If you're an MMA fan, you probably hold one of two opinions following UFC 162 -- either then-middleweight champion Anderson Silva was unlucky and finally got caught in the midst of his ludicrous fight antics, or Chris Weidman legitimately had Silva's number and will be able to repeat the feat again Saturday night at UFC 168.
Regardless of your position, UFC 168's main event will be certain to define the sport, with the legacy of one of the greatest fighters in MMA history seemingly on referendum. In addition, undefeated women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will again take on Miesha Tate in a rematch of their 2012 bout.
Let's take a look at where to find value in the betting lines for Saturday night.
While most will remember the epic left hook that ended Silva's undefeated run in the UFC and record 10 title defenses, the most important part of the first fight was what took place in the first round. Regardless of whether Weidman can again knock out Silva, the reigning middleweight champ certainly can take down Silva and do some significant damage on the ground. Because of this advantage, Weidman might not need to knock out Silva to silence the critics for his first successful middleweight title defense.
While the knockout was the most significant event in the first bout, the most important statistic in the fight was the nearly two minutes in which Weidman maintained dominant position on the ground, where he repeatedly delivered significant blows. Weidman's one takedown and one guard pass don't really illustrate his success, but it arguably led to Silva's desperate attempt to goad Weidman into a stand-up battle in the second round.
Still, Silva is a master off his back, and did indeed attempt a submission with two minutes left in the first round of their first bout. So Weidman's ground game still must be rock-solid. In terms of striking, Weidman out-landed Silva 16-14 in the first round despite Silva scoring with some shots standing up. So with the majority of Weidman's strikes coming from top position, the quality and power of those punches provided a giant discrepancy that definitively won Weidman the round with the judges. With an average 4.21 takedowns per 15 minutes at an extremely high 67 percent success rate, it wouldn't be surprising to see Weidman land a takedown in all five rounds should the second fight last that long.
With that ability to maintain top position for long periods -- and being able to deliver significant damage from there -- look for Weidman to repeat his success against Silva, relying on his superior wrestling skills to get the job done. Thus, given the underdog price of plus-115 for the champion, consider him a great bet to retain his belt in another classic on Saturday night.
Insider value pick: Chris Weidman
If the first fight was any indication, Rousey should have no problem finishing Tate again in this second meeting. However, this time the fighters find themselves on a much bigger stage as the co-main event of UFC 168. And while the very high money line of minus-800 for Rousey indicates most bettors believe she will repeat the victory, a deeper look into the fight statistics substantiate this. If there is a set of statistics that best illustrate Rousey's dominant run, consider that her current gigantic 8.01 takedowns per 15 minutes rate matches her submissions per 15 minutes rate of 8.01. Plus, she has gone 7-for-7 in first-round submission victories, winning every single one of her MMA fights by armbar.
With Tate possessing a very subpar 20 percent takedown defense (a surprising stat considering "Takedown" Tate is known for her wrestling background), the probability of her being able to stay on her feet against Rousey given the aforementioned monstrous numbers is highly unlikely. In their first fight, Rousey was 3-for-3 in takedown attempts.
The only real chance Tate has to defeat Rousey is by successfully landing a submission, given that she'll likely find herself on the ground. And it isn't completely out of the question, as Tate averages 2.31 submissions per 15 minutes and has gained nearly half of her victories (six of 13) by submission. However, this would be quite a feat, as only one of Rousey's opponents, Liz Carmouche, has even attempted a submission on Rousey, and even that was a very rare move -- a standing rear naked choke attempt. With the chance of Tate attempting a submission on the ground against Rousey very low, and with Tate likely finding herself on her back very quickly as she did in the first fight, it seems the gigantic money line is warranted. With value on neither side of the fight, consider this one a stay away at minus-800.
Insider value pick: Stay away
Barnett, who briefly held the UFC heavyweight title in 2002 before being stripped of the belt after a positive test for banned substances, might be in the middle of one of the most amazing comebacks in MMA history. Barnett has won four out of his last five fights, having lost only to Daniel Cormier in the final round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix final. And in his return to the UFC, he TKO'd former interim UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir in less than two minutes. Now the 36-year-old Barnett will attempt to continue his dominant run against a younger, rising opponent in 31-year-old Travis Browne.
Barnett will face a much more difficult challenge than he has in the recent past. Barnett's resurgence has been the driving force behind his considerable minus-190 favorite status in this fight, but there are many reasons to believe the outcome will be much closer than the line would indicate.
At 6-foot-7, Browne possesses a significant height advantage over the 6-3 Barnett, and Browne has used his rare size to give more technically sound heavyweights a difficult time. His past two fights received "knockout of the night" awards, as he finished off both former K-1 champion Alistair Overeem and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Gabriel Gonzaga, defeating both in the first round.
Overall, the fight will likely come down to two key statistics:
The first key stat is Browne's 100 percent takedown defense over the course of his eight UFC fights. With most of these fights ending in the first round by standing exchange, it isn't that impressive a statistic, but it is still representative of Browne's ability to keep things standing for the short amount of time his fights do last. With Barnett attaining most of his success in top position on the ground, having attained 18 out of his 33 victories by submission, he will find a large part of his game unavailable to him if Browne can stymie Barnett's takedowns and make it a one-dimensional fight.
If that happens, the match will then come down to how the fighters trade on their feet. While Barnett maintains a very low 1.66 strikes absorbed per minute rate (SAPM), Browne absorbs a considerably higher amount of damage (3.06 SAPM). But despite taking this higher level of damage, Browne has suffered only one loss in his career, against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, mainly because Browne was vulnerable after blowing out his hamstring. More often than not, however, Browne comes out on top when trading with opponents, with 11 out of his 15 career victories coming by KO/TKO. Barnett is an oppressive grappler but does not necessarily possess giant knockout power, so consider Browne a great bet to once again dominate with his size and power at the great underdog price of plus-165.
Insider Pick: Travis Browne
Poirier is one of the most promising and talented fighters in the featherweight division, though his recent record wouldn't show it. He's lost two of his last four fights, one by submission to Chan Jung Sung and the other by unanimous decision to Cub Swanson -- a fight, it should be noted, that Poirier took on short notice.
Poirier should be able to gain an impressive win that will put him back into contention, as the matchup is tailor-made for his skill set. Poirier's 73-inch reach will present the biggest challenge to Brandao, the season 14 winner of "The Ultimate Fighter." For a featherweight, a 73-inch reach is significant considering even UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo's reach is just 70 inches. Against Brandao, who is two inches shorter than Poirier and possesses a much shorter 64-inch reach, Poirier will have a huge advantage and should be able to keep Brandao at bay with frequent jabs.
Further, Poirier has made good use of his reach advantage in the past, maintaining a large 4.06 SLPM. At just 2.36 SLPM, Brandao will be very motivated to somehow take this fight to the ground where he possesses his largest strength, as evidenced by his 3.38 takedowns per 15 minutes rate and 80 percent takedown accuracy. Brandao does pose some danger to Poirier in this regard, as half of Brandao's UFC victories have been by submission.
However, Poirier also possesses a very good ground game, successfully defending a respectable 63 percent of takedowns, and attempting 1.7 submissions per 15 minutes. And with Poirier's only submission loss coming after taking a large amount of stand-up damage from Jung Sung, it is unlikely that Brandao will be able to create a similar scenario. Thus, with the huge advantage Poirier possesses standing -- and with the skills to avoid taking much damage in the ground game -- consider Poirier as an undervalued favorite at a minus-225 money line.
Insider value pick: Dustin Poirier