*Insert joke about terrible trailer music here.*
After a tremendous year of mixed martial arts (MMA), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will cap things off with a terrific final event that pits newly-minted Middleweight champion Chris Weidman against the man he dethroned this past summer, Anderson Silva.
The pair will lock horns in the main event of UFC 168 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the pay-per-view (PPV) events that also features a bad-blood rematch between reigning Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey and nemesis Miesha Tate.
Heavyweight and Featherweight contender bouts will also take place, too, when Travis Browne battles Josh Barnett and Dustin Poirier collides with Diego Brandao.
We examined the first three of six scheduled "Prelims" bouts the other day right here. Let's look at the remaining trio that will air on FOX Sports 1 below. Or don't ... It's Christmas, and I'm not here to tell you how to celebrate.
185 lbs.: Chris Leben vs. Uriah Hall
Chris Leben (22-10) had one of the best 2010s of any fighter on the roster, picking up three straight wins and winning one of the year’s best fights against Yoshihiro Akiyama. Since then, though, it’s all been downhill, as Leben has lost four of his last five and failed a drug test for the second time in his UFC career.
While he’s beloved for his relentless style and highlight reel of vicious finishes, it’s do-or-die for "The Crippler" this Saturday.
Uriah Hall (7-4) dazzled like few others before or since on The Ultimate Fighter 17, tearing through the house with a series of vicious knockouts. Unfortunately, he’s struggled to replicate that success in the UFC proper, dropping consecutive underwhelming decisions to Kelvin Gastelum and John Howard.
His only losses outside the UFC have come against middleweight standouts Costa Philippou and Chris Weidman.
As fond as I am of "The Crippler," he’s completely shot at this point. He moves like he’s in a wading pool full of honey and his chin’s getting cracked with uncomfortable regularity. If Hall has any of the potential ascribed to him for his run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17, he should walk through Leben with little trouble.
Though Leben’s ground game is still dangerous, he’s facing such a huge speed disadvantage that a takedown is unlikely. That crushing left hand of his isn’t likely to connect no matter how happy Hall is to drop his hands. Barring a mental breakdown of terrific magnitude, which is not a possibility to overlook when dealing with Hall, I expect him to kick Leben’s head off sometime in the first.
Prediction: Hall via first-round knockout
155 lbs.: Gleison Tibau vs. Michael Johnson
Though he started the year on the wrong foot, losing a close decision to Evan Dunham, Gleison Tibau (28-9) has rebounded to win two straight, most recently edging out Jamie Varner at UFC 164. He has now won seven of his last nine, including wins over Rafael dos Anjos and Francisco Trinaldo.
Though only three years older than Michael Johnson (13-8), Tibau has nearly nine years’ more MMA experience.
Consecutive losses to Myles Jury and Reza Madadi seemed to short-circuit Johnson, who had previously taken out Tony Ferguson and Danny Castillo in impressive fashion. With his back to the wall, though, he turned in perhaps the best performance of his career in August, dominating Joe Lauzon for a wide decision win.
He is now 5-4 in his UFC career, but could sneak into the Top 10 with a win over Tibau.
If they had made this match up before Johnson’s fight with Lauzon, I’d be tempted to take a second mortgage just to bet more on Tibau. Johnson showcased the bottom game of a dead fish against Roller, Castillo, Jury and Madadi. While I’m not as 100 percent certain as I would be after watching him Johnson thrash Lauzon, I’m still leaning toward Tibau.
Tibau is significantly bigger and stronger than Johnson, plus arguably the best takedown artist he’s faced so far. Further, he has the kind of cardio that questions everything we know about weight cutting, meaning Johnson will be dealing with takedown attempts all night. If Johnson can keep distance, he’s got this one, as Tibau is too slow to be a major threat on the feet. I simply find it more likely that Tibau wrangles him down early and often and pummels him for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Tibau via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Dennis Siver vs. Manny Gamburyan
After washing out of the UFC with a 1-3 record his first time around, Dennis Siver (21-9) quietly emerged as a top Lightweight on his second try, winning seven of his first eight. After a hard loss to Donald Cerrone, though, Siver elected to drop to 145, where he turned in solid performances against Diego Nunes and Nam Phan before being outgunned by Cub Swanson in July.
In a rare change of pace, the 5’7" Siver will actually have a height advantage, standing two inches taller than "The Anvil."
A vicious knockout of Mike Brown in 2010 made Manny Gamburyan (13-7) an unexpected contender to Jose Aldo’s World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) crown. Unfortunately, that would be as high as he’d go, getting blown out in two by Aldo and losing two straight afterwards. He has since righted the ship somewhat, beating Michihiro Omigawa in 2012 and edging out Cole Miller in controversial fashion this past August.
I’m having a very hard time seeing how Gamburyan wins the fight. Siver developed a very solid offensive and defensive wrestling game out of nowhere, meaning he’s actually the one more likely to dictate where the fight goes. On the feet, Gamburyan’s wild power shots are likely to fall consistently short as Siver pieces him up with long kicks and counter left hooks.
Gamburyan has occasionally demonstrated solid power, but not enough to take Siver out of his game. Provided Siver doesn’t spend too long flinging those wide hooks he’s fond of, expect him to pick apart his man in a long-distance kickboxing clinic.
Prediction: Siver via unanimous decision
Two title fights and plenty of potential for fireworks ... Thank you, Dana Claus.
See you Saturday, 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.