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Gregory Payan/AP Images

It hasn't been the easiest year to be an MMA fan. Between the UFC's precipitous financial decline, decimated fight cards and what seemed to be a bizarre crime ring made up exclusively of fringe fighters, 2014 was far from a banner year.

But you know us—here at B/R MMA we look for the slightest glimmers of hope and hang on with both hands. Could this year have been better? Sure. Did we sometimes want to hang our heads in shame, mostly anytime we saw the two words "War" and "Machine" in close proximity? Yes, again.

That doesn't mean there weren't plenty of great moments too. For that we pause to give thanks. What follows are five things we're thankful for this year—the main course if you will.

Have one to add? That piece of pumpkin pie goes in the comments. Won't you join us?

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TIM LARSEN/Associated Press

Renan Barao wants to fight T.J. Dillashaw in Brazil.

You can't blame a fighter for seeking a home-court advantage, and Brazil offers just such a thing. Tune in to any of the multiple UFC cards held in various Brazilian towns, and you'll see local fighters experiencing plenty of success. I can't explain why they're so successful, and I don't have the metrics in front of me to prove it. But there's no doubt Brazilians get a boost when they're fighting in front of their countrymen.

Of course, this probably applies to other parts of the world too, including the United States. It's just more pronounced in Brazil.

So Barao would like to fight Dillashaw again, and he'd like to do it in Brazil. The first time Barao faced Dillashaw, it was in Las Vegas, and Dillashaw battered the then-champion Barao before finishing him in the final round and taking his belt.

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Credit: Jeremy Botter

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Daniel Cormier had been training hard for 23 minutes when the accident happened.

It was a sparring day, and Cormier was planning on 25 hard minutes in preparation for his January title fight against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. He'd gone three rounds, and then four. He was tired. But by the middle of his fifth and final sparring round, Cormier was still fired up.

Sensing a lack of effort on the part of his training partner, Cormier urged him to come forward, softly at first and then by screaming at him. And so his training partner, Dwight, came forward, throwing a right hook. At the same time, Cormier leaned his head in. Dwight's elbow struck Cormier on the nose. Blood began to leak all over the American Kickboxing Academy mats.

Sparring was complete, albeit a little earlier than Cormier would've liked. He sat in a chair in the AKA lobby, his head tiled back. His cornerman stopped the bleeding with Q-tips. The nose swelled but was not broken. IPhones emerged, and photos were snapped.

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Gregory Payan/AP Images

The UFC's featherweight title picture just cleared up.

Cub Swanson, he of the six-fight winning streak heading into UFC Fight Night Austin, is vanquished. And he went out not with a bang but a whisper, the victim of yet another stifling Frankie Edgar performance.

Swanson strolled to the cage full of confidence, and his first-round performance showed glimpses of the fighter he has become since the first time he lost to Jose Aldo. But that confidence was mostly gone by the end of the second round after Swanson spent the better part of five minutes drowning underneath Edgar's relentless quicksand style.

With Edgar having dispatched the only legitimate contender to the featherweight championship, the way forward is clear.

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USA Today

The dense plot surrounding the UFC featherweight title got some clarifying edits last Saturday at UFC 180.

Prior to Ricardo Lamas’ quick and easy victory over Dennis Bermudez, you could make the case that as many as four men were in the hunt for the next shot at the 145-pound championship. With Bermudez now out, at least the herd has been thinned a bit.

If Cub Swanson takes care of business against Frankie Edgar this Saturday at UFC Fight Night 57 and extends his win streak to seven, he’ll be the obvious choice as No. 1 contender. If not, then all eyes will likely turn to Conor McGregor’s January showdown against Dennis Siver.

But with Swanson, McGregor and Edgar all theoretically still in the mix and a good five or six months between any of them and a potential fight against champ Jose Aldo, it’s not an entirely cut-and-dried situation either. Until we get Swanson and Edgar to further simplify things this weekend in Austin, Texas, the featherweight title picture retains as many potential twists and turns as your average choose-your-own-adventure novel.

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USA Today

Urijah Faber last stepped in the Octagon in July, which means he's had ample opportunities to start new businesses.

Faber is a prolific businessman. He owns a gym, is a partial owner in his management company and owns a construction firm in Sacramento. Recently, he has become an investor in MemoryTag, a device that allows users to add personalized videos to greeting cards and other places.

Faber is also an investor in a new concept for specialty dental care. They're hoping to branch out across the country. And he's playing a small role in the ownership group that is attempting to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Sacramento. Faber loves Sacramento, and he is constantly looking for things to help build it. When the city nearly lost the Kings, Faber realized the loss would've left a major hole in the city's culture.

"What that would have meant is a lot less to cheer for, which I don’t like. MLS means more to cheer for. That’s why I got behind it," Faber said during a Tuesday phone interview.

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USA TODAY Sports

Dana White could only chuckle on Monday, as he and some of the UFC’s biggest stars gathered on stage to release the organization’s upcoming schedule to a theater full of fans and media.

“All these guys are going to stay healthy, train smart and these fights will happen in 2015,” the UFC president told the assembled masses and those watching via the event’s live stream. He looked over his shoulder to share a sardonic grin with his fighters.

The ensuing laughs were hard earned.

We all know 2014 was a rough one for the UFC.

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USA Today

It has been a long time since Gilbert Melendez competed in a mixed martial arts fight.

This is not to say he has not been busy. Melendez hasn't spent his time playing video games or getting fat or hitting nightclubs during frequent trips to Las Vegas. He spends his days overseeing the evolution of his San Francisco gym, mostly. That, and attempting to find enough time to play with his four-year-old daughter. And help his prodigy kickboxing wife prepare for her 115-pound mixed martial arts debut. And train with all of the teammates who need him. And perform duties as an analyst for ESPN and Fox Sports.

You get the point.

He spent a chunk of 2014 in Las Vegas, of course, but it was in the service of The Ultimate Fighter. Melendez coached opposite Anthony Pettis, overseeing a team of 115-pound strawweights who are all vying to become the first UFC strawweight champion. And between finding the time to spend with his family—who came to Las Vegas during roughly half of the filming days—and balancing his own training needs with the needs of the TUF production staff, well, Melendez says the experience was a whirlwind.

Family is important to Melendez. He and his wife have put off the inevitable second baby because his wife wants to make a run at the UFC. But it will happen, eventually.

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Justin Ford/USA Today

UFC owners would probably bristle at the suggestion they even occupy the same universe as their counterparts over at Bellator MMA.

Actually, the bristling is obvious pretty much every time the topic comes up.

“I don’t give a s--t what Bellator’s doing or what’s going on with them,” UFC President Dana White said five months ago—via MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn—as the two rivals prepared to put on competing shows at Connecticut casinos on Sept. 5. “It’s not like Bellator is some organization you have to look out for. Let’s be honest here.”

White’s demand for honesty is rational and well put. He’s right. So far, Bellator hasn’t been on the UFC’s level. Not close. Not yet.

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Alexandra Wyman/Associated Press

When it comes to the topic of Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino, UFC champion Ronda Rousey has never been one to mince words.

She's been vocal about Justino and steroids and other weighty issues for years. But Rousey's comments have always felt like they were made in the service of building a fight. Because that is what Rousey does so well, when she wants: she builds animosity and creates drama, and then you pay to see her fight. It has worked out well for her ever since she talked her way into a Strikeforce title shot with Miesha Tate.

And so you take what Rousey says about Justino with a grain of salt, because you figure she's going to fight her eventually and she wants to make money.

But after a Monday media day in Las Vegas attended by Bleacher Report, I'm not sure that's the case. In fact, I'm pretty certain Rousey passionately hates Justino.