Chris Weidman leaves the cage after defeating Anderson Silva at UFC 168.
UFC 168 began amid a swirl of rumor and excitement. What would happen in the two hotly anticipated rematches topping the card? What about Brock Lesnar? What about UFC Fight Pass?
At the end of the night, all of it had dissipated. A solid fight card culminated in a main event pitting Anderson Silva against Chris Weidman for the middleweight belt. The fight began with promise, but ended with a gasp of horror when Silva suffered a very bad leg fracture on a freak occurrence.
Silva's fighting future, and maybe any sort of athletic pursuit, is now in doubt. It could be a terrible way for the 38-year-old Brazilian, who is the greatest MMA fighter ever, to end his fight career.
And still, it was only one of five fights on the main card Saturday night in Las Vegas. What happened elsewhere on the card? The stat lines only tell you so much. Here are grades for every main card fighter at UFC 168.
Division: Featherweight (contested at catchweight of 151.5 pounds after Diego Brandao missed weight)
Result: Dustin Poirier def. Diego Brandao by TKO, 4:54 of Rd. 1
On weight or off, Brandao is a dangerous knockout artist in a fight's opening minutes. Poirier knew that, but didn't fear it.
He stayed calm early, fending off takedowns and jabbing at Brandao from range. As the seconds ticked down, Poirier seemed to smell the adrenaline dump and began to look for the brawl. Cutting off the cage wasn't a Herculean task against a tired Brandao, but Poirier got it done regardless and pounded Brandao down to the mat for the last-second TKO.
It was against a diminished opponent, sure, but it was still a great performance. Poirier broke his opponent Saturday night, and he retains his contender status.
Brandao missed weight by several pounds, then had the audacity to walk out to Wanderlei Silva's signature "Sandstorm" entrance song. The yarbles on this guy.
He then fought with his usual semi-desperate aggression, probably made more frazzled as he strained to compensate for the weigh-in. It didn't work. After the initial onslaught, he quickly became sluggish and flat-footed. Almost like he didn't want to be there.
The UFC broadcast team said before the fight that Brandao's missing weight was because of a car accident. I hope Brandao is recovered from that and continues his pro career. But come on, man. You have to do better.
Result: Jim Miller def. Fabricio Camoes by submission (armbar), 3:42 of Rd. 1
Given Camoes' third-degree jiu-jitsu black belt bona fides, some people figured this fight could get interesting if the action hit the mat. And they were right, but maybe not for the reason they expected.
Miller landed a takedown after he caught a Camoes kick, but it was the Brazilian who established top control and began to score with ground shots. But Miller responded, moving into position to set up a beautiful armbar from underneath. It was a quick tap to a deep move, and it earned Miller since May 2012.
People pegged Camoes one step above vagrancy before the contest began. The first-round tapout isn't going to help his rep very much, but he was landing good shots on the feet and did reverse Miller after the initial takedown.
He just got caught in a really nice move. Not the kind of thing that should happen to a UFC-level jiu-jitsu black belt, I suppose, but I wouldn't say it qualifies him as a can, either.
Result: Travis Browne def. Josh Barnett by KO, 1:00, Rd. 1
Wow. What a performance by Travis Browne Saturday night. He's five years younger than Barnett, and every year showed. Browne was faster, and his strikers were stronger. Barnett seemed content to stand in the pocket with "Hapa," and "Hapa" made him pay. Simple as that.
Some heavy strikes led to an absolutely vicious pound-out against the fence, with Browne closing the deal with some nasty elbows to the head. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a contender.
Mama said there would be days like this. Barnett is a great fighter and a champion. He's a great interview, and the fans rightly love him. But he's no spring chicken anymore, and he can't rely on athleticism and gumption to get him past these young bucks.
I suspect Barnett has plenty of UFC wins left in him. But I also suspects he has losses like this one in his future, too: the big-name scalp helping to put over the new generation.
Division: Women's bantamweight
Result: Ronda Rousey def. Miesha Tate by submission (armbar), 0:58, Rd. 3
Tate worked hard to avoid the armbar and found success there. For a while. And in so doing, Tate scored a moral victory. But it's a testament to Rousey's dominance that victory, for her opponents, is meted out in such paltry portions.
Rousey repeatedly showed much improved (if not exactly K-1 level) striking, excellent trips and throws and just general all-around awesomeness. And, yes, she eventually locked on that signature armbar, but along the way she bloodied Tate and controlled more or less the duration of the action.
It's possible, however, that the Rousey brand lost a bit more luster Saturday night.
First, she went out of the first round for the first time. And second, she again showed poor sportsmanship in refusing to shake Tate's hand after the fight. Hey, I'm no prude. Rousey can do what she wants. And I get that plenty of fight fans like a good anti-hero (when the anti-hero is winning, anyway), and that they want to see the heat in this rivalry preserved.
But martial arts are also predicated on respect between competitors. It's a key tenet, actually. If you're brave enough to step in and fight with me, you deserve my respect. You don't need to like a person to shake their hand after a fight. You just need to be a decent person interested in doing the thing you know to be right.
Anyway, I'm sure Rousey doesn't care about any of this, and I'm sure it somehow makes me a hater or some such. So be it. Either way, Rousey's the champ, women's MMA is her world and it will remain so until further notice. God save the queen.
Give it up to Tate for having more success than any other pro MMA competitor to face Rousey. And give it up for her quick tap! Don't try to be a hero, Miesha: Let's all get home with two arms tonight.
Tate's approach in this rematch was similar to an approach you see some NBA teams take against the Miami Heat. You take away LeBron James—ie, the Rousey armbar—and make the rest of the team beat you. Sadly for those who try this, most of the time LeBron's supporting cast—the one freed up by the defensive energy you're spending on LeBron—is still enough to get the job done. Then, even so, James is still so good that he's able to come in and close the deal anyway.
So it went for Tate against Rousey.
She did a good job of fending off the armbar but couldn't mount much of anything outside of that. And in the end, it was the armbar that undid her regardless of defense. As noted, it's a testament to Rousey's dominance that the words "moral victory" are even typed out, but that's the way it is, so give it up for Tate.
Result: Chris Weidman def. Anderson Silva by TKO (leg injury), 1:16, Rd. 2
In one way, this fight was much like their first. Both will be remembered for their very memorable, decidedly freakish endings, but those images alone occlude the fact that Weidman was, to that point, winning the fight.
In the first, Weidman landed a takedown, pinned Silva against the fence and landed some nice ground-and-pound. He convincingly won the round.
But then, early in the second, Silva threw a leg kick. Weidman raised his leg to check it, and Silva fell like he had been hit with a wrecking ball, screaming in a way the ex-champ never had in a UFC cage before. Weidman mercifully walked away, understanding the gravity of the situation. And replays confirmed it. Did you ever watch the video of Corey Hill's gruesome leg break? Same thing, almost frame for frame.
You feel for Silva, but you also tip your cap to Weidman. Not much else you can say at the moment.
Silva's a notoriously slow starter. Who's to say what would have happened if the fight had been allowed to mature? There was a noticeable lack of clowning on the GOAT's part, perhaps a sign that he was more dialed in than he had been in years.
Would it have made a difference? We'll never know. And now, because of that horrible leg break, we may also never know how the rest of his career might have unfolded. You just hope he can come back and take whatever the next step is on his own terms, and under his own power.
Scott Harris is a freelance writer covering MMA for Bleacher Report. He likes to assign arbitrary grades to all sorts of things, so if that intrigues you, considering following Scott on Twitter.