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They came from Ireland, and they took over the MGM Grand.

They began arriving in droves on Thursday. That was the moment the MGM slowly, methodically morphed from a ghost town into Dublin, America. This is a normal fight-week process in Las Vegas. Prior to Thursday, you have a few autograph seekers waiting outside the Grand Garden Arena, biding their time in the hopes they'll convince a fighter (any fighter will do) to sign 18 different objects while taking pictures to verify authenticity.

But on Thursday, the real crowd begin arriving. And last week, the real crowd consisted of thousands of Irishmen who, having flown a very long way to a land filled with sunshine and lots of beer, proceeded to go about drinking as much of that beer as humanly possible. Large groups of fans walked through the massive MGM casino, carrying ungodly sized plastic things filled with beer, and sang songs about the hero they'd traveled all this way to see.

One Conor McGregor. There's only one Conor McGregor. Walking along. Singing his song. Walking in McGregor wonderland.

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Conor McGregor, the loquacious 26-year-old Irishman with a silver tongue, golden fists and cash-green dreams, had less than two minutes to style on poor Dustin Poirier at UFC 178.

Then it was all over, a left hand just missing Poirier's head but the attached elbow doing no such thing, leaving the No. 5 featherweight in the world dazed, confused and dumbfounded.

It was a brutal finish to a brutal buildone punctuated by taunts, shoves and enough ugly looks to make one wonder if McGregor is a lost Diaz brother.

So dismissive on the road to the cage, McGregor was suddenly magnanimous. All of seven months his senior, McGregor called Poirier a "good kid" and dismissed any talk of hatredat least on his end.

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It took approximately 10 seconds for the doubts to start creeping in.

As soon as referee John McCarthy said the words and Eddie Alvarez bounded out to the center of the cage to meet Donald Cerrone in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC 178, the differences were startling.

Wow, we all thought, Alvarez sure looked small.

Cerrone’s size advantage didn't exactly come as a surprise given he's listed at 6’1” to Alvarez's 5’9”. The sheer physical disparity was noticeable during the pre-fight staredown, but it wasn’t until Alvarez ducked low to throw his first UFC jab and Cerrone just missed his face with a counter knee that the ramifications began to become clear.

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When there's 10 seconds left between rounds, it's the referee's job to let the fighters' corners know and to start the athletes on the path back into the cage. But with 10 seconds left between the second and third rounds of his fight with Tim Kennedy, Yoel Romero was sitting on a stool.

And on the stool he sat, for approximately 30 extra seconds as chaos reigned. While Vaseline was applied and removed at the referee John McCarthy's request. While athletic commission officials screamed at his cornermen. While Kennedy, who had hurt Romero badly at the end of the second round stalked the cage and stewed. 

Bloody Elbow's Brent Brookhouse didn't consider the delay coincidental:

UFC President Dana White agreed, but told the media after the fight that he couldn't blame Romero's corner completely for the debacle.

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There was a weird vibe in Las Vegas as Demetrious Johnson (21–2–1), the UFC's most dominant champion, made his way to the Octagon to defend his flyweight championship.

There is no fighter in the world with the same combination of crisp striking, stellar wrestling and dangerous submissions. When it comes to pure talent, Johnson sits on the very top of the mountain, side-by-side with fighters such as Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey.

And yet, as he walked to the cage for his fifth title defense, this one against Chris Cariaso, the crowd was heading the opposite direction, about a fifth of them streaming toward the exits and the rest of their night. The champ was in the building—but no one could be bothered to care. Andreas Hale shared what he saw as people were departing:

What's wrong is not entirely clear. There were a lot of factors leading to this mass exodus. First, and perhaps foremost, there is Cariaso, so unknown that many MMA fans literally couldn't pick him out of a lineup when challenged by my Bleacher Report colleague Chad Dundas.

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Demetrious Johnson takes another one for the team Saturday night.

Since becoming the UFC’s inaugural flyweight champion two years ago, Johnson has been nothing short of a workhorse for the world’s largest MMA company. His main event bout against Chris Cariaso at UFC 178 this weekend will mark his fifth defense of the 125-pound title and his third fight in roughly nine months.

