(After knocking out Josh Barnett, Travis Browne performed the Warmaster’s trademark throat-slashing victory gesture, which means that legally, he now owns Barnett’s soul for all eternity. / Photo via Getty.)
By Mark Dorsey
Featuring an eagerly awaited rematch between the greatest middleweight of all time and the undefeated phenom who took his belt, UFC 168: Weidman vs. Silva 2 was one of the most anticipated UFC cards of 2013. Thankfully, the highly entertaining main card did not disappoint. Showcasing great performances, unsportsmanlike conduct, leg-snapping horror, and a fart heard around the world, UFC 168 left us no shortage of things to talk about. Here’s our clear-eyed look at what went down on Saturday night.
• With the state of WMMA still burgeoning, the co-main event of Ronda Rousey vs. Meisha Tate was an important fight for solidifying Women’s Bantamweight as a legitimate and financially viable division for the UFC. Thanks to the highly publicized rematch between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, the UFC’s two biggest female stars had a high-profile PPV stage to showcase their skills. Thankfully, for the UFC and the fans, Rousey and Tate did not disappoint. Rousey put on a dominating performance and capped it off with a third-round submission victory. The best part? Tate made the fight competitive.
“Cupcake” managed to last three rounds and in the process took Rousey down, escaped multiple submission attempts, and threw some good upkicks from the bottom that had Ronda using caution. On the whole, Tate was outclassed by the better fighter but she showed that Rousey is not invincible — and that’s a good thing. Rousey is an incredible athlete but the UFC cannot base their entire WMMA venture on one fighter. They need contenders and they need the fans to believe that those contenders stand a legitimate chance of winning; otherwise, interest will wane quickly. Rousey looked great, but beatable. That’s exactly what needed to happen. With Sara McMann, Cat Zingano, and Alexis Davis all serving as reasonable challenges, the future of the women’s bantamweight division is looking bright.
• A lot was on the line for both Travis “Hapa” Browne and Josh Barnett at UFC 168, as the 5th and 6th ranked heavyweights, respectively, were risking their spots on the contender ladder. In August, Josh Barnett re-entered the UFC with an impressive first-round TKO victory over Frank Mir. The former UFC Heavyweight Champion and star in the PRIDE and Strikeforce organizations looked to be on the cusp of title contention with a win over Browne. However, Hapa quickly put those hopes to rest and showed who the true contender is.
With his quick, savage victory on Saturday, Browne secured his third Knockout of the Night bonus in as many fights — his other two KOs were against Alistair Overeem and Gabriel Gonzaga. Three knockouts over three high-quality opponents puts Browne right in the title mix and he seized the opportunity in the post-fight interview by calling out Fabricio Werdum. Champion Cain Velasquez is recovering from surgery and there’s no timeline on his return yet, so a match between Browne and Werdum makes perfect sense right now, and Browne’s ability to deal with Barnett’s wrestling shows that he stands a fighting chance against Velasquez in the future.
• Ronda Rousey looked great on Saturday night, Judo-throwing Meisha Tate all over the Octagon before finishing her off with her eight-straight armbar submission victory in professional competition. However, following the finish, Ronda was unable to let bygones be bygones and refused to shake Tate’s hand. This certainly wasn’t the first time Ronda refused to shake Tate’s hand. In fact, Ronda garnered significant press coverage for her poor attitude on The Ultimate Fighter. However, Rousey supporters could at least justify her behavior on TUF as being part of the reality show hype. On Saturday night, Rousey definitively beat Tate for the second time, essentially finishing their rivalry for good. UFC 168 offered Ronda the opportunity to bury the hatchet and show a certain amount of sportsmanship. Of course, nobody expected Ronda to completely forgive and forget whatever anger she harbors towards Tate, but she should have at least shown Tate the respect she deserved as a fellow competitor — and man, did the fans let her know it.
Ronda’s attitude gets people talking, which means more PPV buys and big bucks for the UFC. Nevertheless, Ronda once again came across as petty, unsportsmanlike, and childish. Those aren’t adjectives usually associated with a UFC champion. Don’t expect Ronda’s style to change anytime soon, though. Ronda seems content to ignore the boos and bad press in order to “keep it real.” A rumored “talking to” by the UFC brass likely won’t change that either, although we’ll probably see a classier Ronda in the lead-up to her recently announced fight against Sara McMann since there is no blood between the two former Olympians.
• The first ever TUF Featherweight winner, Diego Brandao, came out of the TUF house with a lot of hype and promise in a stacked division. However, he also entered the Octagon with a reputation for being a loose cannon, following altercations with Steven Siler and Marcus Brimage in the TUF house. A lot of fans were able to overlook his brash attitude because of his exciting style and nasty knockouts. His TUF Finale fight earned him $80,000 in bonuses and he endeared himself to fans by saying he’d use the money to buy his mother a house.
At UFC 168, Brandao reminded everybody of how much of an asshole he really can be. If missing weight by over five pounds weren’t disrespectful enough, Brandao also apparently told opponent Dustin Poirier at the weigh-ins that he was going to stab him in the neck. Stay classy, Brandao. So when Poirier disposed of Brandao quickly with an impressive first-round TKO, it seemed like karma might be catching up to Brandao. Despite missing weight, threatening to kill his opponent and losing in brutal fashion, Brandao won’t be cut from the UFC. He’s a TUF winner, an exciting fighter, and apparently he only missed weight because of a car accident a couple of weeks ago. Also, according to Dana White, he has other personal issues going on. Hopefully, Brandao gets his life sorted out soon. The whole crazy asshole shtick only works when you’re winning.
• Enough press has already been given to Anderson Silva’s gruesome leg break so not much needs to be said here. However, the Corey Hill-esque injury was an ugly incident and not for the faint of heart. It was devastating to see the former champion carried off on a stretcher, screaming in agony. The UFC has released a statement that Silva underwent successful surgery and, astoundingly, that his recovery would only take up to six months. That means we could see Silva back in the Octagon within a year. I hope not. The aging Spider would be riding a two-fight losing streak and it is unlikely he would return as the dominant fighter he once was. I hope he heals quickly and enjoys his retirement. It may be the end of an era, but it was perhaps the greatest era in the young sport’s history and Silva would be smart to end things at the right time.
• On a lighter note, the fight between John Howard and Siyar Bahadurzada featured what was apparently an ugly-sounding fart from one of the fighters. During the second round, the fart, clearly audible on the broadcast, lit up social media and created a lot of speculation about who was responsible. Asked about it after the fight, Howard admitted that there was indeed a fart, but he didn’t want to take any responsibility for it. It’s hard to blame him. There’s a short list of fighters like Tim Sylvia and Kevin Randleman who have lost control of their bodily functions in the Octagon and it’s not a distinction most fighters are chasing.
(Props: JLadd. Click the sound on, obviously.)