MMA Review: #443: UFC 168: Weidman vs. Silva II

-Originally this one – the last show of 2013 – was set to be main evented solely by the long-awaited Ronda Rousey/Miesha Tate grudge match, but when Anderson Silva decided he *did* want a rematch for the Middleweight Title he lost to Chris Weidman in July, Zuffa decided to make this into arguably their biggest show since 2009’s UFC 100 by putting both matches on the same card and then stacking the rest of the show for good measure. To say that this was a highly anticipated show was an understatement.

UFC 168: Weidman vs. Silva II

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Featherweight Fight: Robbie Peralta vs Estevan Payan

Both of these Featherweights were in pretty desperate need of a win, particularly Payan, who hadn’t exactly set the world alight in his UFC debut, a loss to Jeremy Stephens. Peralta meanwhile hadn’t fought since an April loss to Akira Corrassani. This was a tough fight to pick given the similarities between the two men (gritty brawlers for the most part) but I was slightly leaning towards Peralta due to his extensive UFC experience.

Round One and they circle before Peralta starts to wade forward throwing bombs. Payan looks to clinch but Peralta quickly takes him down and lands in half-guard. Peralta looks to work for a pass and lands some short punches to the body for good measure, but Payan manages to explode to his feet. Peralta forces him into the fence while taking a couple of knees to the body, and from there Payan tries a takedown of his own, but Peralta reverses on the way down and lands on top in half-guard again. Full mount attempt from Peralta but Payan does a good job of bucking his hips and he reverses over, taking side mount. Nice short elbows to the body and head land for Payan and he controls Peralta nicely. Payan continues to drop elbows and lands a solid right hand too. Round ends with Payan on top continuing to work some nice ground-and-pound before Peralta escapes on the buzzer. 10-9 Payan for me.

Round Two and both men come out throwing strikes early on. Peralta is really swinging wildly with his punches but he obviously packs a lot of power. Couple of good low kicks land for Payan. Peralta answers with a couple of his own and then wings a hard left hook too. Good right to the body from Peralta. Neither man’s throwing many feints out or anything. Couple more kicks land for Peralta. Clinch from Payan and he hits an easy slam into side mount. More elbows follow for Payan but this time Peralta manages to hip escape to half-guard. Payan continues to work from the top though and then stands over him. That allows Peralta to escape to his feet, but he takes a right hand on the way up. Just over a minute to go and Payan swings Peralta into the fence from the clinch, but Peralta switches position and they exchange some knees. Peralta appears to be going for the takedown now but he can’t get Payan down. Good knees inside from Payan and they muscle for position, and the round ends shortly after. Pretty even round so call it 10-10.

Round Three and Peralta comes out SWINGING. Payan decides to oblige him and almost immediately he PAYS THE PRICE as Peralta’s flurry drops him and some shots on the ground turn out his lights. Good lord.

Can’t fault Peralta there at all – I guess he knew he was probably behind on the scorecards and just decided to go for broke and for once that approach totally worked. Replay shows a left hand caught Payan in the exchange and wobbled him and then another left dropped him in the follow-up flurry. Pretty wild knockout actually. You’ve got to feel for Payan too as he fought a really good fight up to that point but then just got caught cleanly. Such is MMA. Not a bad opener by any means.

Welterweight Fight: William Macario vs Bobby Voelker

Considering this was a Facebook prelim I was pretty damn psyched for this one, namely because I think Patolino is one of the top prospects out there at 170lbs and I couldn’t wait to see how much he’d improved following an impressive stint on TUF Brazil 2. Opponent Voelker hadn’t fought since his August knockout loss at the hands of Robbie Lawler, and although he was coming in as the betting favourite, to me he was the perfect opponent for an up-and-comer like Macario and I figured the Brazilian would be able to overcome the journeyman in this one.

Fight begins and the Brazilian contingent of the crowd are LOUD in chanting for Patolino. Voelker comes out swinging but Patolino stays out of range early on. Good inside leg kick from Patolino. Patolino’s doing an excellent job of gauging the range actually. Nice right hand lands for him and he follows with a beautiful uppercut into another right. Voelker finds himself against the cage covering up, and Patolino lands a quick combo before a Voelker left backs him up a little. Good jab to the body from Patolino. Left hand follows and Voelker’s sporting a bloody nose. Beautiful combo backs Voelker up into the fence and Patolino is really chaining his strikes together well, landing to the body and head before backing out to avoid Voelker’s rush. Patolino is looking awesome thus far. Stiff jab lands for him. Big right hand lands cleanly and wobbles Voelker’s legs. Big combination follows and Voelker is in trouble. Few nice knee strikes land for Patolino before he backs out again. Voelker is coming up short on almost all of his punches here. Takedown from Patolino follows and he plants Voelker on the ground by the fence. Voelker pops back up but eats a hard knee to the body. His nose is a MESS. They muscle along the fence before breaking off and again Patolino shows excellent control of the range, slipping back to avoid Voelker’s punches. Leg kicks land for both men. Round ends with Patolino continuing to avoid Voelker’s shots. Easy 10-9 for Patolino; totally dominant round for him.

