Will "The Spider" go up the spout again?
After suffering the most shocking knockout loss of the year, deposed champion Anderson Silva will look to reclaim his Middleweight title this Saturday night (Dec. 28, 2013), taking on championship crown usurper Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC 168, which takes place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In addition, one of the sport's biggest feuds will boil over in the co-main event when Ronda Rousey faces Miesha Tate for the second time. Pride FC superstar Josh Barnett will also be in action, facing surging knockout artist Travis Browne in a Heavyweight slugfest that has major top contender implications on the line.
But, before all that delicious pay-per-view (PPV) action gets underway, we have six under card "Prelims" -- two on Facebook and the rest on Fox Sports 1 -- to get our mixed martial arts (MMA) juices flowing.
Let's take a look:
170 lbs.: John Howard vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
Three straight losses to Welterweight elite ended a two-year run in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for John Howard (21-8), but he worked his way back in impressive fashion, winning six of seven with five stoppages. Brought in on late notice to take on Uriah Hall at 185, Howard pulled off one of the card’s biggest upsets, edging the highly-touted The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 veteran for a split decision.
"Doomsday" will give up four inches of height to Bahadurzada.
Six straight wins, five of them knockouts inside two rounds, earned Siyar Bahadurzada (21-5-1) a spot on the UFC roster. After impressing with a 42 second knockout in his debut, Bahadurzada’s career has stalled somewhat as he’s struggled with multiple injuries.
He has fought just once since his April 2012 debut, a loss via one-sided grappling clinic against Dong Hyun Kim.
Bahadurzada’s power is legit -- I’m not going to deny that the man can crack. For a champion kickboxer, however, his boxing is atrocious; his offense seems to consist entirely of wild swings with fully-extended arms. Further, his ground game flat-out stinks. He hasn’t demonstrated any sort of aptitude in submissions or sweeps, instead relying on whining to his opponents to goad them into standing up.
Howard, though not a paragon of technique, packs a mean left hook and better-than-average wrestling. Therefore, I expect him to have the advantage wherever the fight goes. Bahadurzada most certainly can turn the fight around with one shot, but a bigger warhead isn’t worth a damn if you haven’t got the missile to deliver it.
Prediction: Howard via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: William Macario vs. Bobby Voelker
One of the UFC’s youngest fighters, William Macario (6-1) impressed on TUF: "Brazil 2," pounding his way to the finals with three finishes via strikes in four fights. His willingness to engage Leonardo Santos on the ground, however, wound up costing him as he succumbed to an arm-triangle at the Finale.
All of his wins have come inside six minutes, four of them inside two, and all but one via technical knockout.
Bobby Voelker (24-10) ended a successful Strikeforce run with two consecutive knockouts of Roger Bowling and, after almost a two-year layoff, was among those brought into the UFC following Strikeforce’s dissolution. His run hasn’t gone swimmingly, losing a close decision to Patrick Cote in his debut and suffering a brutal knockout courtesy of Robbie Lawler his second time out.
He has only one decision victory since 2008, the rest coming inside the distance.
Voelker is the sort of fighter that gets more dangerous the longer the fight goes -- from the second round on, he’s a serious handful. The problem is that he’s an extremely slow starter, which let Lawler lay a tremendous beating on him early. I’m not saying "Patolino" is in Lawler’s league when it comes to thumping, but he packs legitimate power and a very solid wrestling game.
Even if he can’t get Voelker out of there, he’s got the goods to build an early lead.
Macario may fade late, but I expect his power-punching and takedowns to take the first two rounds. And even if he does gas, he’s got the wrestling to hold on until the end of the third frame.
Prediction: Macario via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Robbie Peralta vs. Estevan Payan
After decisioning Mike Lullo and accidentally ending his fight with Mackens Semerzier via headbutt, Robbie Peralta (16-4) showcased the power that first earned the UFC’s attention against Jason Young, knocking the Englishman cold in just 23 seconds. Things went slightly worse against Akira Corassani, as Peralta not only lost a wide decision, but tested positive for marijuana afterward.
Twelve of his wins have come by knockout, the only decision wins of his career coming against Hiroyuki Takaya and the aforementioned Lullo.
While he first gained notoriety for being on the wrong end of one of the first "Bellator Moments" -- a spinning back fist from Yahir Reyes -- Estevan Payan (14-4) earned a spot in UFC the old-fashioned way, going undefeated (7-0-1) from 2009 to 2013. Jeremy Stephens, unimpressed, battered Payan in the former’s Featherweight debut, taking home a wide and bloody unanimous decision at UFC 160.
Payan stands two inches taller than his younger opponent.
Payan’s game, but there’s only so much "game" can do for you against Peralta. Though he struggled against Corassani, Robbie still packs one of the biggest punches in the division and is quite difficult to take down. Payan simply does not have the clean punching needed to take advantage of Peralta’s wide swings.
Payan survived a mugging from Stephens and I expect less success here. Peralta blasts him out in the first round.
Prediction: Peralta via first-round knockout
Three more UFC 168 "Prelims" fights, all featuring talent from TUF franchise, to preview and predict tomorrow.
See you there, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 168 card this Saturday night, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.