Something came to the forefront during Rory MacDonald's drubbing of Tyron Woodley at UFC 174 Saturday.
A realization, thudding heavily into the laps and minds of MMA fans all over the globe: In this, a high-stakes contenders bout that easily could produce the next title challenger should something go awry between Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown, there isn't even a contest going on.
MacDonald is doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and Woodley is some combination of too tired, too broken and too overmatched to do anything about it.
The follow-up realization? We all jumped on the Woodley hype train a little too early.
There's good reason for that, too. He looks like you'd find him on the pages of a comic book, chiseled and powerful with the type of high-impact athleticism that coaches dream of for their proteges.
He held wins over Carlos Condit and Josh Koscheck in the UFC and Tarec Saffiedine and Paul Daley outside of it.
He was out there talking the talk, texting Dana White so often that White had to give him some big fights or get a phone solely for Woodley's communications.
There was a lot to like.
Then, watching him struggle against MacDonald in the biggest fight of his life, some other elements of Woodley's career came flooding back.
The oft-repeated reality that big muscles burn big energy, and sometimes he tires as a result of that.
The fact that the Condit win was an injury TKO and the Koscheck win came when Koscheck had one foot out the door of the sport.
Remembering that those Saffiedine and Daley wins came years ago and are easily erased by the memorable knockout loss he suffered to Nate Marquardt and the forgettable decision loss he suffered to Jake Shields.
Suddenly, it was easy to see that you may have been duped. Perhaps this streaking contender, ranked No. 3 in the world by the UFC going into Saturday, was a little bit of a mirage.
This is a guy who started late in the sport and has made tremendous gains in a short time but who also could have used some more seasoning. He could have used more fights in the upper-mid tier between knocking out Koscheck and his bout with Condit—and perhaps even after the Condit win.
The proof of that was shown against MacDonald, who's much more experienced against high-level competition even with a comparable number of fights and at eight years his junior.
The loss will likely serve as a hard reset for Woodley, whom White labeled as a choke artist after the event, as per MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani (h/t Dave Doyle). He's probably looking at a bout against one of those mid-range, top-10 guys as the promotion looks to confirm just what they have in him.
Still, we're all a little at fault for the domination he suffered in Vancouver.
He begged for a fast rise, and we all bought in when he did. When it was proven to be too fast and he paid for it with a beating, it was clear that everyone involved should have been a little more reserved all along.
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