Into the 2nd and Voelker comes out swinging, but again Patolino dodges him and lands with an early left to the body. Right hand lands for Voelker but the Brazilian seems fine. Clinch is shrugged off by Patolino. Nice left hand lands for Patolino as Voelker steps forward. Voelker still can’t seem to find his range. Beautiful double leg from Patolino and he puts Voelker on his back. Voelker right away gets his back to the cage though and looks to work his way back up. Sure enough he does so and then breaks the clinch. Right hand lands for Patolino. Stiff jab follows and Voelker’s face is looking messy. Right hook follows and Voelker’s beginning to eat punches again. Takedown is blocked by Voelker. Two minutes to go and Voelker lands with an uppercut from close range. He’s cut badly though. Clean right hand counter lands for Patolino and backs Voelker up. Combo has him wobbled and Patolino grabs the plum to land a knee for good measure. Big shots land for Patolino from close range and a NASTY UPPERCUT sends Voelker down. He pops back up but he continues to eat shots from the Brazilian. To his credit though he’s still swinging back. VICIOUS elbows land for Patolino from close range and Voelker’s face looks sliced to ribbons. His nose is completely shattered too. Referee Mario Yamasaki decides to call time to have him checked, but he says he’s fine and they let it go. Jabs from Patolino and Voelker’s chest is covered in blood. Big swings miss for Voelker as he’s beginning to look desperate. Patolino waves him on, and then lands with a takedown on the buzzer. 10-8 Patolino based on the sheer damage he did.

Third round and Voelker’s nose is still pouring with blood. He comes out swinging and look for a takedown, but Patolino blocks it and forces him into the fence before breaking with an elbow. Jab land for Voelker but Patolino slides back out of range and lands some punches of his own. Big right hand tags Voelker and once again he’s a bloody mess. This is one of the bloodiest fights I can remember recently. Takedown attempt from Voelker is stuffed and Patolino makes him pay with a heavy combination. Voelker is still swinging though. Can’t question the guy’s heart. More combos land for Patolino and Voelker tries to claim an eye poke, but it looks more like he’s struggling with the blood in his eyes to me. Yamasaki calls time to check it out again but decides to let it go. Voelker tries to throw down again but Patolino cracks him with a heavy counter uppercut that wobbles his legs. Combo follows and Voelker’s in trouble again. Once again though he manages to survive and Patolino backs out. Voelker looks like a horror movie victim and he’s eating crisp counters every time he wades forward. Takedown from Patolino but again Voelker gets his back to the cage and pops up. One minute remaining and more combos land for Patolino. Seconds to go and another takedown lands for Patolino, but Voelker gets to his feet again and keeps on swinging to end the fight. I’ve got this 30-26 for William Patolino.

Judges agree and it’s a unanimous decision for the TUF Brazil star; 30-27 all round. This really was a masterful performance from Patolino, made even more impressive by the fact that he’s only 22 and is just getting started in his UFC career. The key was his control of the distance, as he constantly stayed out of range of Voelker’s strikes and was able to slide in and land clean strikes of his own due to Voelker’s own lack of movement. I was also impressed with the fact that he was using such clean technique in his combinations, never wasting any energy and when Voelker would try to flurry back, he was already way out of range. This was a massive improvement from his performances on TUF Brazil and when you consider how good he looked in those fights, I think we’ve got a future top ten fighter on our hands. Really entertaining fight too.

Welterweight Fight: John Howard vs Siyar Bahadurzada

This was some interesting matchmaking, as usually Zuffa tend to match guys who won their last fight with a fellow winner and vice versa with losers, but in this case Howard was coming off a win in a higher weight class over Uriah Hall, while Bahadurzada hadn’t fought since a March loss to Dong Hyun Kim. Despite that I felt that Bahadurzada was the more explosive striker, and given Howard tends to stand with his opponent regardless of their skill level, I was taking the Afghan native to pick up his second UFC win.

