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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Like riding a bike.

For nearly seven minutes on Saturday, it appeared Anthony Pettis was going to have trouble shaking off the rust. Then—for just a few seconds—the returning lightweight champion was his old, brilliant self again, and the fight was over.

Pettis became the first man ever to finish No. 1 contender Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181, snatching a guillotine choke from thin air and forcing Melendez to tap out a few ticks shy of two minutes into the second round. As they raised his hand and wrapped the title around his waist, it suddenly felt as though he’d never left.

“It’s been 15 months. A long layoff,” Pettis told UFC color commentator Joe Rogan in the cage moments later. “It was a tough last year, but I reminded everybody who I am. I’m the champ for a reason—king of the hottest division in the UFC.”

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Fights happened at UFC 181. Titles were defended. Blood spilled. But all that went down in a very large shadow—deposed WWE wrestling kingpin CM Punk is coming, per an announcement during the pay-per-view Saturday night, to the UFC Octagon.

Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, left the WWE on bad terms in January. He's been the subject of whispers ever since, rumors of his eventual signing with the UFC swirling around for months before the company finally pulled the trigger Saturday.

Brooks, who will compete as either a middleweight or a welterweight, appeared on the UFC 181 broadcast to discuss his multi-fight deal with announcer Joe Rogan.

“I have a background in kempo, and I’ve been doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a long time," Brooks said. "This is my new career, 100 percent I'm going to go full steam ahead, all systems go after today, and it's going to be fun. 

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It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking Johny Hendricks has been out longer than nine months.

Maybe it’s the general breakneck pace of 2014, or the glut of injuries that stymied plans at every turn, but at this point it feels like ages since we’ve seen the new welterweight champion fight. With all that’s happened this year, Hendricks’ title victory over Robbie Lawler at UFC 171 might as well have been back in the Roosevelt administration.

The Teddy Roosevelt administration.

In truth, it was actually mid-March and perhaps—just perhaps—Hendricks’ recent injury layoff has been a bit overblown.

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Five minutes flies by in a flash, at least in most contexts. It's the length of time it takes to heat a standard microwave dinner.

Five minutes is fleeting. Five minutes is transitory. What's five minutes?

But for UFC challenger Robbie Lawler, five minutes on March 15, 2014, were ultimately unforgettable.

For four rounds at UFC 171, Lawlerin the midst of an inexplicable and improbable comeback after seemingly falling right off the MMA mapbattled Johny Hendricks in thrilling even-Steven fashion. On two of three scorecards, the two were even going into the final frame.


Fighters, as a rule, are an unusual bunch. You must be a little off-center in order to willingly participate in a sport where you are repeatedly punched, kicked and choked. They do not all come from the wrong side of the tracks; mixed martial arts has its fair share of normal athletes. But it also has its share of men and women who grew up enveloped on a haze of violence, whether in the home or on the streets or at school.

Abel Trujillo will tell you that he used to have an anger management problem. And you believe it when he tells you this, because he stares directly at you, unblinking, and you instantly recognize the truth in his words.

"I had anger problems. Mixed martial arts helped me conquer that, but I can still channel it. And come fight time, I have to channel it," Trujillo told Bleacher Report. "I'm not a nice fighter. I don't touch gloves. I don't hug. Even at weigh-ins, I'm up in his face. I'm going to be in a fight. "

Mixed martial arts helped him figure out how to control those emotions, but the emotions haven't totally vanished. He still needs the anger when he fights, because he is a violent fighter by nature. He eschews the notion of competition; he is not looking for the win, but rather for the kill.