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USA Today

Ah, the double-fight weekend. It used to be a rare bird, indeed, but these days they are coming fast and furious. After a brief respite last weekend with just one fight card (the thrilling UFC 178 card from Las Vegas), the UFC spreads its wings and lands in two different parts of the world this Saturday: Sweden and Halifax, which I'm told is somewhere in the great nation of Canada, though I cannot be certain if that is the truth.

As per usual, there are a lot of dudes you have never heard of on these two cards. But there are some important fights, and there are some fights that have the potential to be less important but no less awesome. I am here today to tell you the five fights you should pay attention to, culled from both cards and combined here for your reading enjoyment.

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Bill Streicher/USA Today

Donald Cerrone closed out his UFC 178 weekend on a fairly cryptic note.

After a days-long extravaganza of wakeboarding, leg-kicking and rib-splitting, Cerrone notched an important unanimous-decision win over Eddie Alvarez on Saturday—but couldn’t leave Las Vegas without teasing us a little bit.

On Monday, the generally open-book fighter posted a tweet so ambiguous we assumed it had to be the prelude to yet another bout announcement. On Tuesday, Cerrone confirmed our suspicions, but only while revealing the rug had already been yanked out from under his boots.

Long story short, we don’t yet know when or against whom, but it’s a good bet we’re all going to get a little bit more Cowboy in our lives before the end of the year.

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USA Today

Three days removed from UFC 178, it feels as though Cat Zingano’s come-from-behind win over Amanda Nunes has been overshadowed by arguably bigger news.

Maybe that’s to be expected. Very few MMA stories these days can stand up to the media hurricane that is Conor McGregor. Not many more have been able to hold a candle to Yoel Romero, Tim Kennedy and their unfortunately named “Stool Gate” controversy. To the extent any breathing room at all was left on the fringes, it was gobbled up by the disappointing Octagon debut of Eddie Alvarez.

But the truth is, Saturday night’s stellar pay-per-view broadcast never topped Zingano’s comeback victory for sheer, raw emotion. The fact later in the night Dana White confirmed her—not Gina Carano—as the next fighter to vie for Ronda Rousey’s 135-pound title at UFC 182 should go down as one of the best feel-good moments of the year.

During the last 18 months, Zingano’s story has been so searing that it’s hard to even talk about it without feeling some way exploitative. The 32-year-old Colorado native blew out her knee last May and conceded a potentially star-making coaching gig opposite Rousey on Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter to Miesha Tate.

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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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USA Today

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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USA Today

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.