Credit: Championship Fighting Alliance

Fallon Fox's fifteen minutes of fame was inevitable the moment she got a phone call that changed everything. 

It should have been a time for celebration, a dinner to celebrate the launch of something new. Fox, in just her second professional fight, had won in devastating fashion, knocking out poor Ericka Newsome with a brutal knee in the clinch.

The ringing phone, and the reporter on the other end, changed the mood, glee turning to gloom in just a few seconds. The gist?

"I know."

The reporter's words were as chilling as they were inevitable. Her secret, one she had kept close to her heart for seven years even from close friends such as her trainer Joe Smith, was about to become very, very public. 

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The last name is actually not that difficult if you just sound it out:


Written out on paper (or in a headline), it looks like a handful, but after the man in question solidified his position as the UFC’s fastest-rising lightweight prospect on Saturday, we’re all going to have to get comfortable with it.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is going to be in the conversation for a while.

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Phil Davis has always been known as a quiet man.

He is someone who goes in the cage to fight but keeps a low profile outside of it. He has never done much trash talking. When I interviewed him last week, he stressed the importance of winning his fights above all else, even in a promotion that consistently values entertaining fighters over those who win but do so in less than exciting fashion.

“Nothing to me is more important than winning. And there are a lot of guys like this. There are a lot of guys who can go out and get a knockout 50 percent of the time. The other 50 percent of the time, they’ll lose,” Davis said. “I’m not one of those guys. It’s great they can get a knockout. But more important than getting the knockout is getting the win.”

His mindset may be changing, however, after UFC President Dana White’s recent comments after the UFC on Fox post-fight press conference.

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The new Fabricio Werdum truly emerged against Travis Browne in the third round of their title eliminator on Fox. In the classic Brazilian "butt scoot" position, Werdum challenged Browne to hit the mat and roll around with him a bit. Browne, wisely, wanted no part of the former Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion.

The old Werdum would have made quite a petulant show of it. A ground-first fighter, he had managed to capture not a single heart or mind in his 12-year career despite beating a who's who of the sport's best heavyweights.

The new Werdum?  

He simply smiled, kipped up like he was the second coming of The Rock, a fairly flabbergasting feat for a man approaching 260 pounds, and proceeded to walk over and continue beating Browne to a pulp.

"Werdum has been fooling all of us," Fox Sports 2 analyst Chael Sonnen said after the fight. "He doesn’t have to take you down to beat you. He just Muay Thai’s you to death."

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Here’s the moment you knew for sure that Saturday night’s UFC heavyweight title eliminator wasn’t going to end well for Travis Browne:

It was midway through the third round, and Fabricio Werdum was already having so much of his way that the 36-year-old underdog felt secure in trying an awkward spinning leg sweep. Of course, the move badly missed its mark, ricocheting off Browne’s thigh and sending Werdum sprawling to the mat on his behind.

Disaster? Hardly.

Werdum merely smiled and—reaffirming that the American wanted no part of him on the ground—sprang to his feet with a kip-up worthy of an in-his-prime Shawn Michaels.

That’s when you understood: There was no remarkable comeback brewing here. Things for Browne were broken beyond repair.

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There was a time, and it was not all that long ago, that Fabricio Werdum was a one-dimensional fighter. Long considered one of the world’s best jiu-jitsu players, he was as dangerous on the ground as anyone in the world. But he was a subpar striker. He rarely threatened on the feet. He was so one-dimensional that the UFC elected to cut him after a 2008 knockout loss to Junior dos Santos.

The times, they have changed.

The 2014 version of Werdum is a completely different fighter, and nowhere was this more evident than in his dominating win over Travis Browne at UFC on Fox 11.

Browne was considered the better striker going into the fight. For Werdum to win, he needed to get the fight to the ground and work his submission game. If Browne kept the fight on the feet, the chances were great that he’d knock Werdum out cold.

Except none of this happened. The opposite happened, in fact. From the opening bell until the closing bell 25 minutes later, Werdum absolutely owned Browne in every facet of the fight. He outstruck him handily, often mixing repeated jabs followed by straight right hands. In one exchange, Werdum landed a leg kick, left punch, right punch and then a head kick. He landed 100 more significant strikes than Browne.

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It’s a sobering commentary on the UFC heavyweight division that Travis Browne is arguably its most intriguing young contender.

This is by no means a critique of Browne. As he readies for a nationally televised title-eliminator against Fabricio Werdum on Saturday, his status as a top challenger should be self-evident.

The Hawaii native and Greg Jackson product has duly earned his spot across the cage from Werdum, transforming himself from toolsy prospect to bona fide championship threat during a four-year tenure in the UFC. He sports an impressive 7-1-1 record in the promotion, and in his last three fights, he laid waste to Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett with varying degrees of extreme prejudice.

At 6'8", he’s tall and rangy even for an MMA heavyweight and possesses the sort of athleticism that leads us to halfway believe him when he proclaims himself part of the "new breed" of UFC big men.

Phelan M. Ebenhack

Concussions and brain injuries are hot topics 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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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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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 staredown at the official pre-fight weigh-in. When they finally got in the cage on Wednesday at the The Ultimate Fighter 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.