The year wraps up with an epic card Saturday night in Las Vegas for UFC 168. The fourth quarter of 2013 has played out to be one of the most entertaining times in recent history with epic fights and crazy story lines. There is no lack of of either heading into what is being billed as one of the biggest events in UFC history. Our esteemed staff has put it out on the line to give you their educated (or not so educated) picks on who walks away a winner and who spends the new year in sadness.
Dustin Poirier (14-3) vs. Diego Brandao (18-8)
Brian Furby: Poirier vs. Brandao is my early pick for Fight of the Night. I think the first round will be an especially violent display with Brandao trying to get inside and punish Poirier on the feet. Brandao got inside on Pablo Garza easily enough en route to a submission win, but Poirer’s skillset is much more well-rounded than Garza’s. If Poirier survives the initial offensive move from Brandao, he should be more dominant for the second and third rounds going towards what many would see as a clear decision win. But, given the questionable judging we’ve seen across a number of UFC events as of late, and the fact I love to predict split decision wins, that’s what I see happening here. Pick – Poirier via Split Decision.
Kinch -This bout is a great way to start off the PPV broadcast and could very well snag a fight bonus or two. I expect Brandao to come out strong and have an edge in the stand-up department, but I think the conditioning and BJJ skills of Porier are the determining factors in this tilt. After an exciting back-and-forth brawl early in the fight, I anticipate Brandao slowing down and Porier stepping on the throttle. This could go to the judges but I’ll be bold and pick Porier by submission in either the second or third round. Pick -Porier by submission in the third.
Jan Gaetjens: Poirier has made great leaps forward in his game planning over the past year; he’s a smarter fighter since changing camps, and that will make the difference in Saturday’s outing. Pick -Poirier by decision
Gary Thomas: It is hard for me to pick against Poirier. I think his submission game is on the level of Brandao. I think once it gets out of the first round Brandao will have trouble keeping up with Dustin. It could go to a decision but I think Poirier takes a leap up in the division and finishes Brandao in the third. Pick- Poirier via submission Round 3.
Gina Begley: Dustin Poirier
Jim Miller (22-4) vs. Fabrício Camões (14-7-1)
Brian Furby - Miller is dangerous on the feet and on the ground and while Camoes has had impressive moments throughout his career, he doesn’t bring anything to the table that should give Miller any real problems. This should be an exciting fight that will see some decent exchanges on the feet and some good scrambles on the ground, but Miller’s tenacity will see him get either a late finish or a dominant decision win. Pick – Miller by Unanimous Decision.
Kinch -I find this to be an odd match-up and it’s a dangerous fight for Miller for the simple fact that a win doesn’t do much for his stock, while a loss would be a huge step backwards in his career. Fabricio needs to win this fight to stay with the UFC in my opinion, so expect to see him fight with a sense of urgency and look to use his BJJ skills to get the job done. However, I think Jim Miller is going to be too much for the Brazilian and I see Miller dominating this fight in all areas. I anticipate a gritty and motivated Miller to get back in the win column with an impressive showing on Saturday, winning by KO/TKO before the second round. Pick -Miller by TKO/KO inRound 2.
Jan Gaetjens: Camoes only chance to win this one is by turning it into a grappling match, but putting himself in a situation where Jim Miller can easily win positional dominance and out-strike him on the canvass is a risky prospect. Pick -Miller by (T)KO.
Gary Thomas: Jim Miller can brawl. That is what he will do to win this fight. The best shot for Camoes is to get it to the ground but the problem will be keeping him there. Miller can wrestle and that may neutralize Camoes submission game. I think Miller pounds his way to victory and does it before the start of the third round. Pick – Miller by TKO Round 2.
Gina Begley – Jim Miller
Josh Barnett (33-6) vs Travis Browne (14-1-1)
Brian Furby - I don’t like Josh Barnett at all, but I respect his fight skills. I’d love to see Hapa KO him, but we’ve seen that for someone to beat Barnett, they typically need a strong wrestling base and Hapa just doesn’t have a strong enough one to pose a real threat to Barnett. I don’t think this will be an exciting fight, mostly Barnett smothering Browne for three rounds. Pick- Barnett by Unanimous Decision.
Kinch -The winner of this fight could steal top-contender status from Werdum with a dominant victory. Browne has the athleticism, more tools to work with and if he can use his reach to stay on the outside, he should be able to out strike Barnett. Browne has also shown true heart in his ability to overcome adversity against “The Reem.” On the other hand, Barnett is one of the best in the world at getting in close and utilizing his catch-wrestling prowess to great effect, not to mention he has the experience factor and is no slouch on the feet. Both guys have knockout power but I give the grappling edge to Barnett and that’s where I see this fight ending. Barnett gets a takedown from the clinch early and slaps on a submission, probably an arm-triangle. Pick – Barnett via submission in the first.
