UFC 168 did not disappoint on Saturday, Dec. 28, at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena in terms of drama and compelling storylines.
The headlining fights that defined the action will leave a profound impact and shape the UFC landscape for the foreseeable future.
One legend's career took a significant downturn in a rematch, while another rapidly rising star fortified her growing legacy and kept her perfect record intact. Before then, an emerging heavyweight further proved he belongs with the UFC's elite.
Let's take a look at the major developments that unfolded in Sin City at the most recent event and what it means for the Ultimate Fighting Championship moving forward.
Travis Browne def. Josh Barnett (KO, 4:00 remaining in Round 1)
There is no doubt that this fight was overshadowed by the ones that came after it, but Browne's victory came quickly and was impressive.
The 31-year-old nicknamed "Hapa" improved to 16-1-1 in a thorough domination of Barnett, culminating in a flurry of elbows after taking down his opponent in the blink of an eye and giving the former UFC champion no chance.
It appears that Browne will take on Fabricio Werdum in the next bout, which would set up a top contender spot for a future UFC heavyweight title matchup with reigning champion Cain Velasquez.
Travis Browne is on fire after his big finish over Barnett. Hear from Hapa during tonight's postfight show. http://t.co/vCzHiHhuit— UFCONFOX (@UFCONFOX) December 29, 2013
As reported by the Mirror's Mark Spence, Velasquez has undergone surgery on a torn shoulder labrum that is likely to keep him out until late in 2014, leaving plenty of time for Browne and Werdum to tangle.
We knew he was going to come in there and immediately try to grab me. He saw me as a one dimensional guy, as a striker only. I finished him in the clinch and he couldn’t take me down. I’m a full mixed martial artist and I’m working my way up this heavyweight ladder. It’s all about progressing in this sport and I think I’m doing that very well with my last two wins.
But striking efficiency should be the focus of his next training session, along with a maintenance and sharpening of his current skill set.
If he continues developing at this pace, the sky seems to be the limit for Browne, who could hold the heavyweight title soon enough—depending perhaps on how well Velasquez is when he reenters the Octagon.
Ronda Rousey def. Miesha Tate (Armbar Submission, 4:02 remaining in Round 3)
If there was any debate before, it was silenced by Rousey on Saturday when she won by armbar submission for her eighth consecutive MMA fight.
That has been the only result to date, but Tate can take solace in the fact that she pushed Rousey past the first round—something that hadn't been done before. Tate gave Rousey a run in the first fight when she fell to the armbar at 4:27 in Round 1; this was far more impressive.
Rousey has far better athleticism than all of her peers, packs a ferocious punch and finds a way to get her adversaries into her favorite spot no matter what type of beating she takes beforehand.
It seems like a long climb for anyone to challenge Rousey for the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship.
Neither of these fighters likes the other, which was evident when Rousey did not so much as shake hands once she had defeated Tate:
While it would have been compelling to see Tate pull off the upset and add balance to the heated rivalry, there is something to be said for Rousey's sheer dominance. Having one runaway, clear-cut No. 1 in any sport is captivating and holds fans' interest to see how far the athlete can push the envelope.
As polarizing as Rousey is, no one can deny that she is the best women's MMA fighter to date and a key fixture for women to progress and expand the sport in the UFC and elsewhere.
According to FoxSports.com's Damon Martin, next up for Rousey is Sara McMann in February's UFC 170. McMann is a perfect 7-0 in MMA but will obviously have her hands full in attempting to knock off "Rowdy."
Chris Weidman def. Anderson Silva (TKO, 3:44 remaining in Round 2)
One could argue that this will be one of the most memorable fights in UFC history, but for a very negative reason and because of its anticlimactic conclusion.
Which champion will fall sooner?
It's unfortunate, because the 38-year-old Silva has been such a sensation for so many years and has now dropped two consecutive bouts to Weidman. The first one was more due to Silva's hubris and taunting, then falling into an unexpected knockout.
This was a shot at redemption for "The Spider" that was not meant to be, and now a grueling rehabilitation process is ahead should he want to continue on.
UFC.com released a statement that projected a timeline of between three and six months for Silva to recuperate from the tragic injury:
Anderson Silva was taken to a local Las Vegas hospital where he underwent surgery to repair a broken left leg. [...] The broken fibula was stabilized and does not require a separate surgery. Anderson will remain in the hospital for a short while, but no additional surgery is scheduled at this time. Recovery time for such injuries may vary between three and six months.
Fox Sports' Jay Glazer weighed in and summarized the sentiment surrounding Silva:
Really tough to see it end this way for Anderson Silva.— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) December 29, 2013
To Weidman's credit, he is still undefeated and took care of business in dominating Silva in the first round of the fight. However, this could very well be the final time Silva steps into the Octagon, which would be an unceremonious end to an amazing career if he chooses to retire.
Vitor Belfort will serve as the next challenger for Weidman, per Martin, and Belfort also feels he has paid his dues according to Fox Sports' Mike Chiappetta:
Chris Weidman will move onto face Vitor Belfort next and gotta believe that fight will take place in the U.S., not in Brazil #UFC168— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) December 29, 2013
Vitor Belfort throws down the gauntlet: "What I want is in the hands of the guy named Chris Weidman. It belongs to me.” #UFC168— Mike Chiappetta MMA (@MikeChiappetta) December 29, 2013
Given that Belfort has more of a boxing-heavy background compared to Weidman's focus on wrestling, it should be a fascinating juxtaposition of styles when the two collide.