Round One and both men come out quite tentatively, evidently showing mutual respect for the other’s punching power. Couple of big swings miss for Siyar. Leg kick lands for Howard. Good head movement from Howard allows him to avoid a couple of power hooks too. Head kick glances for Bahadurzada. Right hook lands too but not flush. Howard backs him up a little but Siyar circles to avoid the fence. Combo from Siyar is countered by a leg kick from Howard who then clinches. Bahadurzada spins him around and pushes him into the fence, where they exchange knees to the body. Couple of really hard shots land for Siyar. Siyar manages to break free and they circle out. Both men exchange punches before Howard shoots, but Siyar defends it well and lands a couple more nasty knees to the body. This time though Howard really drives through with a single leg and puts him on his back in half-guard. Full mount follows and Siyar gives his back, but Howard loses a hook and slips off, allowing the Afghan to stand. Howard drops for another takedown but can’t get it and they break off. Seconds remaining and Howard tries another takedown. Siyar blocks it but eats a left to end the round. Close round but I’d call it 10-9 Howard.

Round Two and both men come out wildly swinging and exchange some bombs, but both men take the shots and remain standing, with a left hook from Howard especially connecting flush. Exchange continues with both men continuing to throw, and then Howard decides to switch it up and clinches, forcing Siyar into the fence. Good knee to the body from Siyar but Howard drops for a single leg. Bahadurzada stuffs it and then comes in with a knee to the body and a takedown of his own. Action slows down a little before Howard goes for a triangle, and uses the threat to escape to his feet. Good leg kick from Howard. Another one lands and Siyar looks like he’s running out of steam. He does land a good knee though and then stuffs another takedown. They muscle along the fence in the clinch and then Howard breaks and lands a quick combination. Both guys look really tired now. Big combo from Bahadurzada but the punches don’t land cleanly. Takedown is stuffed by Howard. Good knee from Bahadurzada but Howard answers with an uppercut. More knees from Bahadurzada and he forces Howard into the fence. This is a close fight. Takedown attempt from Howard but Bahadurzada wraps up a standing kimura. Howard LIFTS HIM INTO THE AIR in response and then walks over with a BIG SLAM, but Siyar pops right back up. Another takedown attempt follows for Howard but the buzzer sounds before he can finish. 10-10 round.

Round Three and Howard opens with an inside leg kick. Good left hook follows for Doomsday. Siyar is clearly fatigued. Takedown attempt from Howard and he drives the Afghan into the fence. Bahadurzada works to stuff it, and so Howard breaks with a hard combination that lands. Body shot follows for Howard. Combo from Siyar but it doesn’t seem to have much steam behind it. Uppercuts land for Howard from close range. Siyar’s outright standing with his hands on his hips now. Takedown from Howard and Siyar quickly goes to closed guard. Howard postures up to drop some shots and lands some really heavy punches. Bahadurzada scrambles, but gives his back in the process. He decides to roll for a leglock but can’t get it and winds up back in guard. Few elbows and hammer fists get through for Howard and he passes into half-guard. Full mount follows and Bahadurzada is in trouble. He rolls and gives his back, and this time Howard’s got both hooks in. Howard takes full back control but doesn’t really go for the choke. Seconds to go and it looks like Siyar will survive. Round ends with Howard firmly in control. 10-9 Howard for a 30-28 win for me.

Judges have it 30-27 for John Doomsday Howard. Good win for him to return to 170lbs with and it probably secured another four or five UFC fights for him too which is always good. This one basically showed the power of a solid gameplan, as Howard looked for the clinch and takedowns and used them to wear Bahadurzada down to the point where by halfway through the second round he was totally out of steam and thus not really much of a threat. Fight wasn’t the most exciting of all time but it wasn’t terrible either and had a bunch of fun moments.

Featherweight Fight: Dennis Siver vs Manny Gamburyan

Interesting fight on paper here as Siver was looking to bounce back from his loss to Cub Swanson to get himself back into the rankings at 145lbs, while Manny was looking to follow up a pair of wins over Michihiro Omigawa and Cole Miller, although the Miller win was a controversial one. Due to sheer personal bias I was picking Manny as I’ve always been a fan of his dating back to his TUF run in 2007.

First round and Manny pushes forward early, swinging some heavy punches that Siver answers by swinging right back. Couple of big kicks miss for Siver but a beautiful trip takedown does not and he plants Manny on his back. Armbar attempt right away from Manny and it looks like he might have it, but Siver shows some excellent defense and manages to avoid, working into the Armenian’s guard. Good punches from Siver but Manny rolls for a leglock and so the German has to escape up to his feet. Couple of shots glance from the outside for Siver and he’s keeping Gamburyan at the end of his punches and kicks. Good jab and a left head kick land for Siver. Spinning kick misses for Manny but a heavy right hook connects. Siver continues to get the better of the striking exchange though. Nice takedown from Manny and he gets on top in guard. Leglock attempt from Manny but Siver defends and Manny ends up taking some BOMBS before Siver takes the back. Manny stands with Siver on his back and he’s in trouble as one of his arms looks trapped. Manny manages to free the arm and with seconds remaining it looks like he’ll survive. Buzzer goes with Siver on the back. 10-9 Siver.

