UFC 168 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

This is the big one, folks. Arguably the most important main event in the company's history is Saturday and either a man widely believed to be the greatest ever will return to form or upstart is going to do the impossible and beat the best ever two times in one calendar year.

Will Weidman be able to take Silva down? Will Silva put the clowning away long enough to make Weidman pay? Who will be the middleweight champion when it's all over? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.

What: UFC 168: Weidman vs. Silva 2

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada

When: Saturday, thetwo -fight Facebook card starts at 7 p.m. ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 card starts at 8 p.m. and the five-fight main card starts on pay-per-view at 10 p.m.

Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva

Never in my professional career have I received as much blow back as I did when I picked Chris Weidman to defeat Anderson Silva at UFC 162 in July. I don't think I'll get as much this time, as Weidman is still the underdog, but the odds aren't nearly as long.

Still, I'm only picking Weidman out of default. If there was one takeaway from their first fight it's that both are liable to do anything. A lot of attention is paid to Silva's antics and rightly so, but lost in the story of Weidman's KO victory was his willingness to throw caution to the wind. He didn't make a show of it to the extent Silva did, but what he did wasn't remarkably dissimilar in terms of risk management.

So, what's going to happen in this fight? I really have no idea. I mean that. I'm lost. I can envision just about any scenario. Weidman by first-round submission? Yeah, sure. Silva by third-round TKO? That sounds plausible. Weidman via split decision? It could happen. Silva via second-round submission? I can see it.

Both fighters are highly capable and both are prone to do just about anything. I suspect both will rein in the craziness, but I doubt it'll go away altogether. That makes for a future impossible to predict. Since one guy already knocked the other, I'm picking him, but you know it's wild when two guys have fought before and you can't really tell what's going to happen next.

Pick: Weidman

Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate

Unlike the main event, this seems pretty straight forward. I give Tate credit, too. She's a better grappler than she gets credit and might be able to push Rousey into the second round. Ultimately, though, that's the extent of her ability. Rousey's a better athlete and better grappler. Unless Tate has found a way to shut down Rousey's clinch or distance closing, this one is a matter of time.

Pick: Rousey

Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne

This one is a bit of a curious fight. The natural pick for most will be Barnett and with good reason. All we have to go on in these prediction columns is resume and Barnett's is simply better. Yet, Browne might be able to provide more of a pushback than some expect. If he can force Barnett to trade at distance or stop the takedown - admittedly big ifs - he can make things interesting. Barnett probably has too varied a skill set for Browne to deal with, but I don't immediately count out the Jackson's heavyweight.

Pick: Barnett

Jim Miller vs. Fabricio Camoes

Even if we grant Camoes and Miller are close on the ground with the Brazilian having the slight edge (which is debatable in MMA contexts), there's no real match on the feet. I suspect Miller is going to light him up there.

Pick: Miller

Dustin Poirier vs. Diego Brandao

What a great opener to the pay-per-view portion of this card. This one will probably come down to Poirier being able to resist pressure. If Poirier can weather an early storm and not take too much damage, he should be able to leverage his underrated ground game or distance striking to give Brandao problems. I doubt Poirier wants to keep it too close for fear of letting Brandao use his physicality, but I can also see a case where Poirier wins in the clinch. In any event, skills win fights and Poirier has them just a bit more.

Pick: Poirier

From the preliminary card:

Chris Leben < Uriah Hall
Gleison Tibau > Michael Johnson
Dennis Siver > Manny Gamburyan
John Howard < Siyar Bahadurzada
William Macario < Bobby Voelker
Robbie Peralta < Estevan Payan

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