UFC 168 Preview: Silva vs. Weidman II, Rousey vs. Tate II
By Jaime C. Feal
The UFC always saves a huge show for the end of the year, and they are sure going out with a bang in 2013. Two enormous title fights headline this pay-per-view, but before fans get too excited, they should know that the UFC has increased the cost of their pay-per-views by $5 for UFC 168 and all subsequent pay-per-views. The main event is the much anticipated rematch between Anderson Silva, now in the rare challenger spot, against undefeated current champion Chris Weidman. In this fight, Weidman will have the chance to prove his first knockout was no fluke, while Anderson will have a chance to cement his legacy as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. In the co-main event we have another big title fight rematch, this time with the women taking center stage as UFC Bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey defends her belt against Miesha Tate. These two women despise each other, and are coming off a hotly contested rivalry on the Ultimate Fighter. Rousey is undefeated and has won all her fights by first-round armbar, something she’ll no doubt be looking to do again.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett (33-6, 5-1 UFC) vs. Travis “Hapa” Browne (15-1-1, 6-1-1 UFC)
A clash of old school versus new age fighter makes this Heavyweight fight very compelling. Barnett has been around the game for decades, yet still is extremely durable and dangerous, as shown by going the full five round distance with Daniel Cormier, and dispatching vet Frank Mir inside two minutes of the first round. In fact, Barnett’s decision loss to Cormier is the only time the “Warmaster” has lost in the past seven years. Tomorrow night, however, he faces one of the sternest tests of his career in the towering Travis “Hapa” Browne.
Browne, a dynamic 6’7 striker, moves like a middleweight and has a wide array of punches and kicks in his arsenal. Browne, who has only lost once in his career in a bout where he tore his hamstring in the first minute of the fight, has also shown incredible durability in his career. In his last fight, Browne was badly rocked by vicious knees to the body from Alistair Overeem. Despite being turtled up from the abuse, Browne kept moving and surviving, only to come back and knock out Overeem with a head kick and follow up punches towards the end of Round 1. Browne is a new breed of heavyweight, a man who really fills out his tall frame well, but gives up nothing in the way of speed and movement. Barnett hasn’t faced this type of opponent before, and it’s also difficult to find training partners to emulate Browne’s style and athleticism.
Barnett’s best bet is to use his catch-wrestling to go for submissions, takedowns, and initiate a grappling war. Barnett certainly has an advantage in the clinch, where he can use dirty boxing, elbows, and knees to rough up Browne. Of course, “Hapa” knows Barnett does his best work in short distances, and Browne is a master at keeping the distance and using his footwork to set things up. Expect Browne to usher in a new era of UFC Heavyweights as he stops Barnett with strikes late in the second round.
Prediction: Travis Browne wins by TKO, Round 2.
UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship (135 lbs.):
Ronda Rousey (7-0, 1-0 UFC) vs. Miesha Tate 13-4, 0-1 UFC)
The last time these two women squared off it was under the Strikeforce promotion, and Rousey was the challenge for Tate’s belt. Since that time, Rousey has become the face of Women’s MMA, and a bitter rivalry with Tate has developed. Now coming off coaching stints on The Ultimate Fighter, the rivalry and hatred between these two has only intensified, and will culminate tomorrow night in a bout for the UFC Bantamweight title.
Rousey, once one of the more popular fighters in MMA, is now one of the more polarizing figures after the negative image portrayed on the Ultimate Fighter. Love her or hate her, Rousey is an absolute ace on the ground and her skills must be respected. The woman has run roughshod over all the competition, using her incredible judo skills (she is a former medalist in judo in the Olympics) to take her opponents to the ground before deftly submitting them with an armbar. After the first couple of times Rousey did this, all her foes knew she would be looking for the armbar, yet she has still managed to secure the hold and tap her opponents out in the first round every time since. This shows that Rousey is simply on another level on the ground: Her opponents know what she is going to do and they still can’t stop it.
Miesha Tate was no different and will be no different. In their first match, Tate refused to tap out until the bitter end, allowing Rousey to hyperextend and dislocate her arm. Now that Tate knows how painful it is to not tap out quickly, but also how dangerous it is to her career, once she gets caught in the hold her resistance level and pain threshold will be much lower. Tate’s only chance is to land a lucky punch in the first thirty seconds of the fight while Rousey bulls her way forward. It is definitely possible, but at a lower weight class, it isn’t very likely. Tate hasn’t ever shown knockout power, but Rousey has shown the ability to take a good punch or two. Once Rousey locks up with Tate, she will effortlessly toss her around with her judo skills before applying her signature armbar to once again defend her UFC Women’s Bantamweight title.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey wins by submission (armbar), Round 1.
UFC Middleweight Championship (185 lbs.):
Chris “All-American” Weidman (10-0, 6-0 UFC) vs. Anderson “The Spider” Silva (33-5, 16-1 UFC)
One of the biggest fights in UFC history goes down tomorrow night in Las Vegas, and this title fight rematch is compelling for so many reasons. First, we find out if Anderson Silva’s first loss ever in the UFC was a “fluke” and result of a “lucky punch,” or if Chris Weidman is indeed the new middleweight kingpin. We get to find out whether Silva will clown with his opponent as he has done so many times before, risking his chin and consciousness in the process, or if he will come out as he did against Chris Leben and Rich Franklin in his early UFC days – a focused killer who spent little time toying with his opponents, instead dispatching of his foes quickly and decisively.
Weidman, for what it’s worth, figures to be a much improved fighter this time around. He isn’t coming off a long injury layoff like before, and he now knows what it is like to headline a pay-per-view and fight the great Anderson Silva. Furthermore, he has a psychological edge knowing he has the power to knock Silva out cold. He was also able to get a takedown with ease in their first fight, so the former All-American wrestler has to be confident he can dictate where the fight goes. That bodes well for Weidman, who is outclassed in the striking department by Silva, despite the result of the first fight, and has a much more clear-cut advantage in top control. The top control position is where Chael Sonnen dominated Silva for almost five fill rounds in their first fight, and Weidman is a much more accomplished wrestler than Sonnen.
Silva was able to pull off a late, dramatic triangle submission over Sonnen in that memorable title fight, but Weidman is a black belt in jiu jitsu under Matt Serra, wheras Sonnen has very poor submission defense. The risk-reward is therefore strongly in Weidman’s favor should he choose to take the fight to the mat, and Silva is very aware of this, as evidenced by his constant pleas for a “Stand-up fight” the first time these two men fought. If Weidman gets sucked in to Silva’s game of taunting and goading into a striking exchange, odds are he won’t be able to knock out one of the greatest strikers in MMA history twice in a row. If Weidman, however, puts his pride aside and simply fights the safest and most conservative fight, he could actually cruise to victory by using his wrestling and ground and pound. Silva is too good at the psychological game, however, and also at getting the crowd on his side. Weidman will succumb to the pressure to fight a crowd-pleasing style, and it will cost him with his consciousness. Anderson Silva recaptures his title with a KO/TKO in the third round.
Prediction: Anderson Silva wins by TKO, Round 3.