Apparently the UFC was saving the best for last.
The final event of the 2013 calendar year—UFC 168—is loaded with alluring action from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Not only are fans treated to a rematch of Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva, a battle that sent shock waves through the sport in July, but Ronda Rousey, one of the most dominant competitors on the planet, also meets Meisha Tate for the women’s bantamweight title in the co-main event.
Oh yeah, and then there’s Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne, a potentially thrilling slugfest, halfway down the main card that has “Fight of the Night” written all over it.
Throw in Jim Miller vs. Fabricio Camoes and Dustin Poirier vs. Diego Brandao, and you aren’t going to find many main cards better.
Let’s take a look at the action.
After a bit of an inconsistent patch in 2012 and early 2013, Dustin Poirier has now reeled off two consecutive impressive victories, beating Eric Koch in August via unanimous decision and now taking care of the always dangerous Diego Brandao via referee stoppage on Saturday night.
It was an outstanding performance from Poirier, who crushed Brandao and landed several blows before the fight was stopped near the end of the first round.
With two imposing victories in a row, including arguably his best performance in the Octagon on Saturday night, the 24-year-old just continues to get better.
He entered the fight ranked No. 6 in a tantalizing featherweight division and is now looking at another top-10 opportunity. A rematch with Chan Sung Jung—the two produced the Fight of the Year in 2012—is undoubtedly an enticing idea.
As for Brandao, this stops a three-match losing streak, and missing out on this prime opportunity against a top-10 opponent will be a disappointment, but The Ultimate Fighter 14 champion is very talented and will bounce back.
He can't come in overweight anymore, though.
Jim Miller got a much-needed win on Saturday night, taking care of 34-year-old Fabricio Camoes with an impressive arm-bar submission in the first round.
Once thought to be on the brink of a lightweight title shot before losing to Benson Henderson in 2011, Miller has been alternating wins and losses ever since, most recently falling to Pat Healy via submission (although it was eventually overturned to a “No Contest” when Healy tested positive for marijuana).
As such, going up against Camoes, who hadn’t fought since July of 2012 and was a sizeable underdog, the No. 10 lightweight couldn’t really afford a loss and made sure that didn’t happen.
This was a no-nonsense, technical win, and the fact he got a submission against a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt is superb.
Miller isn't going anywhere in this division.
Travis Browne's white-hot streak continued on Saturday night.
Following dominant knockout wins against Gabriel Gonzaga and Alistair Overeem, “Hapa” crushed Josh Barnett, who looked so good in his UFC return against Frank Mir last August, in just one minute. He landed a kick to the body of Barnett, before knocking his opponent out with a couple of absolutely nasty elbows to the head.
It was an unbelievable showing against the veteran.
After the magnificent performance, the No. 5 heavyweight Browne is now 16-1-1 overall and 7-1-1 in UFC and undoubtedly has the champion Cain Velasquez in his sights.
He may have to take on Fabricio Werdum before that, but with the way he has looked lately, that's no problem.
Ronda Rousey defeated Miesha Tate via armbar submission as most expected, but for the first time in her eight-fight career, she didn't do in the first round.
After an explosive, fireworks-filled fight that was admittedly dominated by Rousey, the champion finally locked in her patented submission move for the victory early in the third round.
Despite facing her toughest competition, "Rowdy" is absolutely untouchable right now, as this marks her second win over Miesha Tate—arguably the sport’s second-most recognizable female name—in less than two years. Her next fight will come against Cat Zingano, who beat Tate in The Ultimate Fighter 17 finale in April but was replaced in this fight after suffering a knee injury.
As for Tate, she has now lost three of four—with her win coming over Julie Kedzie via third-round submission—but she put up a heck of a fight and will continue to be a player in an increasingly stacked division.
Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva II provided another bizarre ending, as the reigning champion was crowned with a second-round victory when Silva suffered a nasty leg break.
"The Spider" went for a low leg kick, but his leg snapped and bent backwards on impact. He fell to the ground in agonizing pain, and the referee immediately stopped the fight.
Before the freak injury, Weidman was in control.
While this is a tough way for the fight to end, Weidman is still the class of the middleweight division and will likely defend his title against Vitor Belfort.
As far as Silva, injury details aren't yet known, but the severity was pretty clear as soon as it happened and gut-wrenching replays were shown. He has a long road to recovery in front of him.
With nothing left to prove in the sport, Silva, easily one of the greatest fighters of all time, could very well be looking at retirement.