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It has been three years, nearly to the day, since the Ultimate Fighting Championship and its one-Octagon circus last rolled into Vancouver. The sport of mixed martial arts has long been plagued with issues in British Columbia, and the issues were great enough that the UFC avoided the area altogether.

Those issues are mostly resolved now, and the promotion is headed back to town with a world championship fight and an intriguing main card that features the return of one of its more popular former heavyweight champions. And, as always, the entire card is available for viewer consumption in one form or another.

So kick back, prepare your mouse-clicking finger and get ready to check out the entire UFC 174: Johnson vs. Bagautinov fight card.

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Benson Henderson was wise to handle all his own business on Saturday against Rustam Khabilov.

This was the wrong night to leave anything to chance.

The UFC’s first trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, turned out to be an altogether weird one, full of fouls, questionable stoppages and a judges’ verdict in the co-main event that may go down as one of the worst in MMA history. It was just one of those off-kilter evenings, when the unexpected starts early and seems to permeate all aspects of the card.

Henderson’s fourth-round submission victory over Khabilov was one of UFC Fight Night 42’s least peculiar turns. It was notable primarily for its lack for controversy and for being the former lightweight champion’s first stoppage victory in the Octagon and the first time Khabilov had been finished in his professional career.

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There is something in the air in Albuquerque, or perhaps it is in the water. Or perhaps it is nowhere at all.

The popularity of the AMC show "Breaking Bad" led to scores of jokes about the Albuquerque desert. Some are warranted, but most are spun from the same type of fictional arcs Walter White and Jesse Pinkman played out on a weekly basis for a devoted audience.

Albuquerque is really just a city. It is non-descript, and the nicest thing that you might say about it is that it has high elevation and the mountains on the edge of town are pretty. It is not a destination, unless you are a world-class fighter. If that is the case, then there's every chance you will find yourself in Albuquerque because Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn once found themselves in Albuquerque.

Much of our Albuquerque knowledge comes from television. There is a good chance all of it is wrong. But there is zero doubt something weird was in the air on Saturday night, when the UFC paid their first visit to the Land of Jackson and Winklejohn.

Two Brothers

By on June 6, 2014

3,422 reads


Photo courtesy Jeff Meyer

Jeff and Barry Meyer grew up in one of the nice parts of Chicago, where money begat nice shopping malls and nice schools and nice kids wearing nice clothes.

They were karate kids. Most athletically inclined kids find themselves involved in football or basketball or baseball, the most American of American sports. For the Meyer brothers, however, there wasn't much interest in standard sports. They were drawn to the martial arts, and martial arts participation in the 1980s meant one thing: karate.

The Meyer brothers, like so many others of a certain generation, wanted to be Daniel-San. When he was young, Barry was asked to write down his hero and who he'd like to be someday; he wrote "Chuck Norris" on the paper. When a teacher asked Barry why he wanted to be Chuck Norris, Barry answered simply.

"Because he's great at karate," Barry told the teacher.

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At first glance, Rustam Khabilov seems like a weird matchup for Benson Henderson.

Given Henderson’s status as the UFC’s No. 2-ranked lightweight contender, pitting him against a guy who hasn’t even cracked the Top 10 is a fairly unorthodox move—especially in the nationally televised main event of Saturday’s Fight Night 42.

But we all know Henderson is a special case.

He may be running neck-and-neck with the rest of the UFC’s 155-pound title hopefuls on paper, but in practice he’s nowhere near another shot at the gold. Not unless some unexpected sea change comes along to wash away the stigma of two previous losses to champion Anthony Pettis.

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The marriage between the UFC and its biggest stars has never been perfect.

Jon Jones took his turn proving that point (again) on Monday, after Dana White needlessly put the light heavyweight champion’s business in the streets during an “exclusive interview” with UFC.com.

Jones, White claimed, is balking at a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson, and the two parties are headed for a Thursday sit-down where we assume grievances will be aired and the bargaining begun.

White was clear about where he stands on Wednesday, telling the titlist’s home-away-from-hometown Albuquerque Journal that it’s Gustafsson or bust for Jones.

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Very few people seem to know for sure where things stand between the UFC and Jon Jones at the moment.

Those who do? They aren’t talking.

"You got to ask Jon Jones that," said UFC President Dana White during a media scrum over the weekend, when asked why the fight company’s most dominant champion still hadn’t signed for a rematch against Alexander Gustafsson. "I don't know. I don't like it, I don't like it at all."

In a sport where sometimes it seems like every bit of minutia commands its own story, and everybody who’s anybody has a video blog, this murkiness is notable. With White firing off nebulous quotes and Jones addressing the situation only with cheeky replies on his Twitter page, you know the rumor mill is going to jump at the chance to fire up its engines.

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Stipe Miocic gave UFC fans exactly what they wanted on Saturday against Fabio Maldonado.

Mostly, what they wanted was to go to bed.

It was after midnight on the east coast by the time Miocic and Maldonado took the cage following roughly 10 and a half hours of nearly continuous UFC programming. Worn down by the fight company’s strange decision to run two events back-to-back on a single day, the fondest wish of the worldwide viewing audience was palpable just prior to the night’s 22nd and final fight: Just get this over with.

To that end, Miocic delivered in spades, polishing off the game but overmatched Maldonado with two short-and-sweet punching combinations 35 seconds into the first round.

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Last week, I followed TJ Dillashaw as he prepared for his UFC 173 bout against Renan Barao. He was one of the biggest underdogs ever to participate in a championship bout, and few gave him a chance of making it out of the first round, much less pulling off the historic upset.

In my time spent with Dillashaw, I saw a man completely unfazed by the task ahead of him, as though he had no idea what the fans and oddsmakers were saying.

He was relaxed, loose and absolutely confident that he’d be taking the title back to Sacramento. He spoke of all the things he’d need to get used to as bantamweight champion, such as spending fight weeks in the nicest hotel suites available instead of standard rooms.

Where did his confidence come from? How was he able to overlook the long odds he faced?

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It is a familiar refrain: Chael Sonnen, coming off a loss, finds himself in position for a title shot.

It happened in 2013. Sonnen lost a middleweight title fight to Anderson Silva the previous July, only to find himself competing for the light heavyweight title in his first bout in the division since 2005. Chased from the middleweight division after two losses to the champion, Sonnen moved up and, with a calculated leap, skipped right over all the light heavyweights who were jockeying for their own opportunity to face Jon Jones.

Sonnen lost that fight, making him 0-3 in title fights in the UFC. He rebounded with a submission win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua but was finished by Rashad Evans a few months later. Retirement talk began to swirl; a post-fighting career as a television personality felt closer than ever. Sonnen ultimately decided to continue fighting, but his days as a title contender were over.

Logically, it was tough for fans to imagine Sonnen going on the kind of run that would earn him a rematch with Jones or a shot against middleweight champion Chris Weidman.