by Khidhir Kassim
John Howard def. Siyar Bahadurzada
Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Round 1: Best described as a war of attrition instead of the stand-up showdown between knockout artists that it was billed to be, it was Bahadurzada who started off with a big left switch kick followed up with a right hook to counter Howard's constant tentative pawing.
The American, forgetting to incorporate kicks to his early game-plan, attempted to out-grapple his opponent and finally gets the takedown in the fourth minute but Bahadurzada's effective ground defense quickly got him back up from a scramble with an over under.
The only Afgan fighter in UFC, famous for his 'violent Muay Thai' style, Bahadurzada ends up exhausting himself but is saved by the bell.
Round 2: Howard starts off all guns blazing and gets in with the constant left bombs, trading punches with Bahadurzada and ends up being taken down in the third minute. The Afgan looks for the triangle but lets Howard slip past.
Seemingly out to conserve energy, both fighters slow down until Howard suddenly lifts Bahadurzada up on his shoulders pulling off the risky body slam with his shoulders locked.
Round 3: Early left hook by Howard landing on Bahadurzada who looks flat on his feet. The Afgan's last notable move was taunting Howard, clearly in desperation to throw his opponent off his game. Howard responds with a takedown and a full body lock until the bell.
Dennis Siver def. Manvel Gamburyan
Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Round 1: Gamburian started aggressively, punching out looking for the clinch, Siver gives him what he wants with a takedown but gets into a tangle on the ground against the specialist grappler. The German avoids a submission by blocking Gamburian's right leg lock for an armbar and eventually scrambles up.
Gamburian takes a page out of the Karate exponent's book with a spinning back kick before bringing his opponent down to the ground, committing to looking for the leg lock and opens himself up to quick counter punches. The Armenian gets up with Siver in a standing triangle against the cage until the bell.
Round 2: Siver gets tagged with a powerful front leg kick and goes for the takedown again but was unable to get a good posture and overcome Siver's guard on the ground. Trading punches, the German gets cut but scrambles up when Gamburian attempts to mount. The Armenian gets his third takedown with Siver against the cage and keeps his weight down until the bell.
Round 3: Siver accidentally catches Gamburian in the groin with an inside kick and earns the sympathy of the audience, but none of the German's and gets taken down. Both trade elbows with the Armenian leaning in primed for a lock while blocking at the same time. Siver mounts again with a body lock but it plays out to the bell.
Michael Johnson def. Gleison Tibau KO (punches)
Round 1: Starting off with more intensity than the preceding fights, Tibau gets Johnson against the cage after a two minute exchange of powerful strikes, before going at it again, southpaw to southpaw.
Johnson lands a right hook to Tibau's face before another big body shot slowing the Brazillian down, giving him more confidence to open up his kicking combinations.
Round 2: Johnson looks like a man on a mission and primes himself with repeated boxing combinations. Tibau attempts to switch stance and gets caught out with a left hook across the temple and it's lights out.
Uriah Hall def. Chris Leben
TKO (corner stoppage)
Round 1: With the loser being cut from UFC, this was literally a fight to the death of each fighter's careers. Hall starts out with a flying knee to Leben's chin and accurate hits, a left hook to the face before another knee to the chest. Leben begins swinging wildly as soon as the blood starts flowing out from his face but Hall's quick switching of stances throws him off and earns him two elbows to the face.
A missed spinning back kick by Hall was quickly followed up with a deadly right hook which Hall tried to follow up with a ground and pound before the bell ended. The fight ended with 16 strikes to the Leben's head compared to the two he managed to dish out.
Leben, one of the toughest warriors in the sport, shockingly called an end to the fight himself after asking his corner whether he was actually knocked out - clearly showing how badly he was hit. "I'm done." was an ominous statment by him at the end of the round, and quite possibly his career.
Catchweight (151.5 lbs)
Dustin Poirier def. Diego Brandao
TKO (punches) Round 1- 4:54
Round 1: Brandao throws on a full right hook and a misstep gets both fighters down but he recovers first with a front kick. Poirier lands a big right before attempting a kick against the solid Brandao which makes him fall flat. A right left combination by Poirier lands and the Brazillian counters with a takedown.
The American quickly tags Brandao against the cage landing hooks and body shots before taking his opponent down for the ground and pound until the referee stops the fight.
Jim Miller def. Fabrício Camões
Submission (armbar) Round 1- 3:42
Round 1: Camões, a Brazillian Jiu Jitsu black belt, attempts an early taken down. Miller pushes him away but fails to avoid a right hook and a right shin to the face. The American brings Camões to the ground and attempts the ground and pound but gets mounted on instead. Miller counters with a body lock before sliding his shin across Camões's face into an armbar for his 12th win inside the octagon.
Travis Browne def. Josh Barnett
Round 1: With the winner meeting Fabricio Werdum for the No. 1 contender spot, this should have been one of the best heavyweight fights around. Barnett attempts a takedown after 58 seconds and ends up on his knee with Browne taking full advantage by elbowing his head until the knockout for his third straight victory.
Ronda Rousey (c) def. Miesha Tate
Submission (armbar) Round 3- 0:58 [b]
Round 1: Rousey hits out early and aims for the take down as expected but doesn't get it on the first try. It's second time lucky as Tate gets thrown down but fights fast to scramble out albeit with a knee to the face. Rousey with a second takedown, but Tate defends well and gets back up, this time sustaining a cut to the face.
Third takedown and Rousey gets the arm but Tate surprises everyone by getting out of it and attempts to switch the tables over with a takedown but Rousey reverses and slams Tate down before getting her up against the cage. The bell comes and everyone is cheering for Tate - the first time anyone survives the first round with her.
Round 2: It's Tate who goes for the takedown after a giving an unassuming smile at the start of the round. Rousey attempts a takedown but ends up pushing Tate against the cage, which unleashes a series of body shots. Rousey slams Tate down but she defends well and stuns everyone by going for the armbar against the premiere exponent of it. Rousey switches, slips and mounts instead, slipping in short punches to the body and face while scrambling for the armbar.
Tate's defense is impeccable and Rousey tries a reverse triangle instead. Tate's arm in between the triangle saves her breathing space and the grapple ends with the bell.
Round 3: Tate is against the cage again and eventually gets slammed down. Rousey is in another grapple battle but Tate slips up. Rousey grabs the opportunity, and Tate's arm, getting her eighth armbar submission win.
Chris Weidman (c) def. Anderson Silva
TKO (leg injury) Round 2- 1:16 [a]
Round 1: This is the first time Silva actually stops, mid-walk to crouch in prayer - a definite statement of intent. Weidman pushes Silva against the cage early and the Brazillian falls to an early knockout but somehow wakes up just in time to defend against a mount. Weidman attempts the ezekiel choke but Silva's underrated guard comes up. Elbows trade with Silva's body lock solid with Weidman on top laying blows and a couple of big elbows. Weidman's nose is bleeding from Silva's hammerfists from below.
Round 2: Silva starts of confidently, finally launching his kicks against Weidman's thighs and the champion blocks off well before trading a few punches. Silva launches a huge left kick but Weidman shields with his knee and the Brazillian's leg breaks from the shin. Referee stops the fight and Weidman celebrates only to check on Silva when he realizes what happened. Only the second time it's happened in UFC.
What a night, what a year for the Ultimate Fighting Championship which is seeing out its 20th year. UFC 168 definitely took its time to peak but eventually ended on a stunning note - exactly how the event set itself out to be.
With the year ending and promises of the first UFC in Southeast Asia to be just as good, it's clear where we'll be then.