MMA DieHards focuses on UFC 168 in this week’s session of Counterpunch, for the bouts that take place Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
UFC 168 is co-headlined with two title matches. Middleweight champion Chris Weidman takes on Anderson Silva in a highly anticipated rematch. The co-main event delivers an equally intriguing bout, as women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey puts her title on the line in a rematch against Miesha Tate, following a heated battle as opposite coaches on “TUF 18.”
MMADieHards.com selected some of their finest to bring you Counterpunch for the event. The group independently makes its selections for each fight. Minority picks will be defended by one of the panelists making that selection.
Joining this week is Joe Rizzo, Corey Charron, Nick Hammar, Trevor Airdrie and myself, Jason Kelly. However, Charron picked with the majority in each case and will not be defending any of his selections.
Fighters unanimously selected were Jim Miller and Dustin Poirier.
Below, we list the match and the defender’s write-up:
Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva
Defending Weidman: Joe Rizzo
My esteemed colleagues, I thank you for not monitoring history. The lesson is that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Heck, even Vegas is ready to take advantage, making Silva a slight favorite.
Time to take money from your friends.
In case you were not paying attention, Weidman beat Silva the first time they met. Call it a fluke at your own risk. Think all you want that Silva is not going to appear to showboat in this fight. It’s not showboating, it’s part of his mental and physical game to make his opponents swing and miss early, then take themselves mentally out of the match, opening the door for Silva, the deadliest striker in MMA history.
When you’re advancing in your 30s (Silva is now 38), combat skills decline some days by millimeters, and that is what happened to Silva in the first fights with Chael Sonnen and Weidman. Weidman connected with the feigning Silva where everyone else in the past missed. The chances of Silva’s skills being off by a margin otherwise not noticeable are increasing every day. It’s a matter of the opponent being able to take advantage.
Weidman is the guy. It would be easy to predict a five-round decision, but I’ll get fancy and say a fourth-round TKO.
Ronda Rousey vs. Meisha Tate
Defending Tate: Trevor Airdrie
At UFC 168, Tate will finally dethrone the “Queen of the Armbar,” Rousey, and cap off the 2013 UFC calendar with a colossal upset (odds as high as 15-1). I believe Tate will win due to the fact that this was no normal training camp. This was an extended camp because of “The Ultimate Fighter.” On the series, what we witnessed was Tate staking out her camp in Rousey’s head and staying there ever since.
When these two met back on March 3, 2012, there was very little footage on the patented Rousey armbar. After experiencing it first hand, Tate will go in to the cage Saturday with the training to avoid it.
Nobody knows if Rousey has the cardio of a five-round fight, but we know Tate does after the three-round war with Cat Zingano.
I am certain on Saturday we will hear Bruce Buffer’s famous call, ”And NEW UFC women bantamweight champion, Meisha Tate.”
Prediction – Tate via second-round submission.
Travis Browne vs. Josh Barnett
Defending Browne: Joe Rizzo
Sometimes Vegas throws us a bone if we’re willing to read between the lines a little bit, and this is one of those cases. Barnett should be a bigger favorite than minus-190 (wager $190 to win back $100), and Browne a bigger underdog than plus-165 (wager $100 to win back $165). When those numbers are off, I take it as a red flag that we have a live underdog.
Under most circumstances, I would not go against the War Master, for fear of retaliation from Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler. But this pick makes sense. Barnett does not lose often, but neither does Browne. Vegas is putting them into the same class, and it’s worth taking a shot on the underdog here because of it.
Browne’s best chance is a KO-TKO, simply because Barnett is so dangerous on the ground and the more difficult route would be to grind out a decision.
Chris Leben vs. Uriah Hall
Defending Leben: Jason Kelly
UFC president Dana White publicly called out Hall for not having a killer instinct and not being a real fighter. So in Hall’s do-or-die bout, what does the UFC do? They match him up with Chris Leben, a gentleman who is nothing but a fighter.
