UFC 168 was billed as one of the biggest shows in the organization's history, and the card lived up to the hype. Of course, the main talking point of the night (and for days to come) was Anderson Silva's horrific leg break, which may spell the end of his legendary career. As for Chris Weidman, his career is only 11 fights old, and next year he'll take on the rest of the middleweight division as he marches towards his own level of greatness.
We saw Ronda Rousey get pushed into rounds 2 and 3 and still win by armbar, Travis Browne get another upset win to close out 2013, and Dustin Poirier coming through on his promise to "break" Diego Brandao. Tim Burke normally runs this feature, but he was away last night and that means I'll take the reigns for today's fantasy matchmaking piece.
Chris Weidman. Two fights with Anderson, two bizarre and unexpected results, two wins for Chris Weidman. Even before Silva's leg break he was clearly winning the fight and in control, and there's no doubt in my mind that he's the best 185er on the planet. Vitor Belfort will be Weidman's next challenger, it's all a matter of where the fight will take place and whether or not Belfort will be allowed to use TRT for this fight.
Anderson Silva. The outcome was unfathomable. If Silva had lost by 1st round TKO I think we would've moved split talk between Silva's decline and Weidman's established position as one of the best fighters in the world. Instead, the defining MMA photo of 2013 is the great Anderson Silva being carried out on a stretcher, immobilized and in agony after breaking his leg in two places. I don't think Silva has declined to the point where I'd question his chances against Brad Tavares, but Father Time has caught up with him and I think we have seen the last of "The Spider".
Ronda Rousey. Well the UFC already did the work for me. The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in Judo will fight Sara McMann, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling, in the main event of UFC 170 in Las Vegas. I think McMann is a far more formidable opponent for Rousey than Tate and it should be a good one.
Miesha Tate. I believe that as women's MMA progresses, Tate will be phased out of the top 5 (where she's presently ranked) and ultimately away from title contention. Her striking has not progressed at all and her in-fight decisions are puzzling. I think the UFC will try and re-book her against Liz Carmouche, which was the plan for UFC on Fox 8 before Cat Zingano injured her knee.
Travis Browne. Hapa put his bloody elbows to great use last night, and I cannot think of any UFC fighter who has ever effectively KO'd two people by defending the takedown and slamming elbows to the side of the head. Dana White said the winner of Barnett/Browne was going to face Fabricio Werdum, and I assume that's what we'll see some time in the spring of 2014.
Josh Barnett. That's Barnett's title hopes slammed shut for good. He's lost to both Daniel Cormier and Browne, and he looked out of his depth last night. He had no answer for Browne's striking and found himself napping after 1 minute. If he can't beat those two, then he certainly doesn't have a prayer against JDS or Velasquez, so consider Barnett another top 10 heavyweight with zero chance of being a title challenger. I think he'll get the loser of Gabriel Gonzaga/Stipe Miocic next.
Jim Miller. I love watching Jim Miller fight, and his submission of Camoes was outstanding. Mind you, I don't think Miller was that effective on the feet and took some good shots, but his strongest skills are on the ground to begin with. This was suggested on Twitter last night and I absolutely endorse it. Michael Johnson, who wiped out Gleison Tibau on the prelims, is a great opponent and terrific matchmaking. It's a stern test for Johnson and it gives Miller his own upgrade in opposition without diving right back into fighting other top 10 guys.
Fabricio Camoes. His last two losses are to Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller. There's no shame in losing to either of those guys, but he's now 1-3-1 in the UFC and is probably one loss away from being cut. If he isn't cut already, I believe Roger Bowling in a "loser leaves town" match is appropriate.
Dustin Poirier. He survived the flash knockdown and otherwise did a tremendous job of picking his spots and countering Brandao's haymakers with measured, accurate strikes. Poirier said he'd "break" Brandao and he definitely put a beating on Diego. At 24 years old he's an excellent talent deserving of his top 10 status, and I believe he'll be matched up with Dennis Siver.
Diego Brandao. A car accident is apparently the reason for Brandao's inability to make weight. The drain on his body was apparent as he loaded up everything he could to end the fight in round 1, but he ended up getting finished. He's still a fun fighter to watch and I see him getting paired up with the loser of Cole Miller/Sam Sicilia.