With Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman set to square off for the second time in six months, UFC 168 has captured the consciousness of the fight world. Even in the middle of the holidays, with a thousand commitments to get to and people to see, anyone interested in unarmed combat will focus on Las Vegas on Saturday evening.
Not since Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz met for a second time have MMA fans been this interested in a UFC rematch, and the hype is justified.
The best of all time. The up-and-comer who took his title. The fight capital of the world.
This is as good as it gets.
Here are four predictions for the UFC 168 main event.
The first time they met, Silva and Weidman fought for around six minutes. The first round was a mix of interesting exchanges and utter idiocy from Silva, while the second was a short burst of the latter followed by a loud iteration of the former.
It's hard to imagine that this fight will be shorter. Silva tends to be quite cautious in first rounds, usually using them to calculate timing and range. Weidman likely won't be overaggressive in the early going either, as he'll be in there with a frighteningly dangerous individual.
Silva fights tend to be over with a flourish, and that won't change at UFC 168. But it should take a little longer to get to that point—regardless of the winner—than it did in July.
While the talk has been as much about the bizarre nature of Weidman's knockout of Silva as it has been about it actually happening, the main point lost in all of that is that the middleweight champ can strike. He has good hands and excellent kickboxing, and he's a natural athlete.
Yes, he won their first bout because Silva gave him an opening, but he still pounced on the moment when it was available. Before him, no one had done that in the UFC, and that deserves acknowledgement.
Look for the New Yorker to stay right in the fire with Silva this time out too, as his confidence hasn't been lacking at any time in their rivalry. He believes he can hang with "The Spider" on the feet, and he proved as much once before. It might not be his chosen path to victory, but it won't be the main source of his undoing either.
One element of the first meeting that people overlooked a little was how much trouble Silva gave Weidman when he was on his back. The American landed plenty of good shots, but for every one that got through, he had to deal with the complexities of Silva's guard, a series of up kicks, and some punches and elbows.
People tend to look past Silva's ground game because he's so dangerous on his feet, and even when he's on the ground, he's more than happy to fight from guard—which is a death sentence in the eyes of the modern MMA judge. The fact is—while everyone seems to give Weidman the upper hand in the grappling department—it's far closer than many admit.
Fighting Silva on the ground is no picnic.
Whenever the fight is contested on the mat, look for Silva to be a problem for Weidman.
Here's a disclaimer for you: I have no confidence in this prediction. I sat down and wracked my brain for all the plausible ways that the bout could end, and the Fan Man flying into the cage to cause a melee was every bit as conceivable to me as one of these guys beating the other.
That said, when it's all said and done, you have to go with the greatest fighter the world has ever seen until there is absolutely no doubt. Even the biggest Weidman fans in the world can't say with certainty that there's no doubt about the first meeting or this one.
Well, they can, but they'd be completely unreasonable for it. That's why the fight is so exciting.
So I'm taking Silva to win by TKO late in the second round. He'll score an unorthodox knee (which he had success with in the first fight when he threw it) and pounces on Weidman to finish him with strikes on the ground.
Seems as reasonable as anything, I guess.