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UFC President Dana White likes to win. His goal, publicly stated, isn't just to be a successful mixed martial arts promoter. It's becoming a global force in the sports. "World f*cking domination," as he puts it. Nothing more, nothing less.

That drive has helped White to demolish the competition over the years. He, famously, used to keep a faux tombstone in his office. Every time a rival promotion died, a name was added to the dearly departed. Those who didn't go out of business because of their own stupidity, the UFC gleefully purchased, adding toys to a toy box already brimming with great martial artists.

No rival has withstood the rigors of MMA promotion for long. Successful boxing promoters, comic book entrepreneurs and online gambling provocateurs have all attempted to run a Pepsi to UFC's Coke. All have failed dramatically. 

All but Bellator.


At long last, it appears Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson might be headed for a collision course.

By "at long last," of course, I am referring to the amount of time that has passed since Johnson went in the Octagon and crushed Antonio Rogerio Nogueira on July 26. Johnson's UFC light heavyweight debut win over Phil Davis back in April was special, and it set Johnson up as someone to watch in a division 35 pounds heavier than the one where he used to ply his trade in the UFC.

But it was Johnson's blitzkrieg of Nogueira that made us stand up and take notice. Nogueira is a man who, despite all jokes to the contrary about his ageless nature, is still a very capable fighter. You simply don't compile a 21-6 record against the kind of competition Nogueira has faced during his career without being capable of pulling out magic.

There was no magic on that night, however. Johnson crushed him, and crushed him quickly. And then we all thought to ourselves: Wouldn't it be interesting to see Johnson face Gustafsson? The lanky Swede was lined up for a title fight, but an injury put him on the shelf.

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Jacare Souza isn't the middleweight division's squeakiest wheel.

His is a weight class flush with noisemakers, and for much of the last few years, guys like Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping have gotten more than their share of the grease. With the rest of our attentions focused on protracted drama between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, there's been precious little room lately to celebrate quiet perfection.

Never mind that for nearly three years, all Souza has done is win. Never mind that at 35 years old and 24 fights into his MMA career, it's pretty easy to make the case he's quietly emerging as the biggest threat to Weidman's fledgling title reign.

Has he been popped for performance-enhancing drugs? Did he create a colorful character and use it to talk his way into big fights? Is he the division's most unfairly called-out longtime contender?

No? Then it's probably been hard to make a ton of headlines.

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In the late 1990's, when I was a wee lad (or, as the woman I love would so hilariously tell you, back when I was already an elderly man), I used to gather around the television on Monday nights.

I am sure you already know where I am going with this. The late 1990's were the prime years of what would eventually become known as the Monday Night Wars. The World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling had competing shows on different cable networks, and each took place on Monday nights. For several years, before WCW's incompetence caught up with them, the rival wrestling promotions looked to top each other in a weekly game of "let's see who can capture the most viewers and then keep them by doing crazy, unexpected things."

The WWF (now WWE) and WCW pushed each other to new heights and, in some cases, new lows. And it worked. The Monday Night Wars are remembered fondly by professional wrestling fans. They are immortalized in a new weekly show on the WWE Network.

And they are constantly referred to when discussing moments such as the one this Friday, when the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator go head-to-head.

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From inside the eye of the hurricane swirling around UFC 177, TJ Dillashaw put on a command performance.

Dillashaw had been UFC bantamweight champion for all of 98 days on Saturday, when he was forced into the no-win situation of defending his title against little-known replacement opponent Joe Soto. As anyone reading this story likely already knows, his scheduled rematch with former champ Renan Barao was scrapped a day earlier, when Barao failed to make weight.

In essence, what was already a bad situation for Dillashaw became much worse. Even before Barao’s ouster, UFC 177 was not considered a strong card—what with its relative lack of star power and the fact that the two main eventers had just fought at UFC 173.

Without the 27-year-old Brazilian, many wondered aloud how even diehard fans could be expected to buy it. Still, the fight company trudged forward, with no option but to doggedly insist the show must go on. Dana White railed against "disgusting, despicable" media coverage, even as the UFC itself trotted out Barao for an on-air interview that felt more like punishment than an honest quest for the truth.

