UFC 168, on paper, was proof that the UFC wanted to end the year in style. Between two title fights and numerous stars on the card, there was no doubt this would be a marquee event.
The pay-per-view is anticipated to do incredible numbers for the company based on the two title fights, both of which are rematches. However, we should not overlook the undercard bouts, as the preliminary card was packed full of potential stars for the company.
So, in watching the prelims, what did we learn? Let's take a look.
William Macario Could End Up Being the Breakout Star of TUF Brazil 2
I hate to say I told you so. Wait, that's not true, I lied; I definitely love to say I told you so.
In my predictions article earlier this week for the UFC 168 prelims, I took William Macario to beat Bobby Voelker in my "upset" pick of the night. After Macario's performance, it's a wonder how he wasn't a heavy favorite the way he brutalized the American.
Give Macario a mulligan for the Leo Santos fight. In a bout that was his first outside of Brazil and only his second with the UFC at the age of 22, "Patolino" made mincemeat of a seasoned veteran with good all-around skills.
In a season of The Ultimate Fighter that did not provide much excitement for the future, Macario has given fans a reason to follow him. He is a deadly striker who is accurate and can pace himself in a fight with a respectable opponent.
John Howard Is Well-Rounded; Siyar Bahadurzada Suffered from Great Debut
John Howard has quickly retaken the UFC by storm, winning his second fight in two tries since coming back to the company.
In looking at his performance at UFC 168, it's obvious Howard is far more well-rounded than he has been given credit for. He is a good Muay Thai practitioner with solid wrestling and grappling ability.
Oftentimes, it seems like Howard isn't respected as a true mixed martial artist. After his win over Siyar Bahadurzada, that should change.
On the other side, Bahadurzada may have suffered from his great debut. After quickly blowing through Paulo Thiago, he has been dominated by Dong Hyun Kim and John Howard.
I admit, I drank the Bahadurzada Kool-Aid coming into this fight. I figured Kim is one of the best guys at what he does, and that's why he beat the Afghan.
Now, I realize "The Great" got a bunch of hype from his UFC debut when he could have been built up slowly. That is a shame for a guy who could be the flag bearer for Afghanistan in MMA.
Michael Johnson Is One of the Most Improved Fighters in the UFC
Gleison Tibau is a good litmus test for anyone looking to get to the next level. Michael Johnson passed that test with flying colors.
He knocked out the longtime UFC vet with a beautiful combo that dazed and confused the Brazilian. With this win, there is no doubt Johnson belongs in the top 20.
After dominating Joe Lauzon and knocking out Tibau, Johnson is one of the most improved fighters in the UFC, if not the most. His move to the Blackzilians camp has been the best choice of his career.
Look out for him in the future. He has quietly become a guy to watch at 155 pounds.
Jury Is Still Out on Uriah Hall, but Chris Leben Is Done
Uriah Hall had a great performance, but it was somewhat deceiving since he was backpedalling for most of the fight. That said, he landed some great strikes when he needed to, which led to the end of Chris Leben.
We will see what happens with Hall. He is athletic and talented, but we have yet to see a performance like what we saw on TUF 17, where he destroyed human beings. That could be asking a lot, though, as he delivered some crazy knockouts.
As for Leben, one has to assume he is done. He hasn't been the same in his last few fights. He looked amateur against Hall and voluntarily quit, which was smart yet uncharacteristic of the brawler.
It was a very confusing aftermath to this somewhat disappointing fight.