In yesterday’s media scrum for UFC 168, UFC President Dana White claimed that he thought 2013 may have been one of the best years of fights in the promotion’s history, and if he’s basing that on main events alone, I’d have to agree. Between the successful title defenses in Velasquez-Dos Santos III, GSP-Hendricks and Jones-Gustafsson, we were already spoiled enough. But then factor in the incredible and shocking second round KO that Chris Weidman dealt to Anderson Silva at UFC 162 to win the UFC Middleweight Championship, and holy crap, this really was a hell of a year for the UFC.
So what better way to close the year out than to let Silva have a shot to win his title back tomorrow night in Las Vegas at UFC 168? Oh wait, there is a better way – you also let Ronda Rousey unleash her aggression on her bitter rival Miesha Tate. And you let Josh Barnett and Travis Browne duke it out so the winner moves one step closer to a shot at the UFC Heavyweight title. And you let 2012 Fight of the Year winner Jim Miller and Fabrício Camões jockey for a spot in the lightweight rankings.
Elsewhere, in the Fox Sports 1 preliminaries, Uriah Hall is going to try to bounce back from consecutive losses against Chris Leben, while Gleison Tibau will try to state his case for a Top 10 ranking with a win against Michael Johnson. As always, you can read our good friend Lobster Mobster’s fight primer here, as well as my predictions after the jump. As an added bonus, Lobster and Vince will also send me their predictions for UFC 168, and the person with the most correct picks will become With Leather’s new UFC expert. Spoiler Alert: I already made Lobster our new UFC expert, so the predictions are just for show.
Join us Saturday night at 7 PM ET for the Online Prelims, followed by the FS1 Prelims at 8 PM ET and then the main card on PPV at 10 PM ET.
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Burnsy Says: I think I'm something stupid like 0-241874128 on the first fights of an event, so I'm almost convinced that I'm jinxing one of these guys. So I'll just go ahead and jinx Peralta by saying that he's going to win.
Lobster Says: Both fighters are coming off loses, but at least Payan has a loss someone half decent (as a fighter, not as a person) in Jeremy Stephens. Peralta lost to total dorkus malorkus Akira Corassani so I'm picking Payan to win by KO.
Vince Says: Let's be honest, we're all shooting in the dark when it comes to first fights on the card. I'll take Peralta because "Problems" is an awesome nickname, and he tested positive for pot after his last fight, which has always served Nick Diaz well. Peralta by double Stockton Heybuddies.
Burnsy Says: I don’t like predicting Fight of the Night or KO of the Night or anything like that, but if I were a fake psychic that had a magic ball that totally wasn’t originally a fish bowl, I’d pick this one to end in a KO or TKO, because that’s what these guys are best at. And now that Macario has his UFC debut loss behind him, I’m picking him.
Lobster Says: Kevin Randleman, Melvin Guillard, Simon Phoenix all showed the dangers of fighting as a black dude with bleached blond hair. Unless Macario has changed up his style, he's going to get roughed up by Voelker.
Vince Says: Voelker is one of those guys that you can watch fight 10 times and still have no idea what he's going to do in his next fight. I'll be rooting for him, but if I'm picking with my brain and not my heart, I'm taking the 22-year-old Brazilian over the 34-year-old Kansan.
Burnsy Says: I’m going with Bahaqdurzada because guys named Howard usually need someone to carry them to victory. (New Year’s Resolution: No more Dwight Howard hate.)
Lobster Says: Siyar was gonna be The New Big Thing and then he got Donged pretty hard (But hey, it happens to the best of 'em). I still think he's got enough power and technique to starch Howard, who will always hold a dear spot in my fight-heart for his awesome nickname fight with Dennis Hallman.
Vince Says: Bahadurzada's losses have all come at the hands of grapplers, and I don't see Doomsday trying to grapple. I'm taking Bahadurzada, and I'm copying his name so I don't have to try to spell it anymore.
Burnsy Says: I don’t know what Gamburyan did to reverse his fortune and win his last two after his three-fight losing streak, but Siver went three rounds with the red hot Cub Swanson in July and I’m giving him the decision in a rebound.
Lobster Says: Armenian Rage is always fun to watch, and after Siver spinning back kicks Manvel out cold, it'll be in full effect. Siver wins by not being a tiny powder keg of insanity.
Vince Says: I spent the holidays eating bourag and rojik with the Armenian wing of the family, which makes me want to pick the Armenian Anvil over the Teutonic Tank. But physically, Siver is like a mirror image of Gamburyan with better striking. Gamburyan might be able to land a bomb, but I'm taking Siver and making a small donation to the Anti-Defamation League in penance.
Burnsy Says: My confidence in Tibau concerns me, but I feel like this is one of those fights where I’d yell something BROish and cliché like, “ALL DAY, TIBAU!”
Lobster Says: Tibau is going to out-be-bigger-than Johnson and ride him like a Brazilian pony for a decision victory.
