UFC 168 predictions, preview and analysis

Copyright: Martin McNeil

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing mixed martial arts (MMA) fans the biggest card of the year -- and perhaps of all time -- with two championship title contests and one heavyweight hoss fight, which could determine the next division contender.

In like a lion and out like a lamb?

Anderson Silva started his 2013 fight campaign as the king of the world ... but could end it on a two-fight losing streak, eliminated from the middleweight title picture by 185-pound wunderkind Chris Weidman.

Unthinkable?

Not as unthinkable as Ronda Rousey getting knocked out by Miesha Tate, but if there's one thing we've learned in combat sports, anything can happen at any time.

And usually does.

After all, Josh Barnett -- who not that long ago was failing drug tests and bankrupting promotions -- is back inside the Octagon and perhaps one or two fights away from a 265-pound title shot, assuming he can get past the Hawaiian haymakers of Travis Browne.

Lots to see and do tomorrow night (Dec. 28, 2013) in "Sin City."

It all culminates at UFC 168, the championship pay-per-view (PPV) doubleheader taking place inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and my job is to break down the main card and figure out who wins and why.

See for yourself.

185 lbs.: Chris "All American" Weidman (10-0) vs. Anderson "The Spider" Silva (33-5)

Nostradumbass predicts: A lot of fans have been trying to pinpoint the exact reason for Anderson Silva's loss to Chris Weidman back at UFC 162. That has more to do with the spectacular fashion in which he went down, rather than the loss itself.

I'm not one of them.

In fact, I picked Weidman to win at UFC 162 ... not because I'm so great at picking fights (I am) but rather because stylistically, the "All American" wrestler is a bad match-up for the aging Brazilian. He was back over the summer and he will be tomorrow night.

And he's even better than he was the first time around.

When they first met, Weidman was coming off a long layoff, as well as shoulder surgery. He'd never experienced a championship title fight and squaring off against "The Spider" is unlike anything you can do in MMA. But now he's satisfied those requirements.

And came out on top.

That means Silva will be faced with a confident, healthy and motivated champion. Weidman said as far back as January that he expected an immediate rematch so mentally, he was already prepared. I'm not so sure we can say the same about his opponent.

Silva had to be browbeaten into showing up.

Even if you told me Silva was 100 percent both physically and mentally, it's not like he was dominating their first fight and got clipped with a haymaker during a wild exchange. Weidman won the first round and he won it because unlike most challengers, he wasn't rattled by the Brazilian's antics.

Silva will go down as one of the greatest fighters of all time. But he'll soon be 39 years old and this is a young man's game. There is no shame in vacating the throne as it happens to every great fighter and tomorrow night Chris Weidman will finish what he started last July.

Final prediction: Weidman def. Silva via submission

135 lbs.: "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey (7-0) vs. Miesha "Cupcake" Tate (13-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: Quick turnarounds on championship rematches are not uncommon in this sport, even if they are lopsided by design. A perfect example is Antonio Silva vs. Cain Velasquez. "Bigfoot" was able to get a second crack at Velasquez -- despite getting obliterated in their first go-round -- in just 12 months.

So too, will Miesha Tate dust herself off after a pair of contests and try again.

But the difference here is that Silva earned his do-over by destroying a couple of top contenders in the form of Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem. By contrast, Tate struggled to get past Julie Kedzie before getting polished off by Cat Zingano. In short, she doesn't deserve to be here.

But "Alpha" got hurt and "Cupcake" sell tickets.

That leaves us with a lot of hype heading into the UFC 168 co-main event. What it doesn't leave us with, is much of an argument for a different outcome. Tate was without question giving Rousey a tough fight in their first showdown, but succumbed to the armbar before the round expired.

Just like everyone else.

Tate is a good athlete with a well-rounded skill set. But she just isn't good enough to stop Rousey from getting her to the floor. "Rowdy" didn't win an Olympic medal by accident and until she meets someone with similar credentials (cough, Sara McMann) she's going to run through everyone she meets.

Including Tate.