Leben is one of the few modern fighter that still employees a grittiness similar to the tough pioneers of the sport. “The Crippler’s” durability and powerful punches, partnered with Hall’s alleged lack of warrior spirit, will be the deciding factor in this bout.
While Hall has exhibited a happy-go-lucky attitude in his UFC fights, Leben has displayed a violent, angry approach in his bouts. Leben will be looking for Hall’s head from the moment the match begins, and seeing as Hall likes to keep fights standing, the chances of “The Crippler” improve greatly.
At some point throughout the fight, Hall will attempt to set up one of his video-game kicks and Leben will answer with a thunderous punch to end the “TUF 17″ finalist’s evening.
Gleison Tibau vs. Michael Johnson
Defending Tibau: Jason Kelly
You could say Tibau will make this match a drag.
As athletic as Johnson is, and as incredible as his wrestling is, Tibau’s ability latch on to his opponents and drag them to the canvas is exceptionally better. Johnson may avoid the first few takedowns, but Tibau’s relentlessness will earn him a takedown at some point and trigger Johnson’s frustration.
Johnson has been emotional in past fights that weren’t going his way. To be under a combatant like Tibau that excels at controlling an opponent, Johnson’s potential loss of focus will lead to long night on the defense. Tibau will undoubtedly attempt submissions if the opportunities present themselves, but I think Johnson’s submission defense will hold up and the bout will make it to the judges’ scorecards with the Brazilian dragging out split-decision victory.
Manny Gamburyan vs. Denis Siver
Defending Gamburyan: Joe Rizzo
If you think there is any way that Manny Gamburyan is going to lose on a card on which his training partner Rousey is co-headlining, well then we’re just going to have to disagree.
Gamburyan is a significant underdog (plus-210) and I think the reason is because of Diego Nunes, who beat Gamburyan but lost to Siver. However, the last time we saw Siver, he was getting knocked out in the middle of the third round in July against Cub Swanson.
Siver seems to thrive when he has the strength advantage, but it says here Gamburyan is going to keep him off balance and scramble to a decision victory.
John Howard vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
Defending Howard: Jason Kelly
Sometimes for fighters there are factors outside of the fight that couple with skill to play a key role in winning.
Howard was released from the UFC in June 2011, following a three-fight losing streak. “Doomsday” immediately made the move from welterweight up to middleweight and has compiled a 7-1 record since, including a defeat of Hall in Howard’s return to the Octagon.
Howard’s confidence and momentum is in a special place as he heads into his UFC 168 match against Bahadurzada. Howard’s proven toughness and striking capabilities in addition to his recent adjustments outside the cage should provide him with the victory. Given he’ll take some punishment from the superior striker, Bahadurzada, everything else is aligning for Howard to be successful against the Afghan.
William Macario vs. Bobby Voelker
Defending Macario: Nick Hammar
Macario is hungry welterweight with ambition and youth on his side. Some may point out that Voelker has a wealth of experience over the 22-year-old Macario, but the American has taken up his new found position as gate keeper for younger fighters to step on, after losses against the likes of Patrick Cote and Robbie Lawler.
Voelker fully expects the Brazilian fighter to gas out mid-fight, allowing him to creep up and secure the win. This may have been the case against Macario during his last bout against Leonardo Santos, but I suspect it won’t be the case this time. We will see a more fully rounded Macario with better cardio.
Macario will pace himself better to pull off a second-round win via TKO.
Estevan Payan vs. Robbie Peralta
Defending Payan: Nick Hammar
The first fight of the night on the preliminary card should not disappoint. Both fighters are primarily strikers with a lot of energy behind them. Payan should be able to keep Peralta at bay with his slightly better stand-up ability. I suspect Peralta’s smaller stature will make him easier to drag to the ground and give Payan a second advantage.
Peralta tested positive for marijuana after his last bout, which he lost against Akira Corassani in Sweden. If you can’t keep off the pipe you can’t win fights.
This battle may stretch out to a full three rounds, with Payan edging out the decision.