Second round and Siver throws out a bunch of kicks early on. Right hand from Manny looks like it lands clean but a counter drops him for a second. He pops back up though right away and seems fine. Jab from Siver but Manny shoots for a single leg. Guillotine attempt is avoided and Manny plants him on his back in guard. Short ground-and-pound lands for Gamburyan but he isn’t doing that much damage really. Few elbows do get through though and Siver is cut up. Manny seems inspired by the sight of the blood and opens up with some heavier shots before passing into half-guard. Lot of blood coming from Siver’s forehead now. Good sweep from the German allows him to pop up to his feet though. Leg kick lands nicely for Manny. Short right hand follows. Spinning wheel kick glances off Siver’s face. Sick front kick sets up a quick combo from Siver. Takedown attempt from Manny answers and he dumps Siver onto his back in half-guard. Solid short elbows connect for Gamburyan, who ends the round in firm control. 10-9 Manny to even things up.

Third round and both guys miss with spinning attacks in the opening moments. Left hook and an inside leg kick land for Siver. Head kick misses for Manny. Couple of wild swings miss for Manny. More low kicks from Siver and one connects with the groin. Ref calls time and Manny has to recover. Surprising takedown from Siver off the restart and he goes to work from the guard as Manny replies with some elbows from his back. Siver works to pass as Gamburyan tries to tie up his left arm for a possible kimura. Siver stays calm though and pounds at the body with his free right arm. Into half-guard for Siver even with his left arm still in jeopardy, and he manages to take the back in a scramble. Manny tries to roll through to free himself but Siver manages to remain in back control and he slaps on a body triangle for good measure. Siver begins to really take over from there, landing some clubbing punches while working for a possible choke. Manny keeps working in an attempt to get free, but Siver shows excellent control and continues to land shots while controlling the Armenian from the back. Round ends with Siver remaining in back control. Clear-cut 29-28 for Dennis Siver, surely.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Dennis Siver; basically there was no other possible score there as Siver outworked Manny in the first and the third after giving away the second. Fight was fine; Manny did well standing as it goes where I thought he’d be outgunned, but on the ground when Siver took top position his superior size and strength really made the difference and allowed him to work over the smaller Gamburyan. The one problem? Siver ended up testing positive for the banned substance hCG after the fight rendering the whole fucking thing meaningless.

Lightweight Fight: Michael Johnson vs Gleison Tibau

Incredibly this was Tibau’s 21st UFC fight, which is some number for a guy who if we’re honest, hasn’t ever found himself in title contention or anything like that. Still, he’s a fantastic gatekeeper to the elite level, which was where Johnson was aiming to put himself after he’d looked pretty awesome in beating Joe Lauzon in August. I was leaning towards Tibau’s stifling grappling game being enough to overcome Johnson after Myles Jury executed a similar gameplan to great effect a year earlier.

Fight begins and the Brazilian contingent in the crowd are as loud for Tibau as they were for Patolino earlier. Feeler strikes from both men open things up with Johnson showing a lot of movement and throwing out some jabs. Heavy left hand lands for Tibau and that puts Johnson on his back foot. Exchange continues and Johnson appears to be very slightly faster, catching Tibau with some shots as he comes in. Tibau decides to switch it up and clinches, forcing the TUF veteran into the fence, but he can’t get Johnson down and they separate after exchanging some knees. Exchange continues and it looks like it’s Johnson looking to use his speed while Tibau’s throwing the heavier leather. Beautiful counter right hand from Johnson wobbles Tibau for a second and he follows with a good shot to the body as well. Accidental clash of heads as Tibau lunges for a takedown, but neither guy looks hurt. Johnson’s doing a really good job of sticking and moving. Takedown attempt is avoided by Johnson. Couple of jabs land for Johnson before Tibau grabs him and attempts to take him down again. Johnson manages to stay on his feet though and lands a knee to the body just before the round ends. Close round but I think Johnson just about got the better of it.

Into the 2nd and Johnson again begins with a lot of movement while firing out his jab. Tibau is coming up short on a lot of his power shots here. Wild left hand misses for the Brazilian. Johnson continues to work the jab as Tibau continues to swing bombs and largely miss. Tibau comes in again but walks into a left hand from Johnson and GOES DOWN! Johnson comes over the top with some BOMBS and Tibau is OUT. WOW.

