With one well-placed left hook Chris Weidman did the impossible: he shattered Anderson Silva’s aura of invincibility and ended the most dominant run in the history of the UFC. What has yet to be decided is whether or not Weidman’s victory was an aberration or if we have seen a true passing of the torch from the last of the UFC’s old guard of Champions. With Georges St. Pierre’s recent vacating of his title, the group of elite fighters whose immense popularity helped elevate the UFC from fringe organization to the dominant combat sports property on the planet is no more. Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, and BJ Penn are either gone or on their way out the door. But each departure was accompanied by the ascension of a new star. Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez and Jose Aldo have risen to the challenge and filled the vacuum those stars left behind. Anderson Silva enters his re-match with Chris Weidman intent on quieting the voices that are saying he is no longer the fighter he was and showing that he has not been supplanted by the young, hungry lion.
With another win over Silva, Chris Weidman will show that he belongs among the biggest names in the sport. Weidman shares many similarities with both Jones and Velasquez in that they are all collegiate wrestlers who have taken to MMA like a duck to water. Each of these three has made quantum leaps in skill and technique in their relatively short careers with any deficiencies in their game disappearing quickly. Weidman has always possessed punishing ground and pound and nasty submissions but his boxing has gone from weakness to weapon faster than anyone thought possible. It is a testament to Weidman’s ability that Anderson Silva lured him into a brawl with his showboating and taunting and still lost. The UFC roster is deeper, more competitive and more dynamic than it has ever been which means that the truly incandescent talents shine even brighter. Chris Weidman has long felt that it was his time to shine and UFC 168 is his chance to prove it to everyone, especially Anderson Silva.
UFC 168 Preview and Predictions
Dustin Poirier vs Diego Brandao - Featherweight (145 lbs)
The aggressiveness of both fighters will set a furious pace but Poirier needs to keep his composure and try to create space with his jab and his kicks so that the more powerful Brandao doesn’t damage him in the exchanges. If the fight hits the ground, I give a slight edge to the longer-limbed Poirier who has a clever array of chokes that he can lock in from the top or bottom but Brandao excels in scrambles, and can quickly seize on the smallest of openings.
Brandao wins via TKO.
Jim Miller vs Fabricio Camoes - Lightweight (155 lbs)
After alternating wins and losses in his last 5 fights, Miller needs to start a winning streak if he ever wants a shot at the Lightweight title. Camoes is an ideal opponent for Miller; not dangerous on the feet and not a dynamic athlete. Camoes will want to work from top position for submissions, but Miller’s wrestling will allow him to control positioning and he will punish Camoes with his ground and pound.
Miller wins via Unanimous Decision
Travis Browne vs Josh Barnett - Heavyweight (206 lbs and up)
The winner of this fight will be able to make a very convincing argument that they should get the next shot at the HW title. Barnett is the best grappler that Browne has ever fought, but Browne is great at creating distance with push kicks and jabs so that grapplers can’t get ahold of him. Barnett’s game plan will be to rush Browne early and pin him against the cage and after softening him up with elbows and knees, drag him to the ground. If Barnett can’t get inside of Browne’s reach he will get knocked out, but if he gets Browneon the ground he will force him to tap.
Barnett wins via Submission.
Ronda Rousey vs Miesha Tate - Women’s Bantamweight Championship (135 lbs)
It is hard not to assume that the result of this fight is a foregone conclusion. Rousey has won every fight by 1st round submission and she broke Tate’s arm in their last encounter. Tate may be a slightly better striker, but she doesn’t have the type of KO power that can change the fight with a single punch. She will have to spend multiple rounds avoiding the single most devastating and effective technique in the sport to damage Rousey enough to finish the fight. Rousey only needs Tate to make one mistake to end things. Miesha will make that mistake.
Rousey wins via Submission.
Chris Weidman vs Anderson Silva - Middleweight Championship (185 lbs)
Weidman’s victory was no fluke, but it is difficult to believe that anyone can beat Silva twice in a row. I expect to see Silva constantly chop away at Weidman’s base with leg kicks in an effort to neutralize Weidman’s wrestling while Weidman will try to stay away from prolonged striking exchanges and go to his takedowns more often than he did in the first fight. Ultimately, I think that Silva has slowed just enough that he won’t be able to spend the fight on his heels being purely reactionary, counter-striking and avoiding Weidman’s takedowns. He must fight aggressively and look to damage Weidman early on or Silva will be worn down to his breaking point by the younger man. Silva’s steadfast insistence that he doesn’t need to change his style worries me, because in this sport you either evolve or you lose.
Weidman wins via Unanimous Decision.