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In the end, if you were looking for the UFC's brightest-shining stars, you were never going to find them at UFC 177. Not after The Curse waylaid Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson and Renan Barao and the rest.

It just wasn't in the cards. The UFC didn't set out to turn this into one of the least desirable cards in the history of the promotion, but it ended up that way because the company was spreading things thinly. This practice appears to be over, at least when it comes to pay-per-view events; next month's UFC 178 card is lovingly filled with highly anticipated fights, including the UFC debut of Eddie Alvarez.

So, yeah. If star power is your thing, you weren't going to tune in to this pay-per-view. But if you like watching fights and do not care if you really know anything at all about the people you're watching in the fights, then you're probably glad you sat down on the couch and plopped down some money for this one.

For starters, the whole thing kicked off with Yancy Medeiros choking out Octagon debutant Damon Jackson with one of the more brutal guillotine/bulldog-choke hybrids that you've ever seen. And by this, I mean it's the only guillotine/bulldog hybrid you've ever seen.

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In May, I spent four days with T. J. Dillashaw during the lead-up to his UFC bantamweight title fight with Renan Barao.

Barao was the UFC's latest pet project at the time. Dana White had spent the previous weeks telling everyone with a camera or a recorder that Barao was, in his mind, the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. What had once been a sure thing and a title of honor when held by Anderson Silva was being used to hype up a largely unknown fighter for the UFC's pay-per-view audience.

It was nebulous. This time, it was Barao; the next time, it would be Demetrious Johnson, the flyweight champion. The audience didn't buy it, and neither did Dillashaw.

I have spent significant portions of time around Dillashaw over the past few years. I talked to him weekly during his run on The Ultimate Fighter for a blog project. I saw him with the rest of the Team Alpha Male roster.

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According to reports, the Holy Grail may be at hand.

The UFC announced, via ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, on Wednesday that it will ramp up its drug testing efforts during the coming months, instituting random, year-round blood and urine screening for a percentage of its nearly 500 contracted fighters.

UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner told Okamoto he’s hopeful the new testing program will be in place by the end of 2014. In the meantime, Ratner said the fight company will meet with “four or five” independent agencies to determine which one might best oversee testing of the UFC’s far-flung stable of athletes.

So, yeah, if you’ve been paying attention during the last few years, that’s kind of a big deal.

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You can't tell from Saturday's UFC 177, but there was a time every pay-per-view was an event. Even as cable television took the Octagon into America's living rooms, the sport was built around these monthly UFC extravaganzas, rightfully and proudly proclaimed "the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts." 

This weekend's show would barely be recognizable to a fan from 2010, let alone 2005. Once populated by known commodities up and down the card, a bragging point when comparing the sport to prehistoric one-fight boxing shows, the modern UFC pay-per-view is turning into a wasteland.

The landscape of the combat sports world has changed—but it's a change the UFC has resisted with all its considerable might. The WWE has abandoned the pay-per-view market entirely, focusing instead on distributing their super shows on a streaming service of their very own. Boxing has limited their pay-per-view output to a handful of fights a year, those featuring only the biggest of megastars.

Only the UFC has held on to the pay-per-view model with what I fear could be a death grip. Every month they trot out a show and ask an increasingly smaller base of hard-core fans to shell out $54.99 for increasingly smaller star wattage. It's a system that has reached a breaking point.  

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It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

When the mad scientists at Zuffa headquarters fired-up their matchmaking supercomputer months ago and asked it to synthesize an awesome card for UFC 177, the machine huffed and puffed, spit out reams of paper and then said in its creepy sentient computer voice: “Optimum main event: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson.”

That’s how they book these cards, right?

Anyway, it was a nice idea.

We all know what happened: The Jones-Gusty rematch eventually got pushed back to UFC 178. The UFC tried to throw Demetrious Johnson vs. Chris Cariaso on this Saturday’s card, but then Gustafsson got injured and Jones got injured and Johnson vs. Cariaso, too, got moved to UFC 178.