UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva at UFC 168 Weigh-ins
UFC 168: Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva II is shaping up to be one of the biggest pay-per-view events in the company’s 20-year history. The event, taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, currently holds the record for the second largest U.S. gate in UFC history, boasting an astounding $6.3 million.
The success of UFC 168 can be attributed to the star power of former middleweight champion Anderson Silva and the face of women’s MMA and reigning bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. The UFC is banking on the strength of its card on December 28, 2013 to the point that $5 extra will be added to the event’s normal pay-per-view price of $44.95 (standard definition) and $54.95 (high definition).
With the increase in price, MMA fans will expect to witness a spectacular event. At the same time, the pressure to excel and triumph at UFC 168 couldn’t already be any higher for Silva, Miesha Tate, Uriah Hall and Chris Leben. Each of these fighters is coming off a defeat. Silva and Tate are facing someone they previously lost to in devastating fashion, and Hall and Leben have accrued consecutive losses.
For these four fighters, UFC 168 will serve as a major, defining event in their lives and give light to their relevancy within an already stacked middleweight and bantamweight division.
At UFC 162, Weidman shockingly knocked out the former longtime-reigning middleweight champion. With the win, the former Division I All-American wrestler wrested away the 185-pound title and ended Silva’s seven-year reign. For Silva, his rematch against Weidman is career defining.
If Silva loses to the champion a second time, at 38 years old, talk of retirement will undoubtedly surface. However, Silva recently stated that, irrespective of the outcome at UFC 168, the Brazilian has no intention of retiring and will not be persuaded to do so. In an interview with Roda Viva (h/t MMAFighting.com), the MMA veteran stated:
If I lose again, all the media will criticize me, say that I’m not the same anymore, and maybe (UFC President) Dana (White) will say it’s time to retire. He forced Chuck Liddell to retire. He didn’t want to, and is a guy that made history in the UFC, but you have to be prepared.
Silva went on to express his most probable reaction to the UFC brass if goaded into retirement:
I’d say, ‘Thank you for everything, but I’ll continue doing what I love in other ways.' I’d go to other promotions, fight in other sports, but I’d continue fighting because that’s what I love to do.
Silva has fought for the UFC for seven-and-a-half years. In that time, he has accumulated accolades that are beyond measure. Silva holds the UFC record for most successful title defenses (10), most finishes (14), most consecutive wins (16) and the longest title reign within the company's history (2,457 days).
The former 185-pound champion has little to nothing left to prove in the Octagon.
Silva is a pioneer in the world of mixed martial arts and has played a major part in the growing popularity of the UFC over the years. He has never lost to the same individual twice, nor has he ever suffered two consecutive losses.
At UFC 168, Silva will attempt to put a stamp on his legacy by defeating the man who ended his multi-year reign, become a two-time middleweight world champion and prove that his age is negligible with regard to continuance of his career.
The tumultuous relationship between Tate and Rousey stems back to their first in-Octagon meeting on March 3, 2012. At Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey, the challenger swiftly defeated and wrested away the bantamweight title from Tate.
Since then, the two combatants have engaged each other in a war of words. Rousey expressed to the Jim Rome Show her disdain for Tate, calling her “fake and terrible.” In response, according to Marc Raimondi of Fox Sports, Tate stated, “She (Rousey) runs her mouth. She's very loud, very boisterous, very opinionated.”
Many of their confrontations occurred when both Tate and Rousey coached opposite each other on The Ultimate Fighter 18. Now, the two combatants will attempt to settle the score on December 28.
However, Tate faces a tremendous challenge at UFC 168. Rousey is an Olympic judo champion and is undefeated in her MMA career. For Tate, defeating Rousey on December 28 is critically imperative. Currently, there is only one established women’s division within the UFC—that of 135 pounds. A second loss to the champion would leave Tate with little to no options regarding a weight class change and would essentially relegate her to becoming the division’s gatekeeper.
At UFC 168, along with the bragging rights that come from becoming the first woman to defeat Rousey, Tate has the opportunity to avenge her loss and become a UFC champion in the process.
After destroying the competition while participating on The Ultimate Fighter 17, Hall made it to the combat reality show’s finale. On April 13, 2013, he lost a split decision to Kelvin Gastelum. He then suffered yet another split-decision defeat in his next outing at UFC Fight Night 26.
After being so highly touted on TUF 17, White has threatened to cut Hall from the UFC if he loses at UFC 168. According to Adam Guillen Jr. of MMA Mania, White vented:
No, I don't ever think of matches as the loser leaves town, unless you're talking about Uriah Hall's next fight. Uriah Hall needs to win a fight or Uriah Hall will be leaving town.
Needless to say that with Hall’s job on the line, delivering a strong performance at UFC 168 is pivotal.
Hall’s opponent on December 28 is MMA veteran Chris Leben. “The Crippler” has been a fixture in the UFC since 2005. He sports a “go-for-broke” fighting style that hasn’t paid dividends in the Oregon native’s last series of fights. In an interview with MMA Weekly, White exclaimed, “His fight style is not healthy for him. He’s getting up there in age, and the big layoffs don’t help him either.”
Leben is 1-4 in his last five fights. This past July, after his third consecutive loss, White didn’t wish to address the possibility of cutting Leben. However, if The Crippler is not triumphant on December 28, his release will most likely be taken into great consideration.