Replay shows Johnson basically countered Tibau’s right hook with a short left that landed flush on the temple and killed Tibau’s equilibrium, and once he hit the deck the follow-up shots were picture-perfect. Hugely impressive win for Michael Johnson, especially when you consider that Tibau had only ever been stopped by strikes once before – by Nick Diaz using ground-and-pound – and he’d taken bombs from the likes of Massaranduba and Melvin Guillard before and always managed to survive. After a middling post-TUF run I didn’t expect much out of Johnson but if he keeps this up then he might be a contender yet. I think he’s an easy pick for most improved fighter in 2013 at the very least. Wild knockout that I certainly wasn’t expecting.

Middleweight Fight: Uriah Hall vs Chris Leben

After a terrifying TUF run that saw him knock out his three opponents in devastating fashion, it seemed like Hall was a shoe-in as a future contender, but a loss in the TUF Finale to Kelvin Gastelum and then a flat performance against John Howard had totally taken the lustre off him and so he was left likely fighting for his job here against Leben, another guy in dire need of a win after three straight losses, including one to Andrew Craig where he’d looked genuinely terrible. Due to the circumstances this was a tricky one to pick as the styles favoured Hall, but with his questionable mental game he wasn’t a lock by any means and even past his prime Leben’s got the punching power to hurt anyone at 185lbs.

Round One and Leben walks out….right into a HUGE FLYING KNEE from Hall that drops him! Holy shit. He pops back up though and somehow seems fine. Hall lands with a front kick to the body and immediately goes into counter mode, popping Leben with a pair of right hooks while dodging a couple of bombs. Quick left hook lands for Hall too as he shows some excellent movement. Leben’s already falling into the trap of lumbering forward flat-footed and eating counters from the cleaner striker. Nice uppercut lands for Uriah. Two minutes in and Leben’s already looking badly busted up. Body kick lands for Leben and sets up a clinch, but Hall lands with an uppercut and then breaks with a knee to the body. Another one follows and then it’s back to playing matador. Front kick to the body connects for Uriah. Sharp right hook lands cleanly too as Leben bulls forward. Good leg kick from Leben but he walks into an elbow strike. Another good leg kick from Leben but Uriah switches stances and pops him with a couple of jabs. Couple of big shots miss for Leben and he pays for it by eating counters. Jab snaps Leben’s head back. Trio of kicks land for Leben but Hall stays on the outside and counters with the front kick again. Wheel kick misses for Hall. Seconds to go and Leben walks right into a BRUTAL RIGHT HAND that drops him, but Hall can’t quite finish him off with a flurry before the buzzer. 10-8 round for Uriah Hall.

Between rounds Leben looks badly hurt and decides to call the fight off there, having his corner throw in the towel. Smart move and you can’t criticise the guy as why take any more punishment in a fight that you’re so clearly losing? Especially as he ended up announcing his retirement after this fight which again is a smart move – Leben has heart for days but he’s quite clearly a shot fighter at this point and the sort of beating he was taking here is the sort that can affect you later on in life. I just hope he can find some peace now in what has been a troubled life for the guy thus far. As for Hall he looked back on TUF form here – his countering was sharp and his timing was phenomenal, and he basically beat the hell out of Leben while avoiding any damage himself. If he can get back on track then the hype train might well start pulling out of the station again. Tremendous showing for him.

Featherweight Fight: Dustin Poirier vs Diego Brandao

This was a hugely interesting opener as what seemed like a logical step up-type fight for Brandao – who had won three in a row coming into this show – suddenly turned wildly personal at the weigh-ins as the usually stoic Poirier lost his temper and ended up shoving the fiery Brazilian. The word was that Brandao had apparently threatened to cut Dustin’s throat or something like that. Dude is pretty crazy. On a related note he also missed weight, coming in at 151.5lbs (!) but apparently Zuffa were willing to let it go as he’d had a car accident in the build-up to the show. I was expecting fireworks regardless of the winner here.

First round begins and Poirier opens with a hard leg kick. Couple of wild strikes come up short for Brandao and Poirier lands another sharp leg kick. Body kick glances for Brandao. Another leg kick lands for Poirier and then another causes Brandao to go down, but it looked like a slip and he pops back up. Flurry from Brandao is largely blocked. Both men glance with big shots in an exchange. Heavy chanting from the Brazilian contingent in the crowd again. Poirier is doing a good job of dictating the range here. Single leg attempt from Poirier but Brandao nails him with a knee. Spinning back kick misses for the TUF winner. Good body kick from Poirier but Diego answers with a body shot of his own. Exchange continues and Brandao knocks Poirier down with a right to counter a kick, but Dustin pops back up right away. Good right hook lands for Poirier. Takedown from Brandao but Dustin uses a whizzer to pop back up right away. Good body shot from Poirier. Big right hook connects for Dustin in an exchange. Brandao answers with a low kick. Dustin is beginning to land more now with the right hand. Diego appears to be slowing down a little but he manages to get a double leg and put Poirier down. Poirier immediately reverses back to his feet though and forces Brandao into the fence. Big flurry to the body sets up a right-left combo and Diego looks hurt. More BRUTAL body punches follow and then Dustin just DESTROYS HIM with a flurry against the fence! Takedown follows and Poirier absolutely SMASHES him on the ground, causing referee Mario Yamasaki to stop the fight with seconds remaining.

