UFC 168 is upon us, ladies and gentlemen. The odds are more or less locked in, and there are a few surprising underdogs.
On a night that can be looked at as the ultimate proving ground of old generation vs. new generation, a few fights have somewhat surprising lines.
So which fights are those? Which fighters should you make the sneaky pick on? Who is the smart money riding on?
Find out right here!
It's somewhat surprising that John Howard is the underdog at all in this fight. His opponent, Siyar Bahadurzada, is one of the UFC's many victims of being brutally overhyped, and then brutally overmatched (which, I know, is always easy to say in hindsight).
After Bahadurzada scored an impressive knockout of aging, yet still well-known, Paulo Thiago, he was overmatched against the physically monstrous Dong-Hyun Kim. Kim is a plodding grinder who made Bahadurzada look downright foolish in and out of the cage as he took a smack-talking Bahadurzada again and again, punching him in the face when he wasn't striking poses and showboating.
While Howard by no means is on Kim's level, he still has the grappling chops to take Bahadurzada down and score points en route to a decision win. Howard isn't a major underdog, but still qualifies for this purpose.
Michael Johnson made some major strides in his fight with Joe Lauzon, particularly in the striking department. That's a very good thing, considering he had already demonstrated a strong wrestling game in his first 20 professional fights.
Like Howard, he finds himself as only a modest underdog to a fighter (Gleison Tibau) due to recognizability.
Tibau has gotten a bit more fame of late, following his split-decision win over Jamie Varner, which drew attention to his lengthy, impressive UFC record. Still, Tibau is a flawed fighter. He is ridiculously muscular for a lightweight, and while that allows him to muscle opponents for takedowns, it also gives him consistent issues with his cardio.
The large Brazilian isn't going to be able to muscle Johnson to the ground in order to set up his Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and that is really the only department Tibau where finds himself with a legitimate advantage. Look for Johnson to take a handy decision victory.
Travis Browne wraps up this list as a +164 underdog. I'm quite sorry there weren't any bigger underdogs to choose from, it's just that UFC 168's fights are largely really quite close or (on-paper) squash matches.
Anyway, Travis Browne is fighting Josh Barnett in what could very easily be a battle for a title shot (or, more likely, a spot in a top contender bout with Fabricio Werdum). Barnett's career is one that extends back well over a decade, and includes wins over some of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
The thing is, the only man among the modern-day elite heavyweights Barnett has fought is Daniel Cormier, who beat him up for five rounds.
Jonathan Snowden summed it up well with Chad Dundas:
Longtime MMA fans are starting to learn some hard truths about their favorite musclebound giants. First and foremost?
There is only one Randy Couture...Barnett is already walking the same path Nogueira, Fedor and Mir have already trod. He just doesn't know it yet. Travis Browne, however, will be there to kindly help him on his way. Look for a brutal knockout at UFC 168, with Josh Barnett staring up at the lights and contemplating, perhaps for the first time, what he's going to do with the rest of his life.
So yes, it's very easy to make a case that not only will Browne beat Barnett, but that he could knock him for quite the loop.