UFC 168: Highlighting Top Preliminary Bouts on Saturday Night

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UFC 168: Highlighting Top Preliminary Bouts on Saturday Night
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Why should the stars get all the attention at UFC 168? You're only doing yourself a disservice if you skip the preliminary bouts for the event.

From top to bottom, the entire card is loaded. The company made sure to end 2013 as strong as possible, as this pay-per-view looks like it should be the best of the year.

Much of that is down to the co-main events, with Anderson Silva trying to regain his Middleweight title against Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate renewing their intense rivalry.

It's important, though, to give some attention to the fighters who aren't going to be on the main card. They can help set the tone for what should be a great night of fighting.

Among the six fights leading up to Saturday night's big festivities, these three stand out. They should be entertaining bouts featuring big stakes.

Chris Leben vs. Uriah Hall

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Leben isn't what you'd consider a UFC legend, yet he has built a strong following as a result of his tenacious personality and willingness to absorb a lot of punishment in the Octagon, so when he fights, people pay attention.

The 33-year-old has lost each of his last three fights, so UFC 168 offers a chance at redemption.

Plus, who knows how much longer Leben's got before enough is enough and he has to call time?

Sherdog.com's Mike Whitman believes a loss could spell the end for Leben:

Now 33 years old, Leben has struggled in the last three years, dropping four of his last five bouts and serving a one-year suspension after testing positive for banned painkillers in 2011. I do not want to speak out of turn, but I think a loss might signal the end of Leben’s long UFC career.

On the other side, Uriah Hall is looking for redemption of his own. He looked great at The Ultimate Fighter 17, but it's been downhill ever since then.

Hall's stock has precipitously dropped, and Dana White went so far as to essentially call this a "win or go home" fight a few months ago, via Christopher Murphy of BJPenn.com.

White said, "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."

What else could you want from a preliminary fight?

Gleison Tibau vs. Michael Johnson

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

This is a great test for Michael Johnson.

For the pro wrestling fans out there, Gleison Tibau is almost like the Tito Santana of UFC. He's a talented fighter, but he serves more as a bellwether for his opponents, much as Santana did for emerging wrestlers in the 1980s and early 90s.

Beating Tibau is a necessary step for some fighters in order to reach bigger and better things. Failing to do so would mean a difficult time rising up the UFC ladder.

A convincing win over Joe Lauzon makes you overlook Johnson's two previous losses. The way in which he dominated the fight was a bit unexpected.

At 27 years old, Johnson is still capable of climbing the lightweight rankings. He'll need to beat Tibau in order to make that happen.

Siyar Bahadurzada vs. John Howard

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Since both of these guys are strikers, with any luck, this will turn into a good, old-fashioned slugfest. And who doesn't love that?

Siyar Bahadurzada entered into UFC like a force of nature, knocking out Paulo Thiago in the first round. Bahadurzada has a lot of power, and he's not afraid to lay into an opponent and take the fight to him immediately.

In addition, Bahadurzada will want to atone for his loss to Dong Hyun Kim, so he should be energized for this fight.

Four of John Howard's last six fights have ended as a result of knockouts due to punches. He'll have no problem dueling with Bahadurzada if this bout becomes a boxing match.

Howard's wrestling could end up winning the fight. If he can get his opponent on the ground, then he'll be in control and dictating the pace.

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