Uriah Hall vs. Chris Leben, Dustin Poirier vs. Diego Brandao Slated for UFC 168

Steven RondinaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2013

Aug 16, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Uriah Hall poses during the weigh-in for his UFC fight at TD Garden tomorrow night. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The madness continues, ladies and gentlemen, with two more big fights announced for this December. The UFC, via Twitter, have announced two fights for the already-stacked UFC 168 year-end card.

Welcome Thursday with big #UFC168 slugfests: @DustinPoirier vs @DiegoBrandaoMMA at 145 and @UriahHallMMA vs @CripplerUFC Leben at 185!

— UFC (@ufc) September 19, 2013

That's right! Diego Brandao vs. Dustin Poirier and Uriah Hall vs. Chris Leben. Both fights, on paper, are almost certainly going to be barn-burning slugfests.

Diego Brandao and Dustin Poirier are two featherweights jockeying for position on the UFC's rankings.

Brandao, who won The Ultimate Fighter season 14's featherweight tournament with a shocking first-round armbar, owns a solid 4-1 record thus far, but has been struggling with cardio trouble in his recent fights. Still, he is riding a three-fight winning streak and, in spite of some imperfections, he really does leave it all in the cage.

Poirier, meanwhile, went far in the featherweight division from 2010 through 2012, racking up a five-fight winning streak over some solid competition. However, that streak was ended in spectacular fashion as he was dissected by Chan-Sung Jung, and lost again just months later to Cub Swanson. There is no shame in that, though, and he has bounced back most recently with an exciting back-and-forth decision win over Erik Koch.

This featherweight tilt will either cement Poirier's spot in the division's top-10, or send Diego Brandao rocketing into that group.

While Brandao and Poirier are moving up, Chris Leben and Uriah Hall have been heading in precisely the opposite direction.

Leben, a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter season 1, experienced something of a career renaissance in 2010, but has since gone into a hard free fall, experiencing two lopsided beatdowns at the hands of Brian Stann and Mark Munoz. This was followed by a year-long suspension for painkillers and two ugly, sloppy decision losses.

Hall has also been harshly falling. After achieving overnight stardom on The Ultimate Fighter season 17, he ended up suffering a huge upset loss at the hands of Kelvin Gastellum in the season's finals. He followed this up with a heavily-marketed, but much-maligned, decision loss to previous welterweight washout John Howard. This left many speculating if he was mentally capable of handling a professional fighting career.

So why is this an exciting bout? Well, both fighters have shown themselves capable of putting on an amazing show, and both have their backs to the wall. That will likely mean fireworks.

UFC 168 is headlined by two huge title rematches in Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva 2, and Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate 2. The event takes place December 28.