Great opener. It started as a competitive fight but once Brandao showed the slightest sign of slowing down, Poirier was all over him with the body shots and once the Brazilian was hurt, Poirier just didn’t let up at all. Dude is probably top five for me in terms of the most exciting guys to watch in the UFC at the minute I think and this fight was no exception. Back to the drawing board for Brandao unfortunately but he’s young enough to be able to bounce back I think.

Lightweight Fight: Jim Miller vs Fabricio Camoes

This was a bit of a surprising fight as I’d expected Joe Silva to match a perennial contender like Miller with someone higher up the ladder, but I guess they decided to throw him a bone instead and so after years of fighting high-level contenders, he was matched with Brazilian grappler Camoes, who hadn’t fought since July 2012. On paper this looked like a Miller squash, no offense to Camoes.

Fight begins and they circle before Camoes lands with an inside leg kick. Right hook glances for Miller as he pushes forward. Clinch by Camoes but he eats a hard knee to the body. Knee from Camoes and a left hook breaks off. Exchange sees both men land short punches. Big head kick misses for Camoes. Good left hook from the Brazilian backs Miller up a little. Both men are landing some good shots here in the exchanges. Good leg kick from Camoes. Wild exchange sees both men land again. Head kick from Camoes but Miller catches it and dumps him to the ground, landing a solid elbow in the process. Scramble from Camoes and he pops up, but gets a takedown of his own after eating a knee to the body. Miller works into full guard as Camoes works the body with short punches. Elbows from Camoes but Miller goes to a high guard and suddenly catches him in an armbar! Camoes looks in trouble and Miller locks up the leg to keep the position, and CAMOES TAPS!

Excellent win for Jim Miller as although he was coming in as a big favourite, he had to deal with a lot of aggression from Camoes and then to catch an accomplished BJJ black belt from the guard is really impressive however you look at it. Fun fight with a really slick finish.

Heavyweight Fight: Travis Browne vs Josh Barnett

Massive fight here and I’m not referring to the size of the fighters involved. Both men were coming off huge wins in August – Browne over Alistair Overeem and Barnett over Frank Mir – and with Browne having won two major fights in a row and Barnett coming in from StrikeForce as an instant contender, a Heavyweight title shot for the winner looked very likely indeed. I was taking Barnett to use his ground skill and experience to overcome the explosive Browne, as I didn’t see Travis being able to bully the Warmaster around as he’d done to some of his other opponents.

First round and they exchange some early strikes with Barnett landing a low kick and Browne a left hook. Clinch from Barnett and he lands a knee, but Browne breaks off. Takedown is shrugged off by Browne. Couple of jabs and a right hook follow. Leg kick answers for Barnett. Barnett bulls forward but eats a knee as he drops for a takedown. He drives Browne into the fence but Travis answers with a series of VIOLENT ELBOWS TO THE SIDE OF THE HEAD and BARNETT IS OUT!

Holy shit. Finish was the same one that Browne used to put away Gabriel Gonzaga although these were all clearly legal (to the side of the head) whereas I felt a lot of the ones to Gonzaga were illegal. Incredible finish either way as Barnett hadn’t been stopped by strikes since his 2006 loss to Mirko Cro Cop! Guess I was underestimating Browne as I did not expect the guy to be ending 2013 with wins over Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett. It’s a pity Cain Velasquez is on the shelf actually as this probably would’ve been enough to get Browne a title shot and instead he ended up in a contender’s fight with Fabricio Werdum, who beat him up pretty badly, but hey, that’s how the cookie crumbles. This was a tremendous showing from the Hawaiian at any rate.

UFC Women’s Bantamweight Title: Ronda Rousey vs Miesha Tate

This was probably the biggest UFC grudge match since March’s GSP/Diaz showdown, as it was clear from watching the 18th season of TUF that these women DESPISED one another. I dunno, sometimes personalities just don’t mesh at all and while a lot of people were seeing Tate as the good girl in the whole feud I felt more like Rousey was being unfairly labelled and came off like the kid in school who can’t cope with teasing and whacks the bully and then gets into trouble for it while the bully gets off scot free. In terms of how the fight would go? I couldn’t see past a repeat of their StrikeForce fight that saw Ronda win with her customary armbar, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t pumped up to see it.

