"I think 168 is going to be the biggest pay-per-view we've ever done."
We'll find out if that bold prediction from UFC president Dana White will come true in the coming days, once all the PPV number projections are coming out.
But there's no denying the importance of this card for the UFC. Anderson Silva, the greatest fighter in the history of the UFC, has suggested that a second loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 168 could mean the end of his career. Ronda Rousey, the woman the UFC is counting on to become a mega-star, does need to keep destroying opponents to hold her mystique and rebound a bit from a stunningly rocky stint on The Ultimate Fighter.
The storylines are there, the opportunities for all four fighters in the night's featured bouts are obvious and the Octagon is the place where it'll all play out.
- The closer the fight gets, the more I feel like this plays out like people thought the first fight would if Weidman won. I see him using his wrestling to get takedowns, sit in half guard and pound on Silva. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for some of that old Silva magic.
- Rousey vs. Tate has taken on an odd sort of status in predictions. Basically no one is giving Tate a chance to win the bout, so it has become more a question of if she can be the first to get through the first round with Rousey. Common thinking among MMA media members is that she'll get subbed in the second round, I'll just stick with the idea that Rousey finds a way to take the arm in the first.
- I fully expect Josh Barnett to beat Travis Browne tonight, but I will never hope for Barnett to win a fight. I waiver sometimes on if I think PEDs should actually be banned in professional sports, but Barnett's resume is so littered with steroid usage that he is one of the few fighters I actively root against.
- By the way, any sports journalist/media member who tells you they don't root for/against certain athletes is a liar.
- Speaking of rooting for a fighter, there are very few fighters I find as likable and entertaining in the cage as Jim Miller. Miller should be coming off a loss, but that fight (with Pat Healy) was flipped to a no contest when Healy was popped for marijuana in his post-fight drug test. Even so, Miller has to be thinking he wants to get his career back on track. Fabricio Camoes is the kind of guy that Miller should be able to get a win against, but it could be Jim's third consecutive fight of the night.
- Diego Brandao coming in massively overweight for his bout with Dustin Poirier is not only unprofessional, but it's something that should have bigger consequences. I'd like to see guys occasionally not accept fights in these circumstances. It's not unheard of for a fighter to walk away in a situation like this in boxing, but in the UFC it's usually a guarantee that the fight will go on. I've already seen people make excuses for why it's okay (Poirier is a big fighter for the weight so it's not a big deal), but one guy actually made the cut, the other didn't. Maybe there's an excuse for it, but these now aren't guys who weighed in in anywhere near the same class and that's an issue that shouldn't be brushed aside.
- I feel guilty knowing I'm going to watch Chris Leben fight again. He didn't look "right" on the scales at the weigh-in and he has taken a lot of punishment in his career. It's actually highly unusual to see guys who have taken enough punishment to where it feels dangerous for them to compete still actively fighting in the UFC. Usually guys are off the big stage by that point. I wonder if judge Mark Smith hadn't been the only man on earth to manage to score Leben's last fight (against Andrew Craig) for Leben if he'd even still be in the UFC. It feels like there's a very unusual amount of danger for the UFC going into Leben's fight with Uriah Hall.
- Aside from Leben/Hall, I don't see a bad fight on the card. It should be a great way to close out a fun year of MMA. I hope you'll be around to share your thoughts on the night's action as it all goes down.