Vince Says: If the Michael Johnson that fought Joe Lauzon shows up, Tibau is screwed. I hope that's the case, because Tibau is boring as hell. Though I could be confusing him for all the other super stocky Brazilian grapplers who never grapple. Johnson by decision.
Burnsy Says: Sigh. I’m going to regret this, but I pick Hall. I mean, he has to be great eventually, right?
Lobster Says: Leben is going to plod forward, flat-footed and winging wild power shots. Hall will feel that pressure and either fold mentally, or go nutso and blast Chris with some kind of hurricane death kick. I think the latter happens and Hall wins by KO.
Vince Says: I never know how to pick with guys like Uriah Hall, who seem super dangerous, but constantly able to snatch defeat from the arms of victory. If he loses this, he'll challenge Pat Barry and Melvin Guillard for the title of MMA's biggest underachiever. Still, I'm hoping he takes out some of his rage leftover from Rampage calling him the N-word. Hall by hadouken.
Burnsy Says: This should be a great fight, with Brandao coming off three-straight wins and Poirier having lost only two of his last nine (with one of those being to Cub Swanson, so it doesn’t count because he’s awesome), so I don’t feel confident with my pick, but I’m taking Poirier.
Lobster Says: Poirier has faced tougher competition than Brandao, so I think his ability to weather Diego's punching power will see him through in this one. Poirier wins by unanimous decision.
Vince Says: Both of these guys are legit, so I'm picking this for fight of the night. Brandao hits harder, but Poirier seems more dynamic. Also, Brandao is Mormon and his nickname is "DB." Zzzzzz. Poirier by having a personality.
Burnsy Says: I'm taking Miller. I think he comes back from that last NC a little more pissed off.
Lobster Says: Camoes is whatever the Portuguesefor "A Dude" is, while Miller is a top-level contender. Joe Silva can sometimes be such a cruel man. Miller wins this by a one-sided decision.
Vince Says: Jim Miller is a beast, but he embarrassed me by losing to Pat Healy, which I never expected in a million years. That had to be a fluke, right? Camoes doesn't have Healy's cinder block head, so I'm taking my fellow ginger beard, Mr. Miller. Don't embarrass me again, you son of a bitch. I've already had a lifetime of that.
Burnsy Says: I like Browne as the new emerging heavyweight star in the UFC, and especially if he carries Johny Hendricks around in a Baby Bjorn.
Lobster Says: Josh is going to call upon the chaotic forces of evil (Metal and weird anime shit) and wreck house on Browne. Barnett wins by submission.
Vince Says: Browne is a beast and islanders scare the hell out of me. I wouldn't fight Travis Browne if you gave me an uzi and a chainsaw. But I'm going with my heart and saying Barnett solves the puzzle and gives a ridiculous post-fight speech yet again. Chael Sonnen should be paying Barnett royalties every time he does his pro wrestler shtick.
Burnsy Says: This is a really interesting fight, far more than it has been discussed. The UFC is in a really tough spot, because if Rousey loses her title, she also loses mystique and credibility. I think a lot of the air that is carrying the women's division right now is beneath her feet, so if the champ goes down after all that chatter, she could not only lose her luster, but she could also take her gloves and go home. However, if Rousey wins, she could also call it quits now that she has the acting bug and GSP started carving an exit strategy for those fighters with the ambition for (healthy) life after the UFC. So even as I think that the sport needs Tate to win so this rivalry has some credibility, I think Rousey rips her f*cking arm off and beats her with it.
Lobster Says: If you don't think this won't end with another first round Rousey armbar you are somehow dumber than I am.
Vince Says: I feel like this is a similar dynamic to the Cyborg - Gina Carano fight, where it pits a fighter who's really good for a girl (Tate) against someone who could probably hang with the dudes in her weight class. I think Tate has more of a chance than most people give her credit for, but come on, I'm not an idiot. Rousey by armbar until proven otherwise. Sidenote: Rousey is kind of like the female Diaz brother, so I'm going to need her to be a little more ghetto to make her antics more entertaining.
Burnsy Says: I want, want, WANT Silva to win and recapture the title so we know that there will be a third fight. However, as I just mentioned with Rousey, I think that Silva could also win and retire. In fact, I think that might be a very big possibility. I also can't envision a world in which Silva loses two consecutive fights and vanishes. So I'm picking Silva, but only because I know that Weidman will have his own long run soon enough.
Lobster Says: Last time, I vacillated between Weidman and Silva until I figured "It's Anderson Silva, the dude don't lose" and called people picking Weidman giant dummies. Then Weidman won, and I realized I'm a giant dummy. So I think Weidman wins again, by knockout again.
Vince Says: I, like Burnsy (notice I didn't say "I like Burnsy," commas are important), can't see Silva losing two fights in a row. Not after the Jedi shit he's been pulling his entire career. He'll lose a step eventually, but I see that last fight more as a wake-up call that he can't just dick around anymore and still win rather than an example of his decline. I mean, he's a little worse than he was five years ago, but I think he's still a slight step ahead of Chris Weidman. Weidman is the best fighting human at 185, but I'm not ready to stop believing that Silva is some kind of warrior shaman.