva. For the first time since George W. Bush was in office, he's going to enter the cage first. He's not the main draw (even though we all know he's the main draw), he's the humble challenger coming to try and take the belt from a champion.
No one can tell how that's going to play on his mind, his opponent's mind, or the minds of the fans. No one can really tell anything about him at all, honestly, because his combination of broken English and goofing around make him almost unreadable.
And you know what? That's what makes Anderson Silva. And that's what Anderson Silva needs in order to regain his title - he needs to be himself.
He's the best any of us have ever seen at this MMA thing, a man that was thought to be indestructible as recently as July. He got there by clowning around in the cage, flustering opponents with his fearlessness and generally taking in-fight roads that no one had ever seen before.
He can't abandon any of that because of a single loss. He's gotta dance with what brought him to the cusp of immortality, and if it betrays him again then it was simply meant to be.
In his first title defense, Chris Weidman is in the unique position of having more doubt directed at him now than he did when he was the challenger. And he's fighting the guy he already beat for the title.
People wonder if his knockout of Silva was a fluke.
People wonder if he can do it again.
People wonder what he can do if he can't do it again.
But at the end of the day, his path to victory is exactly the same as the man standing across the cage: he has to be himself.
He can't worry about the doubts people may have about him, about how Silva might be different this time around or how the stakes are higher when you're trying to be the best of all-time for the second time in as many fights.
He needs to go out and take what's his by relying on his underappreciated (though perhaps not anymore) standup and his vicious ground game. If he puts all that together at UFC 168 there's a very good chance that he'll still be the champion when he leaves the MGM Grand this evening.