Final prediction: Rousey def. Tate via submission

265 lbs.: Josh "The Warmaster" Barnett (33-6) vs. Travis "Hapa" Browne (15-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: I've been wrestling with this one because it's not as cut and dry as it first appears to be. On paper, Josh Barnett is the superior fighter considering his level of experience and his elite submission skills. But let's face it, he's had it easy.

Nandor Guelmino? Brett Rogers? Geronimo dos Santos?

Barnett has been crushing cans since leaving PRIDE seven years ago. When he's not, "The Warmaster" is committing elderly abuse against stars of yesteryear like Pedro Rizzo, or exploiting the ground game of rigid strikers like Sergei Kharitonov.

His biggest test during that span was Daniel Cormier and he came up empty.

Not that it has been all wine and roses for Travis Browne. The Silva loss sticks out like a sore thumb and I'm not ready to chalk that one up to a gimpy leg. He also had a rough early going against Overeem and I can't shake the memory of his stinker against Cheick Kongo.

But like Barnett, he's a finisher who doesn't shy away from a dogfight. It's just hard for me to imagine a scenario where Browne throws something at "The Warmaster" that he hasn't already seen across the span of nearly 40 fights. Unless "Hapa" finds a way to score a knockout before the wrestling takes over, I think Barnett wins two out of three rounds.

Barely.

Final prediction: Barnett def. Browne via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Fabricio "Morango" Camoes (14-7-1) vs. Jim Miller (22-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: It has been a rough couple of years for Jim Miller, who went from dark horse contender to middle-of-the-pack tough guy thanks to a couple of high profile losses. Miller was tearing it up in the first half of his career, winning seven fights in a row and positioning himself for a run at the title.

Then he got worked by Ben Henderson and smashed by Nate Diaz.

He was able to sandwich them around wins over Melvin Guillard and Joe Lauzon, but I think the Pat Healy loss -- later overturned to a No Contest when "Bam Bam" was busted for weed -- was a major setback and perhaps exposed Miller as a talented gatekeeper who can't win when it matters most.

As a Miller fan, that's a tough thing to say out loud, but to be fair, he hasn't proven otherwise.

The good news is, he's got a very winnable fight against Fabricio Camoes. The Brazilian was expected to do great things when he signed with ZUFFA back in late 2009, but stumbled out of the gate against Kurt Pellegrino. He was able to reclaim some of that momentum thanks to three consecutive wins (along with two finishes), but his inability to get past the aforementioned Guillard kept him from "the mix."

And "Morango" is now 35 years old.

Miller is just 30 and for my money, the better fighter. They match up extremely well in terms of skill set and have very similar styles, but Miller has been known to out-wrestle mat technicians and submit jiu-jitsu practitioners. He may not be able to do it when it counts (yet), but when there is nothing at stake except wins and losses, he usually shines.

Tomorrow night will be no exception.

Final prediction: Miller def. Camoes via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Diego "DB" Brandao (18-8) vs. Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier (14-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Diego Brandao appears to be a much more fearsome competitor than he is, simply because he's mastered the art of Brazilian mean-mugging. That goes a long way in the fight game but we can't ignore the fact that he's also got eight losses.

"DB" is not invincible.

Fortunately, he's aligned himself with Jackson's MMA, a great camp with a reputation for producing top-shelf talent. Couple that with his championship win on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and you could argue that we're looking at a future contender.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Before we anoint him as the next big thing at featherweight, he has to deal with the gritty stylings of Dustin Poirier, who isn't going to be impressed with the Brazilian's snarling. "The Diamond" had some flaws in losses to Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson, but let's not forget he's just 24 years old and got as far as he did training in Tim Credeur's closet.

Now he's with American Top Team (ATT) and showed his improvement by schooling Erik Koch.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Brandao come out like a lunatic and win the first round by way of ruthless aggression. But once Poirier gets his bearings and "DB" empties his gas tank, the tide is going to turn and "The Diamond" is going to shine.

Final prediction: Poirier def. Brandao via unanimous decision

That's a wrap.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 168 card on fight night (Sat., Dec. 28, 2013), 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.

For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC 168 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Weidman vs. Silva 2."

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.

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