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Phelan M. Ebenhack

Concussions and brain injuries are a hot topic in sports.

Over the past five years, the National Football League has instituted new rules designed to minimize head injuries for its athletes. Deep research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has led to a wider discussion about athlete safety at the professional and youth levels.

Mixed martial arts is no different.

As a whole, fighters are becoming more cognizant of the long-term damages they accrue during their time in competition. But they are also increasingly aware of the potential dangers that await those who spend too much time sparring against teammates in the gym.

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USA today

In January, I attended a gun show with Tim Kennedy.

That morning, Kennedy had agreed to a new contract with the UFC. He'd also been given the fight he requested against Michael Bisping. There was a skip in his step and a glimmer in his eye. He was confident in his chances against Bisping, though he never specified why.

We know now. Boy, do we ever.

His confidence was borne of a lethal combination: an excellent game plan from Greg Jackson and the fact that Kennedy is a bad style matchup for Bisping. We saw it as Kennedy smothered and out-positioned Bisping on the way to winning a decision Wednesday night.

The joke about British fighters almost always involves their lack of wrestling. And while Bisping will not be confused for Cael Sanderson, his defensive wrestling has always been a hallmark. He is difficult to take down. Keeping him on the mat is an even tougher task. He moves and scrambles and sweeps, forcing the opponent on top to prevent his escape. Instead of focusing on his own positional improvements, his opponent must spend energy keeping Bisping in place.

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Eric Bolte/USA Today

Michael Bisping put his gift for gamesmanship on full display leading up to his return fight against Tim Kennedy.

Bisping’s penchant for the dramatic was evident during weeks of trash talk, media appearances and one supercharged stare down at the official pre-fight weigh-in. When they finally got in the cage on Wednesday at the TUF: Nations Finale however, Kennedy refused to play his game and the cocky Brit—a man seemingly never lost for words—couldn’t find an answer.

Bisping simply conceded too many takedowns, ate too many right hands and eventually allowed Kennedy to deal him a costly defeat via fairly lopsided unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 50-45).

It was his first Octagon appearance in nearly a year, and he exited looking like a man in decline, 2-3 in his last five fights and on the heels of surgery for a detached retina.

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Andre Penner

It’s been a minute since MMA fans have had the pleasure of Michael Bisping’s company.

The UFC’s original bad guy has been out of action for nearly a year recovering from a career-threatening eye injury. During his convalescence, he kept an uncharacteristically low profile, making sporadic media appearances wearing a pirate’s eye patch while spending the rest of his downtime taunting orphans and pulling the wings off butterflies.

OK, that last part was just a guess, but as one of the sport’s longest-standing (and perhaps most unfairly maligned) villains, would you really be surprised?

When Bisping returns on Wednesday at The Ultimate Fighter: Nations live finale, it will be to answer yet another challenge from his peers—this one from American hero Tim Kennedy—in a fight that seems like it could’ve been dreamed up in a professional wrestling writers' room circa 1983.

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USA Today

After weeks of hand wringing and head scratching over the identity of Ronda Rousey’s next opponent, it turned out the answer was right under our noses all along.

Now that we know, we can all add a few more months to our Gina Carano Doomsday Clocks.

At least for the time being, all talk of movie-star superfights and big-name free agents can be tabled, as UFC President Dana White announced on Friday that Rousey will defend her women’s bantamweight crown against Alexis Davis at UFC 175 on July 5.

Anybody else feel like they’ve been had?

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Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

"We all understand how these things go. The Ultimate Fighter has been around since 2004 or 2005. Nothing like this has ever happened. You have coaches pushing each other. But it's always verbal, and everyone understands the deal. But I don't even share that philosophy, of even letting it get verbal. I'm there to coach, and I've got the gym certain hours. I'm not into pranks or any of that stuff.

"No, I never would've believed it would turn physical."

Chael Sonnen is telling me about the infamous brawl between he and fellow TUF Brazil coach Wanderlei Silva. It has been billed as a watershed moment for the season, at least in hype videos, and it is now available for the world to see on Fight Pass.

Much has been made of this moment. In hindsight, it seems easy to see that Sonnen and Silva would come to blows before they stepped in the Octagon. The pair have a heated rivalry dating back several years, with Sonnen goading Silva and Silva becoming increasingly unhinged.

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USA Today

Roy Nelson may never be regarded among the UFC's heavyweight elite, but at 37 years old he's still the perfect man to guard the door.

With his long hair braided primly at the base of his skull and the ever-present (but shrinking?) padding around his midsection, he certainly looked the part of gatekeeper on Friday against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

Nelson’s approach is one-dimensional and ponderous, but he remains a tough out for anyone in the division. The best fighters can outmaneuver him, foiling his head-down power punches with better technique and superior strategy, but even for them it can be a painstaking and difficult process.

If you’re not one of the UFC’s top 265-pounders? Yeah, he’s probably going to knock you out.

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Gregory Payan

One hopes Roy Nelson's second trip to Abu Dhabi is better than the first.

The last time Nelson visited the city that hosts tomorrow's UFC Fight Night card, he spent most of his time inside conference rooms, news studios and hotels. He was on a UFC-mandated public relations tour. He didn't get to see the Burj Dubai or the ridiculous mall with the indoor skiing slopes. He did not see Ferrari World, where a stadium has been built for the UFC's use on Friday, and where a stadium will vanish into thin air after they leave Saturday.

Nelson saw carpet and walls and cameras, and then he went back to America.

Twenty-five hours later, back in the United States, Nelson discovered the airline lost his luggage. It is easy to believe Nelson when he says he prefers fighting back home in Las Vegas.

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Getty Images

Perhaps the story of Roy Nelson vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is one of lowered expectations—about the fighters and the kind of fight we think of as a UFC main event.

Nelson and Nogueira both come into UFC Fight Night 39 on the heels of losses, bonded by nothing aside from their middling promotional records (6-5 for Nelson, 5-4 for Nogueira) and similarly precarious positions in the heavyweight landscape.

Their matchup smacks of randomness. We expect few surprises. To the extent there are any assessable stakes, this fight shapes up as one that would be disastrous for either to lose while not being overly meaningful to win. It’ll be held on a Friday afternoon in a temporary stadium in the United Arab Emirates at a time when most Americans will be at work.

In other words, it’s strange to think of a fight like "Big Country" vs. "Big Nog" as the marquee attraction on a show booked by the world’s largest MMA promotion.

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Photo by Ryan Loco

One could forgive most folks if they forget Gokhan Saki is not, in fact, Tyrone Spong's scheduled opponent for Glory 15.

Saki is the goal, of course. Saki has been the goal ever since he knocked Spong out back in Yokohoma in 2009. Those where the days before Glory, back when kickboxing was the sole domain of those who would stay up late to watch a stream from Japan. It was before Spike TV came along and introduced Glory and kickboxing to the masses.

And it was before Spong began earning his reputation as one of the world's scariest men. He is a great kickboxer with a nine-fight winning streak. This seems impressive on the surface, and I tell him so.

"That is nothing, though, because I once had a 60-fight winning streak," Spong tells Bleacher Report.