DVD unfortunately cuts out Miesha’s awesome Katy Perry Roar entrance which I thought was one of the all-time great walk-ins. Boo! We also get one of the all-time great NASTY STAREDOWNS from Ronda.

Round One and both girls come out SWINGING before Ronda quickly clinches and looks for a throw. Miesha blocks but a ridiculous lateral drop puts her down. She pops back up but eats a knee to the face and then Ronda drives her into the fence to land some more knees to the legs. Knees answer for Tate and she looks to break but can’t get Rousey off her. They break and Tate lands a couple of shots but Ronda catches a leg and throws her down. Good punches from the top for Ronda as she tries to pass the guard. Triangle attempt from Miesha but Ronda lifts her up and shakes her off before dropping more shots. Tate pops up and hits a takedown of her own into Ronda’s guard, but the champ lands some shots from the bottom and right away looks for a possible armbar or triangle. Really good punches land from the bottom for Ronda as she continues to set up for the armbar, and then decides to go for a triangle instead. Miesha tries to posture up to escape, and then manages to pop free to her feet. She looks busted up though. Tate comes forward swinging and tags Rousey with a left hand, but Ronda nails her right back with a right. Good combo from Tate and Ronda has to clinch, using a SICK headlock throw to land right in side mount! Miesha gets back to half-guard, but Rousey works free and looks to float right into the armbar! Tate shows excellent defense though and winds up in Ronda’s guard before standing. Takedown attempt from Tate but Ronda shifts her weight and hits ANOTHER beautiful throw to land on top. Good punches from Ronda and she decides to let Tate up, surprisingly. Hard right hand from Miesha and she clinches and this time avoids a throw. Good knees from Rousey and she ends the round with a quick combo. 10-9 Rousey in a hell of a round.

Round Two and Ronda opens with a hard right cross. They trade shots before Ronda trips Miesha down easily and stands over her. Good upkicks from Tate force Rousey to step back and let her back up. Takedown attempt from Miesha but Ronda blocks and throws her to the ground right into full mount almost. Tate gets back to guard though and they come back to their feet. Single leg from Rousey and she takes the back for a second before ending up in side mount. Tate rolls and tries to get her own takedown, but Ronda controls her and lands some punches from an over/under. MASSIVE crowd chant for Miesha. She works back up but Rousey’s still on her. Action slows down finally in the clinch, as they exchange some short punches and Ronda lands knees to the legs for good measure. Good knee to the body from Rousey but Tate fires back one of her own. INCREDIBLE hip throw from Rousey plants Tate on her back again, this time in side mount. Tate tries to roll backwards into an armbar but Rousey steps over to defend and then looks to set up an armbar of her own. Crowd are going INSANE here. Full mount for Rousey and she opens up with punches and traps Miesha’s arm to deliver some flush ones to the face. Armbar attempt follows and it looks like it might be locked up, but Miesha shows INSANE HEART and guts it out, managing to escape somehow. She winds up turtled under Ronda though eating more punches and hammer fists. Ronda looks to lock up a reverse triangle from the top, elbowing the side of the body for good measure, but again Miesha manages to defend it. Round ends with Rousey in control, continuing to punish the body. 10-9 Rousey. This is an AWESOME FIGHT.

Round Three and Rousey storms out and throws a flurry to set up the clinch. Big body punches from Ronda and she works for another throw and then switches to a lateral drop. Miesha manages to shift her weight and uses a whizzer to land on top….but Rousey floats right into the ARMBAR OF DOOM!~! and spins her around to extend the arm for the tapout.

Tremendous, tremendous stuff. Post-fight Rousey refuses a handshake from Miesha which garners her MASSIVE heat with the crowd who practically boo her out of the building, but when you’re the best fighter in the world in your weight class who gives a flying fuck what people think of you? Miesha tried her damndest and defended incredibly well at points, but Ronda looked like a force of nature here and despite taking more shots than she’d ever taken before as well as going out of the first round for the first time in her career, the finish never really seemed in doubt. That’s just how good Ronda is – right now she’s as ahead of her division as GSP was in his in like 2009-10, which is pretty scary. For me she’s probably – along with Jon Jones – the biggest must-watch fighter in the UFC right now just because her fights feel like a big event. I don’t want to see that Cyborg fight though, no way. Give me Ronda vs. Cat Zingano and I’ll be a happy bunny. This fight at any rate was absolutely fantastic. Maybe too one-sided to be a FOTYC but it was close.

