The mega rematch between UFC middleweight champion "All American" Chris Weidman and Anderson "Spider" Silva is obviously the featured attraction at UFC 168, but the card is pretty stacked otherwise.
Aside from "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey's over-hyped battle with Miesha "Cupcake" Tate, there's a potentially explosive heavyweight bout on tap between Travis "Hapa" Browne and "The Warmaster" Josh Barnett.
That's just the best of the main card planned for Saturday, Dec. 28 at the MGM Grand.
The Fox Sports 1 preliminaries have gems like Chris "The Crippler" Leben vs. Uriah Hall and Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier vs. Diego Brandao. This should be a heck of a year-end show for the UFC.
Here's how you can catch all of the action and predictions for each bout. The results with an asterisk are my picks to earn fight night bonuses. Deeper analysis for those fights is below the table.
|UFC 168 Fight Card, Viewing Info and Predictions|
|Facebook - Preliminaries - 7 p.m. ET||MGM Grand in Las Vegas|
|Estevan Payan vs. Robert Peralta||Featherweight||Payan by decision|
|William Macario vs. Bobby Voelker||Welterweight||Voelker by decision|
|Fox Sports 1 - Preliminary Card - 8 p.m. ET|
|Siyar Bahadurzada vs. John Howard||Welterweight||Howard by decision|
|Manvel Gamburyan vs. Dennis Siver||Featherweight||Siver by TKO|
|Michael Johnson vs. Gleison Tibau||Lightweight||Johnson by decision|
|Uriah Hall vs. Chris Leben||Middleweight||Hall by KO*|
|Main Card - Pay-per-view - 10 p.m. ET|
|Diego Brandao vs. Dustin Poirier||Featherweight||Poirier by submission|
|Jim Miller vs. Fabricio Camoes||Lightweight||Miller by decision|
|Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne||Heavyweight||Browne by KO|
|(c) Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate||Women's Bantamweight Championship||Rousey by submission*|
|(c) Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva||Middleweight Championship||Silva by TKO*|
|Brian Mazique's Predictions, Schedule from UFC.com|
Submission of the Night: Rousey over Tate
Why it Should Happen
We all know that Rousey has won all seven of her bouts by arm bar. That includes a 2012 victory over Tate when both were still in Strikeforce. Aside from those very relevant details, the statistics would also suggest Tate is again about to have her arm turned into a pretzel.
In Cupcake's career, she has defended just 20 percent of the takedowns attempted against her. Unless Tate has been doing the most intensive takedown defense training in the world, this is likely still a weakness.
Even with that training, Rousey would still be miles ahead of her in this regard. Her judo background is the advantage she holds over every opponent. At 135 pounds, there simply isn't a fighter strong enough to overcome the technical edge.
That said, just because Rousey wins by submission doesn't mean she has to win the bonus money, right? If Rousey wins by submission, she'll almost certainly get the recognition.
Were it not for a spectacular knee bar from Kenny Robertson at UFC 157, Rousey would have gotten the nod in her debut. Even though I have Poirier winning by submission, unless he does something phenomenal like Robertson, Rousey will get the extra cash.
Why it Might Not
This fight is being promoted as an epic clash when it really isn't. Tate has already lost to Rousey and she got pounded by Cat Zingano in her last fight. Zingano is on the shelf after knee surgeries, so we now have an uneven bout between two girls who don't like each other.
This isn't really my idea of a co-main event. Malice doesn't automatically translate into a must-see scrap.
That said, if Tate bum rushes Rousey and is somehow able to thwart the initial attempts to take her down, she may have a chance to land significant strikes.
We've yet to see how Ronda will react if she's tagged hard before she can gain an advantageous grappling position. Like Mike Tyson once said, "everybody has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth."
KO of the Night: Hall over Leben
Why it Should Happen
Hall is one of the most athletic and spectacular strikers in the sport. His quick-twitch explosion, strength and natural gift for striking is dangerous.
You saw evidence of this in his fights during the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter. He scored three punishing knockouts during the reality series and made it all the way to the finals.
Leben is slow and short on defense. He's also an old 33 because of the battles he's been in. The Crippler hasn't won a fight in just under 30 months and the end of his career is near. With his three-fight losing streak, he could also be nearing UFC president Dana White's cut line.
Leben wants to trade punches, but it is hard to imagine him winning a striking contest with Hall. The veteran is also devoid of the skills to take his opponent to the mat and gain advantage in grappling.
This should be a tough night for one of the promotion's most beloved fighters.
Why it Might Not
White said Hall is a nice kid, but "he's not a fighter." I don't agree with the UFC's head man all that much, but I certainly do in this case. Mixed martial artists need a mean streak and a killer instinct that allows them to be vicious without hesitation in a fight.
Hall doesn't appear to have that. After scoring back-to-back devastating knockouts during TUF 17, he seemed to pull back a bit. He hasn't looked as dominant since.
He's lost his two official fights in the UFC and his hesitancy could cost him a KO, or even the fight against Leben.
Fight of the Night: Silva over Weidman
Why it Should Happen
There will be no clowning around in the Octagon this time. You can bet, Silva will be all business when he attempts to regain his title. The Spider will set things straight now that a big left hook has demanded his attention.
This is no disrespect to Weidman—the champion will come out firing to prove his first win was no fluke.
When Silva clowned his way into being knocked out at UFC 162, he didn't just cheat himself, he robbed Weidman of a chance to prove without question he was the better man. Everyone will get their monies worth the second time around.
Silva has been solid in rematches throughout his legendary career. He's 2-0 when facing an opponent for a second time.
I expect Weidman to try to take him to the ground. This is still the preferred method of attack against the Spider. That said, I believe Silva will be prepared and he'll stave off the initial attacks.
There is a realisitc scenario where Silva could submit Weidman from the bottom, but an even more likely ending is a TKO in the second or third round. In either case, the fight should be exciting.
After Silva has proven he won't be dominated on the ground, the two will engage in a stand-up battle and Silva's natural striking ability and athleticism will show itself again. Before he was caught, he was making Weidman miss with ease in the first fight.
A knee or head kick will get the party started and hammer fists will force the referee to call an end to the bout.
While Silva has had a number of one-sided bouts, he's also participated in three bouts that have won Fight of the Night. Most recently, his clash with Chael Sonnen won the honors at UFC 117. Silva caught Sonnen in a triangle choke from bottom guard to save his title that night.
This fight could end the way that one did, except Silva is unlikely to take the same amount of punishment.
Why it Might Not
Maybe Weidman is just going to be better. It could very well be time for the mantle to be passed from a future Hall of Famer to the next real star of the sport. After all, Silva is 38 years old.
Weidman is strong, he has above average athleticism and his game is well rounded.
Even if he doesn't land another shot heard round the world on Silva's chin, he could use his wrestling to ride Silva into the mat and win on points.
It wouldn't be all that exciting, but Weidman would have still proved he is the best middleweight in the world. I can't wait to find out if I'm right or wrong.
All stat references from FightMetric.com.
Follow me. I go back like Royce Gracie and no weight classes.
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