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USA Today

There were times last week when it felt like MMA’s love affair with Matt Brown was on the ropes.

It’s no secret that Brown did some pretty dumb stuff leading up to his UFC on Fox 12 main event against Robbie Lawler. First, he put his foot in his mouth—again. Then, he committed professional fighting’s cardinal sin, missing weight for the biggest bout of his life.

At Thursday’s open workouts, a careless quip Brown made about his own underdog status—telling a reporter he’d probably never be a betting favorite until the UFC booked him against “some retard”—caused copious eye-rolling and facepalming on social media.

A day later he weighed in at 172.5-pounds, a full 1.5 over the limit for this fight. Afterward, Brown tried to shrug it off, telling Fox’s Ariel Helwani his “scale was wrong (or) whatever” and deadpanning that the key to beating Lawler would still be to “punch him before he punches me.”

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Robbie Lawler's slow burn toward the UFC welterweight title smolders on.

After pulling the plug on Matt Brown's Cinderella story via unanimous decision Saturday in the main event of UFC on Fox 12, Lawler once again finds himself the top contender for the company's 170-pound title.

He's now assured a second bite at the apple against champion Johny Hendricks, but as is often the case for UFC title hopefuls these days, he'll have to wait a bit to get it.

Hendricks is still healing from a torn bicep suffered while claiming the vacant championship with a decision win over Lawler at UFC 171. Though it was initially believed he'd return in the fall, reports now indicate the UFC may push the rematch back until 2015:

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Jeff Chiu/AP Images

A new force has emerged in the UFC's light heavyweight division. The funny thing about Anthony Johnson, who brutally destroyed Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to cement himself as one of the top contenders to the 205-pound champion, is that he got here in such a roundabout way.

Back in the old days, before he became a punchline for his inability to make 170 pounds, Johnson displayed brief glimpses of fearsome power and finishing ability. Who can forget the untimely ends met by Yoshiyuki Yoshida and Kevin Burns when they faced Johnson?

He was a gigantic welterweight, though the truth was that he was never really a welterweight at all. Right? He was a light heavyweight, though we wouldn't discover it for a few years.

Those years have come and gone now, and Johnson is back in the UFC. He is 35 pounds heavier, though to look at him Saturday, you would not be all that far off if you assumed he was a rock-solid heavyweight. Johnson stepped in the cage an imposing figure, dusted off his gloves, absolutely destroyed Nogueira at UFC on Fox 12 and then spoke true words to Fox commentator Joe Rogan after the fight.

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USA Today

If there was ever any question that holding out can be good for the career of a mixed martial artist, look no further than the story of Nick Diaz for the answer.

Diaz, 30, signed a three-fight contract extension with the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Thursday. The signing was announced by UFC President Dana White on Twitter, and it was followed swiftly by a full-frontal media assault from the UFC headquarters:

Here is a photo of Nick with White and Lorenzo Fertitta! Here is a photo of Nick signing his new contract! Here is an interview with Nick in text form! Here is an interview with Nick in video form!

The UFC began pushing the news on social media and then trumpeted its own skill at using social media. When #nickdiaz began trending on Twitter, the UFC couldn't announce it quickly enough. It never stopped to mention that trending on Twitter is not actually a popularity gauge. Diaz, for example, was not being talked about by the entirety of the world's population. Trending happens when nobody is talking about a particular subject, and then the subject is suddenly the center of discussion for large swaths of people.

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Daniel Cormier has always been the elephant in the room.

Ever since the former Olympic wrestler announced in August 2013 that he'd shed the weight necessary to enter the UFC light heavyweight division, he's been considered the biggest, most interesting threat to champion Jon Jones.

This was the bout everybody wanted—a superfight so hotly anticipated that Cormier already had the T-shirts printed up.

It's just that nobody thought it would happen this fast, and nobody wanted it to come at the expense of another talented and well-liked fighter.

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Vitor Belfort may be down to his last strike, but the Nevada State Athletic Commission is still giving him good pitches to hit.

There were very few curveballs thrown Belfort’s way Wednesday, as Fox Sports' Marc Raimondi reported that the NSAC granted Belfort a conditional license to fight Chris Weidman for the UFC middleweight title in Las Vegas on Dec. 6. As a result, Belfort will serve a de facto nine-month suspension for failing a surprise drug test back in February and will face increased commission testing for the rest of his career.

Otherwise, he’s good to go and will suffer fairly minimal consequences.

For anyone who’d been reading between the lines leading up to this meeting, none of this was particularly shocking. The UFC had remained oddly confident that Belfort would clear the NSAC’s hurdles and be allowed back on active duty by the time Weidman is ready to meet him in the cage.

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USA Today

LAS VEGAS — The Nevada State Athletic Commission on Wednesday handed down a largely light punishment to retired UFC star Chael Sonnen.

Sonnen was suspended for two years with no fine. He is required to pay the costs of his drug testing program and for the costs (hotel, flight) of bringing in the NSAC laboratory expert. Sonnen also must work with the commission on educating other fighters under its jurisdiction. 

The commission meeting, which Bleacher Report attended in person, took place at the Grant Sawyer government building. Sonnen arrived early, clad in a dark gray suit and green shirt with no tie. He was accompanied by his lawyer, Jeff Meyer, who also serves as Sonnen's manager. Sonnen was the final item on the commission's agenda, which also included a license application for top UFC middleweight contender Vitor Belfort.

Belfort's license was approved on a conditional basis, provided he accepts random drug testing and does not fight before December. Belfort must also fight in Nevada. He is scheduled to face Chris Weidman for the UFC Middleweight Championship on December 6 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

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USA Today

When the Ultimate Fighting Championship asked Anthony Johnson if he wanted to fight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, he didn't do the obvious thing.

Johnson didn't question if Nogueira would show up come fight night. That may seem strange, given that Nogueira has withdrawn from four of his last six fights due to injury. He has competed just twice in the past three years. You'd think that kind of abysmal track record would lead Johnson to be skeptical about whom he would ultimately be fighting at UFC on Fox 12.

But Johnson told Bleacher Report that the law of averages gave him confidence Nogueira would be healthy come fight night.

"I know everyone was saying he's going to pull out. But my thinking was, this guy has been out of action for so long that he can't get injured," Johnson said from San Jose, where he'll face Nogueira on Saturday night. "I never once thought he was going to get injured here."

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Considering the ever-increasing demands of being an MMA fan, it can sometimes be difficult to savor the moment.

It's never been more expensive or more difficult to simply follow our sport. These days, we hurtle along at a breakneck pace—stuck in an eternal state of Fiiiiight Weeek!!!—seldom finding the opportunity to just stop and take a breath. We rarely appreciate the beauty of our surroundings because we're already rocketing on toward the next big thing.

So before we forget, before the experience fades into the next, this needs to be said:

July 2014 has been an awesome month to be a UFC fan.

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Two things were immediately apparent on Saturday, after Conor McGregor dusted Diego Brandao via first-round TKO at UFC Fight Night 46.

First, McGregor has it.

The 26-year-old Dublin native possesses charisma for days, all the potential in the world and very much looks the part of a major player in the UFC’s international expansion plans.

Second, he’s still got a long way to go to prove he’s as good a fighter as he says he is.