UFC Middleweight Title: Chris Weidman vs Anderson Silva

For a while, incredibly, it didn’t look like we’d even get this rematch as Silva stated he was done with the title scene, but after a bit of time (and most likely, Zuffa throwing a shit-ton of money at him) he decided he *did* want his belt back and so the rematch was made for the final show of 2013. For those living under a rock, remember, Weidman had knocked out Silva for the title back in July, ending both his ridiculous near-seven year reign as champ as well as his sixteen-fight winning streak. In terms of a prediction the MMA world was largely torn – one camp claiming that Silva had only lost because he’d clowned around and he was on his way to working out Weidman’s timing en route to his usual magic; the other half – myself included – seeing it as Weidman being in control of the fight from the start, causing Silva to go too far with his clowning out of desperation in order to try to throw Weidman off his gameplan. With everything in mind, I was taking Weidman to win again here – going with my prediction for the original fight with Weidman taking Silva down and submitting him.

And HERE WE GO!~! Crowd are AMPED. It’s a tentative opening with both men circling and throwing out some feeler strikes that don’t really land. Single leg from Weidman and he gets Silva down. Immediately Silva gets his back to the fence though and works back up. Good knee to the body from Silva as Weidman looks to get him back down. They exchange some knees and Silva goes for the Rich Franklin-killing plum clinch, but Weidman NAILS him with a pair of right hands that send him DOWN! Anderson is in trouble as Weidman rains down punches from above looking to finish him, but the former champ manages to tie him up in the guard and survive. Silva starts to look for some elbows from the bottom but he’s still taking some heavy blows from Weidman. Arm triangle attempt from the bottom from Anderson but Weidman easily avoids that. Weidman looks to use a can opener to force Silva to release his guard, and he lands a couple of really solid elbows, but Silva manages to keep the guard and then switches to a body triangle for good measure. BRUTAL punches from Weidman but Silva manages to take them. More ground-and-pound from Weidman, answered by some hammer fists from the bottom from Anderson. Less than a minute to go now and Weidman cracks him with another elbow before standing over him. Right hand lands from the top again and that’s the round. Weidman has a bloody nose. Round however looked like something from the first Silva/Sonnen fight. Easy 10-9 for Weidman and the replay shows Silva was badly hurt from the first couple of punches in the clinch that Weidman landed.

Second round and Silva opens with an inside leg kick. Weidman pushes forward but Silva avoids a left hand. Head kick misses for Weidman but he checks a second leg kick. Weidman’s keeping his distance well. Body kick from Weidman. Leg kick from Silva but Weidman checks it and SILVA GOES DOWN. Herb Dean immediately waves the fight off and HOLY SHIT SILVA’S LEG IS SNAPPED. Replay shows it was the full on Corey Hill Special with Silva’s leg snapping around Weidman’s and breaking cleanly at the shin. Post-fight is REALLY disturbing too as Anderson is literally crying out in agony on the mat. Sickest injury in UFC history for sure.

Post-fight Joe Rogan mentions that John Danaher – one of Weidman’s coaches – had been concerned in the first fight because Weidman wasn’t checking Silva’s leg kicks, and so they worked on leg kick defense throughout the training camp. Call this a fluke-ish finish all you like but I mean, the guy worked on the defense to the leg kick and evidently he worked on it well and obviously it had a devastating effect. It’s that sort of attention to detail and top-level coaching – as well as an obviously incredible level of athleticism and learning curve – that’s going to make Weidman a very hard man to stop indeed. As for Anderson, he says he’s going to return in 2015 but for me I think he should take maybe one more fight and then call it a day. An injury like that is really tricky to come back from and he’s pushing 40 and obviously has no more to prove. Why not just go out near the top? As for this fight it was great for the first round, but you could definitely say it had an anticlimactic finish. Although to be fair, how much more climactic can you get than a legendary former champion laying on the ground with a snapped leg? Crazy ending to the show and the year for the UFC.

-Highlight reel rolls to play us out for 2013.

Final Thoughts….

This show ended up doing a monster 1.1 million or thereabouts buyrate and thankfully the people watching got a pretty tremendous show. We got no bad fights – although Howard/Bahadurzada and Siver/Gamburyan were a little slower than the rest – and the main card was FANTASTIC with all five fights finishing in violent fashion and the two title fights living up to all the hype, even with the sick ending to Weidman vs. Silva. Not quite as good as UFC 166 but I think you could make an argument for this being the second-best show of 2013. Highest recommendation.

Best Fight: Rousey vs. Tate
Worst Fight: Howard vs. Bahadurzada

Overall Rating: ****3/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: