UFC 168: Preliminary Card Predictions

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2013

UFC 168: Preliminary Card Predictions

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    The UFC plans to close 2013 with a bang, as UFC 168 comes to you live on pay-per-view. Headlined by two title fights, the card is deep from the very bottom all the way to the top.

    Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman are the stars, vying for the UFC Middleweight Championship, which the American took after knocking out Silva at UFC 162. Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate co-headline, battling for the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship, which "Rowdy" earned after finishing as the Strikeforce champion.

    Before those great fights and several other PPV bouts, we start with the Facebook and Fox Sports 1 portions of the card. Here are the predictions for those fights.

Robbie Peralta vs. Estevan Payan

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    Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    A pair of strikers who may be in danger of getting cut start the card off in the featherweight division, as Mexican-Americans Estevan Payan and Robbie Peralta meet to do battle.

    Peralta, who owns 12 knockouts in 16 career wins, is a heavy-handed boxer who is 2-1 (with one no-contest) in the UFC. He dominated Mike Lullo and Jason Young before getting outgrappled by Akira Corassani. After that loss, he was suspended for testing positive for marijuana.

    As for Payan, he is in dire need of a win after getting thrashed in his UFC debut. He migrated over as a part of the Strikeforce merger (where he was 2-0), but Jeremy Stephens promptly destroyed him in a three-round bloodbath.

    Expect this bout to be contested on the feet. Both men like to stand in the pocket and throw heat, but Peralta is more powerful and precise.

    Prediction: Peralta def. Payan via TKO

William Macario vs. Bobby Voelker

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    Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    The second of two Facebook fights will take place in the welterweight division, as The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 2 runner-up William Macario will have a showdown with Strikeforce import and UFC vet Bobby Voelker.

    "Patolino" is a wild brawler, as seen in his time on TUF. He swings powerful punches in bunches, not really aiming but hoping to land one on his opponent's jaw. That said, he owns five of his six wins by knockout, even though he faltered in his UFC debut against Leo Santos.

    Voelker is much more experienced than his Brazilian counterpart, having almost five times as many fights. He is a kickboxer but finds himself 0-2 in the UFC in bouts against Patrick Cote and Robbie Lawler.

    His experience and technical advantages are likely to score him more points here, but I have a sneaking suspicion that UFC 168 won't be his night. 

    This will be my upset pick of the card, as I doubt many are giving Macario a chance.

    Prediction: Macario def. Voelker via decision

John Howard vs. Siyar Bahadurzada

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    John Howard returns to the welterweight division to kick off the Fox Sports 1 portion of the card, and meeting him will be a man with similar striking ability in Siyar Bahadurzada.

    Howard, a Muay Thai practitioner, recently returned to the UFC after a 6-1 stint outside the company. He took a late-notice middleweight bout against Uriah Hall, winning a critically panned decisionnot because it was controversial but because it was boring and unsatisfying.

    Bahadurzada has been slowed by injuries in his UFC career and will finally return for the first time since March. After blasting through Paulo Thiago quickly in his debut, he was dominated on the ground by Dong Hyun Kim.

    This will be a battle of strikers, with Bahadurzada being the more top-level guy. If Howard uses his wrestling, he could outhustle the Afghan, but "Siyar the Great" will out-technique the Wai Kru MMA rep to a decision. 

    Prediction: Bahadurzada def. Howard via decision

Dennis Siver vs. Manny Gamburyan

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Next up are the featherweights. Armenian-American slugger Manny Gamburyan will take on German striker Dennis Siver.

    Siver's drop to 145 has seen both good and bad results. After moving into the division and dominating Diego Nunes and Nam Phan, Siver was brutally knocked out by Cub Swanson at UFC 162 in that card's Fight of the Night.

    Gamburyan finds himself at 2-2 with the UFC since transferring from the WEC. He lost his first two bouts to Tyson Griffin and Nunes but came back to beat Michihiro Omigawa and Cole Miller. The latter bout was incredibly controversial.

    Both men like to stand and bang, but Gamburyan can get the fight on the ground with his judo skills. He is likely the better grappler of the two, but Siver's takedown defense is sturdy. The German should grab the win here. 

    Prediction: Siver def. Gamburyan via decision

Gleison Tibau vs. Michael Johnson

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    The hulking Brazilian looks to push his win streak to three, but in his way is a much-improved Blackzilians rep in Michael Johnson, who is used to spoiling the party.

    Tibau has been with the UFC since 2006, holding a 13-7 record with the company. After a contentious split-decision loss to Evan Dunham at UFC 156, the Brazilian grinder has won consecutive fights over John Cholish (guillotine choke) and Jamie Varner (split decision) to get him back in the win column.

    Johnson is a wrestler who has developed his hands since working with the Blackzilians. After dropping two in a row to Myles Jury and Reza Madadi, he came back to win one of the most dominant performances in UFC history against Joe Lauzon in his latest fight.

    Johnson will not overpower Tibau, who will be the size of a middleweight come fight time. The American will need to rely on his hands here, but the longtime UFC vet will outmuscle him and grind away the decision.

    Yes, I know—the decision parade continues.

    Prediction: Tibau def. Johnson via decision

Uriah Hall vs. Chris Leben

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    The main feature of the preliminary card will take place in the middleweight division, as fan favorite Chris Leben is set to take on TUF 17 vet Uriah Hall.

    Leben is an iron-jawed zombie who takes three punches to land one of his own. He has slowed down lately, though, as he is just 0-3 in his last three. Two of those fights came against midcarders Andrew Craig and Derek Brunson.

    As for Hall, he entered the UFC with a killer aura after slicing and dicing the competition on TUF. However, he finds himself 0-2 with the company, dropping decisions to Kelvin Gastelum and John Howard. The Howard bout was an incredibly dull, awful fight.

    He is quicker, bigger and more athletic than Leben. He should have his way striking with him while using a solid sprawl to stay off his back. 

    Hall finally will have some motivation to show why he was so feared during his TUF days.

    Prediction: Hall def. Leben via TKO