For obvious reasons, it also shapes up as something of a no-win situation for the 28-year-old AMC Pankration fighter.

This meeting with Cariaso felt so random as to be plucked from a hat when the fight company announced it in July. Word of it came less than a week after expected challenger John Dodson revealed he needed knee surgery and just a few days before Ian McCall and John Lineker had the chance to emerge as more fitting replacements.

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Donald Cerrone and Eddie Alvarez are going to get in the Octagon on Saturday night. They’re going to fight.

It is probably going to be awesome. I never want to pull the Mike Goldberg/Joe Rogan jinx and say "there is no way this fight will be boring" or "there is no way this one will go to the judges." Because when you say those sorts of things, you guarantee two things: (1) that it will be the most boring fight you have ever seen and (2) that it will certainly go to the judges' scorecards.

I don't want to be that jinx. Not for Alvarez and Cerrone. I've been looking forward to this fight for far too long.

So instead, I'll just say I think it's going to be a great fight. It'll probably be the fight of the night, and I will live in forever happy bliss with my memories of the time when two of the more exciting fighters in the world got in the Octagon and, in the words of my Bleacher Report colleague Chad Dundas, did the damn thing.

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It seems ridiculous considering his placement on this weekend's UFC 178 preliminaries, but, believe it or not, bantamweight Dominick Cruz was once one of the most dominant champions in UFC history. At the height of his career, just entering his athletic prime at 26, he was nearly untouchable. 

All the great little men of the era gave him a tumble—Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson.

None of them came close.

After dispatching Faber, his great rival, at UFC 132, and Johnson on the Versus Network, Cruz was firmly entrenched in the sport's pound-for-pound top 10 as 2011 came to a close. 

He was purpose-driven and only growing as a fighter. Against Johnson, matched for the first time in the speed department, he relied on a strong wrestling game to secure a decision. He was no one-trick pony, dancing around the cage in a confusing, chaotic whirlwind of lanky limbs, part kickboxer and part flamenco artist. Cruz contained multitudes.  

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Growing up in Dublin, Conor McGregor was just like every other Irish boy.

Which is to say, McGregor grew up with dreams of playing football. In a family filled with fans of Manchester United—for many Irish, United are a way of life despite the club's location in another country—McGregor followed suit. When he was eight years old, he'd pull on his United kit, walk outside and kick the ball against the wall of the family home. When he scored an imaginary goal, he launched into an imaginary celebration, running around the yard and picturing 100,000 fans packing Old Trafford, all screaming his name.

In that way, McGregor was preparing himself for his future life. The football fandom would eventually fade away. Today, McGregor couldn't name a single member of Louis van Gaal's 2014-2015 United squad. He is still surrounded by the football and United-mad Irish in Dublin, but McGregor is no longer part of that world.

But no matter how much things change for McGregor, one thing remains the same: Even as a child, running around the yard in his United kit, McGregor wanted to be a star.

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Yoel Romero spent much of the last 18 months establishing himself as the UFC middleweight division’s most wonderfully weird newcomer.

Romero is the hulking Olympic wrestling silver medalist who prefers flying knees and standing elbows to double-leg takedowns (though he’s got those, too). At 37 years old, his physique looks carved out of granite, and even though he comes to press conferences dressed like a lost cast member from Newsies, his mild mannerisms don’t quite convince us he’s the benevolent kind of monster.

His unconventional southpaw striking style is nonchalant—borderline lackadaisical, really—until suddenly it turns murderous. He’s jetted to 4-0 in the Octagon since an April 2013 debut, including three knockouts, all while occasionally looking like he has no idea what he’s doing out there.

Saturday at UFC 178, Romero takes the biggest leap of his short career, meeting Tim Kennedy in a bout that likely leaves the winner a stone’s throw from a title shot. As of this writing, the Cuba native and American Top Team product is going off as a slight favorite, but it’s also not unreasonable to wonder if Romero’s oddball style is just waiting for someone like Kennedy to come along and undress it.