Jan Gaetjens: As impressive as the second (maybe third or fourth?) coming of Josh Barnett has been, let’s not forget that Travis Browne is more or less one fluke leg injury away from still being undefeated in all contests. Pick -Browne by (T)KO
Gary Thomas: Youth prevails as I see Travis Browne being too much for Barnett. Granted I think Barnett could slow the pace down with his wrestling and drag Browne into the later rounds but I don’t see it happening. If Browne can start off fast and land some shots he may be able to finish Barnett early. Pick- Browne by TKO Round 2
Gina Begley: Travis Browne via decision.
Champion Ronda Rousey (7-0) vs. Miesha Tate (13-4) – women’s bantamweight championship
Brian Furby -I’m a fan of Rousey, always have been, always will be. Her skill level is off the charts and despite whatever mental games Tate has tried to play, I don’t think they’re going to have an appreciable effect on Rousey’s performance. I’m sure Miesha has been practicing plenty of armbar defense, but Rousey has more offense than Tate has defense. Pick – Rousey by armbar in Round 1
Kinch: Rousey defeats Tate and Brian Caraway simultaneously by arm-bar in the first. Pick – Ronda Rousey via Submission Round 1
Jan Gaetjens: You’ve got to wonder when, if ever, someone will come up with an answer to that arm bar. Pick -Rousey by submission
Gary Thomas: Will Rousey retire undefeated for her career? Well if she decides to retire after this fight she will because I don’t know that Tate has improved that much since their last meeting. She’s coming off a loss and despite picking up fans through TUF, she still loses. Pick – Rousey via arm bar Round 1
Gina Begley: Ronda Rousey via arm bar Round 2
Champion Chris Weidman (10-0) vs. Anderson Silva (33-5)- UFC middleweight championship
Brian Furby - Hopefully Silva has realized that he shouldn’t try to play around with Weidman since that clearly didn’t go well for him the first time around. Silva undoubtedly has the skills to take out Weidman and do it quickly, and hopefully he realizes that a second loss to Weidman would have everyone saying the first wasn’t a fluke. This fight should be the return of the vicious Silva that has a string of first round finishes and reminds people why he is the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Pick -Silva by KO in Round 1
Kinch -I think my head is going to explode when Bruce Buffer starts introducing these guys. We all know Anderson is capable of sheer brilliance every time he steps into combat, and now we know that Chris Weidman is the real deal. I think a lot of experts are unjustly taking credit away from Weidman in saying Anderson made a mistake and we can’t be sure what the outcome would have been. While the latter part of that statement is true, Weidman decisively won the first round and took no serious damage standing up. All things considered, I don’t see Anderson playing around as much, although I still expect him to try and bait Weidman a second time. Word on the street is that Weidman wants to submit Silva and BJJ Master Renzo Gracie thinks his student will do it. I’m no fortune teller, but judging by what I saw in the first encounter, Weidman is likely going to be able to get the takedown and work submissions. Can he get one every round until he submits Silva? I’m not sure. It’s also likely that Anderson is able to land a pin-point accurate blow that renders Weidman unconscious. My gut tells Anderson is going to get the job done, but it’s the same gut that told me the New England Patriots would destroy the N.Y. Giants in the 2007 Super-Bowl, so I’m going with Weidman by submission in no later than the third round.Pick – Weidman by submission to retain title.
Jan Gaetjens: Their last tilt was a bizarre outing to say the least. This time around expect a more conservative approach from Weidman and more deliberate, technically sound striking from Silva. Weidman had the benefit of having nothing to lose in their last fight, but now his willingness to take risks on his feet will most likely be tempered. Look for Weidman to try and force his wrestling on Anderson for five rounds, a la Silva-Sonnen. Pick -Weidman by decision
Gary Thomas: I picked Silva in the first bout and he did me wrong. It’s normal though right? I don’t see Silva being as careless this time. Look for him to pepper Weidman with shots standing and avoid the take down like his life depends on it. Weidman may stand and trade but don’t look for him to be able to land that shot to the button this time. Silva’s movements will be too crisp and his striking will prove the demise of Weidman. Neither will be ducking Vitor after this though. Pick – Anderson Silva via TKO Round 3.
Gina Begley: Anderson Silva via KO Round 2.