9d46c1dae3a47420452b07fff9773a40_crop_north
USA Today

In the end, it was perhaps too much, too soon for Rose Namajunas.

They came to the cage as opposite portraits. Namajunas was all bounce and intensity, singing along with Young MC and generally looking like someone who came to Las Vegas to complete her journey.

Carla Esparza, who perhaps won walkout song of the decade by strolling to the cage to the dulcet tones of "Harvester of Sorrows" by Metallica, looked calm and perhaps even a little scared. It was as though the moment had gotten to her and that perhaps she was not ready for it.

But then the fight happened, and we learned what fighters look like when they are walking to the Octagon is not the best of indicators when it comes to what happens in the actual fight.

D3d439d5828675e024249433beacf3c5_crop_north
USA Today

It was weirdly comforting on Wednesday to hear Nate Diaz say he slept through his open workout.

The younger Diaz has been gone for a minute—out some 13 months squabbling with ownership over his pay—and when he returns on Saturday to fight Rafael dos Anjos in the co-main event of UFC on Fox 13, it will be to a fight company that has made some tectonic shifts in his absence.

With third-party sponsors being cut out, high-profile brand partnerships in the works and a greenhorn professional wrestler now touted as the UFC’s next big drawing card, it felt good to be reminded that some things stubbornly refuse to change.

“I didn’t realize it was time to be there,” Diaz told MMAJunkie.com’s Steven Marrocco and Matt Erickson, after he no showed the media event. “I woke up and they were calling me, and they said, ‘You kinda missed open workouts.’ I kind of slept in. I wish I could’ve made it, but I didn’t make it in time.”

39715f65e64e3060279c85c740ae1270_crop_north
USA Today

Pat Barry met Rose Namajunas when she punched him in the head.

Barry was sparring at Roufusport one day, working on his stand-up game. Out of nowhere, this tiny waif of a girl, who is now competing for a UFC championship, comes over and punches him in the side of the face.

Stunned, he turned to look at her.

"You're Pat Barry, right?," she said.

Hi-res-01f1fbd947d5cd6619fb84b24964760e_crop_north
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

For more than seven years, welterweight Jon Fitch built a reputation as one of the UFC's toughest fighters. He fought a who's who of the world's best at 170 pounds—and beat almost all of them.

Over the course of his tenure in the Octagon he went 14-3-1 with one no-contest. As records go, they don't get much better. But, in many ways, Fitch failed to make his way. His ground-centric style didn't make him any fans with the UFC brass. 

He got just a single opportunity at the UFC championship. He failed to capture gold, though he extended champion Georges St-Pierre to five hard rounds. But instead of being a perpetual contender, he festered.

Worse, to maintain the status quo he had to be nearly perfect.

B69c3470375eb340d9fb24637c7a10de_crop_north
USA Today

On Saturday at UFC on Fox 13, the giants will once again roam the Octagon.

Even as the top of the fight company's 265-pound division remains in limbo while awaiting the return of champion Cain Velasquez, it's hard not to notice the UFC heavyweight ranks picking up a little steam.

This weekend, three fights will be on tap in the organization's heaviest weight class, including a main event between Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic that (maybe, possibly) has title implications. Also on hand will be the likes of Alistair Overeem, Matt Mitrione, Stefan Struve and Gabriel Gonzaga.

That's not too shabby, considering all we have to do to watch is sit back, grab the remote and locate the Fox network on our television dials.

Ed4f8a670a2432827364e1ef38a22009_crop_north
Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today

The UFC heavyweight division has a way of muddying its own waters.

Perhaps in a perfect world—or just a normal weight class—Saturday night’s network television main event pitting No. 2 Junior dos Santos against No. 4 Stipe Miocic would have all the trappings of a title eliminator.

Miocic is 6-1 in the UFC (he hasn’t lost since Sept. 2012), and a victory over dos Santos would summarily check the last box on his application for top-contender status. Meanwhile, Dos Santos is a former champion whose only losses in the Octagon have come to the current titlist. If anybody in the weight class deserves a third crack at the strap, it’s him.

With a win this weekend, it’d be hard to deny that ether guy deserves a direct flight into a championship fight. Unfortunately, “deserve” seldom gets the last word at 265 pounds.

9842af1f2ef03a39d035bcdc3bfd0721_crop_north
AP Images

Saturday's news that Phil "CM Punk" Brooks signed a multifight contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship sent the mixed martial arts world into a frenzy.

It is understandable. Brooks has zero athletic experience outside of his tenure as a professional wrestler. Wrestling is a very tough business, and you need plenty of athleticism to do what professional wrestlers do on a daily basis.

You'll never hear me disparage wrestlers for being "fake." I am a longtime professional wrestling fan. Yes, wrestling is scripted entertainment. But movies and television shows are scripted, yet they receive none of the derision wrestling faces.

And wrestling hurts. There is a long list of wrestlers who took copious steroids and pain pills to try and get noticed and to cover up the pain they felt from throwing their bodies on a hard canvas hundreds of times each day. The steroids enlarged their hearts, the narcotics damaged their immune systems and they ended up dying far too young. Until recently, wrestling deaths were an epidemic. 

712e85689fbe8a022458db8768cfa65a_crop_north
USA Today

We are in the midst of a UFC deluge, with fight cards seemingly every weekend. It is hard to tell them apart.

But on Saturday night, the promotion returns to network television with a slew of intriguing fights. The main event features a promising heavyweight prospect taking on a former UFC heavyweight champion. A mercurial lightweight returns to the Octagon after a lengthy contract dispute kept him on the sidelines. A former heavyweight kingpin makes what could be his last stand in the UFC, and the first contender for the new strawweight championship could be decided.

There is a lot to like on the latest UFC on Fox card. Let's take a look at some of the reasons you should make time in your busy schedule to watch it.

727594b0b19d4a942a93d5a3c9412624_crop_north
AP Images

Phil Brooks has zero professional UFC fights. He has zero amateur fights. He's spent his adult life as CM Punk in the world of professional wrestling, which is certainly athletic but not competitive in a traditional sense.

And still, he said that signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship was the easiest decision he's ever made.

"It was actually a really easy decision to make," Brooks said at the UFC 181 post-fight press conference. "Time will tell how wise of a decision it was. I'm excited. I finally feel there's something I can put 100 percent of myself into and I will get 100 percent back."

Brooks said the deal, which has been in the works since early November, is something he has been thinking about for a long time. He is a devout practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and trains under Rener Gracie. But he is 36 years old and has no UFC fighting experience. To hear him tell it, he's doing this because he wants to challenge himself, and because he wants to send a message.

9450f79fee8166546c9e5aada567ec17_crop_north
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

It was a night when a special announcement made after the first pay-per-view bout threatened to overshadow one of the UFC's best cards of the year.

The signing of former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Phil "CM Punk" Brooks to the UFC roster sent shockwaves through the mixed martial arts world. But it was the improbable career comeback of Robbie Lawler—once considered one of the best prospects the sport had ever seen—that will be the true enduring story of UFC 181.

Lawler's capture of the UFC welterweight championship with a split-decision win over Johny Hendricks in the main event was a narrow one along the thinnest of edges. I scored the fight for Hendricks, but the moments waiting for the decision to be announced in the arena were filled with the kind of knowledge that goes a little something like this: That was a close fight. I think Hendricks won. But I also think have this feeling that Lawler is going to get the nod.

And he did. Though judge Glenn Trowbridge's 49-46 scorecard for Lawler bordered on egregious, it is hard to take issue with the decision as a whole. You cannot say Lawler did not come to fight; he vaulted out of his corner as if shot out of a cannon and attacked from the opening bell.