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USA Today

After polishing off Jim Miller via head-kick knockout on Wednesday in the main event of UFC Fight Night 45, Donald Cerrone stood in the Octagon and announced his future plans.

They sounded suspiciously like many of his past plans.

“I’m excited about drinking a bunch of Budweiser tonight and getting after it…,” he told UFC play-by-play announcer Jon Anik. “(I’ll fight) whoever wants to fight, I don’t care. As soon as possible, any '55ers or '70s out there who want to fight, come on.”

The whole performance was classic Cerrone—from the highlight reel second-round stoppage to the camouflage piping down the sides of his fight shorts and the celebratory beer at the post-fight press conference. The victory was his third win of 2014, built his ongoing win streak to four overall and kept him on what is arguably the biggest, best roll of his UFC career.

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USA Today

Claudia Gadelha stood on one side of the Octagon, Tina Lahdemaki on the other. UFC play-by-play man Jon Anik welcomed viewers watching on Fight Pass to "beautiful Atlantic City,” which seemed like a joke on Anik by the folks in the production truck attempting to see if Anik, Ron Burgundy-style, would say whatever they threw up on a teleprompter.

Why the first women’s strawweight fight in UFC history was on Fight Pass is perhaps a debate for a different day. What was not debatable was that Gadelha and Lahdemaki kicked off an entire division—one that will not begin in earnest until the landmark 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter concludes with a bout to crown its first champion in December—in a style befitting a promotion whose biggest attraction is a woman.

We do not yet know who will become the Ronda Rousey of the strawweight division. Perhaps no one will, though it is a division long in talent and intrigue.

There is Carla Esparza, the former Invicta strawweight champion who is the odds-on favorite to wade through the competition in the house and earn a berth in the finals. There is Felice Herrig, who by all accounts has taken her very public act into the house where, if rumors are to be believed, she has quickly become the least popular woman in the division.

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AP Images

Neither Donald Cerrone nor Jim Miller has ever headlined a UFC pay-per-view.

Neither guy has ever been champion (or even fought for UFC gold).

Both are eternally kicking around the bottom half of the lightweight Top 10, and though they each come into Wednesday's UFC Fight Night 45 main event riding a modest win streak, they've lost their most recent bouts against top-flight competition.

Still, this fight, man. This fight.

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USA Today

UFC fans have grown spoiled over the years.

This is not debatable. It is fact. Diehard fans of any sport will find a way to argue anything, and I am being quite literal in my usage of the term "literal."

You have a personal list of your own favorite fighters? You can be certain that someone is waiting around the bend, salivating for a chance to tell you why you are a wrong-headed idiot. There is no such thing as personal preference in fandom, because your preference might be different than the guy sitting next to you, and he knows more than you, anyway, because he trains full contact five days a week, bro.

Anything you can think of can be argued, no matter how mundane. You think that, with some proper seasoning, the newly signed Holly Holm is a potential threat to Ronda Rousey's championship reign? No. You're wrong, because this other guy says so. You think Anderson Silva was better than Fedor Emelianenko? You're an idiot, because this other guy says so.

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USA Today

We've taken a look at the state of the UFC's heavyweight, light heavyweight, welterweight and lightweight divisions. Today, there is no better time than to move one step down from 205 pounds to the middleweight land of reigning king Chris Weidman and those who seek to usurp the throne.

Middleweight is perhaps the UFC's most interesting division in 2014. It has a new-ish champion atop the division who just proved that his two wins over the greatest fighter of all time may have not been a fluke after all. We also have a bevy of challengers making their way to the top of the division, and most of them bring fresh and interesting stylistic matchups.

Without any further fuss, let's take a look at the UFC middleweight landscape.


The Title Picture

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Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today

A third fight between Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn never made much sense.

Less and less so every second they actually spent together in the cage.

Edgar was declared the winner on Sunday after three miserable rounds of lopsided action, but even he didn’t feel much like celebrating. He’d battered and humiliated fan favorite Penn en route to a TKO in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 19 live finale, and he understood it brought a melancholy end to a weekend of UFC events on back-to-back nights.

“It’s a bittersweet victory,” Edgar told play-by-play announcer Jon Anik after it was finally over. “I said I wanted to finish him because he’s never been finished and (because of) how tough he was, but I almost feel bad about it.”

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John Locher/AP Images

After each of his fights against Anderson Silva during 2013, Chris Weidman was rightfully announced as the undisputed UFC middleweight champion.

Maybe now people will finally stop disputing it.

Weidman answered his many critics Saturday at UFC 175, earning his stripes as 185-pound kingpin with a unanimous-decision victory over Lyoto Machida in a bout that will no doubt wind up on many Fight of the Year ballots.

In the process, Weidman proved that his previous two victories over Silva were no flukes, that he deserves his place among the very best fighters at any weight and—perhaps most importantly—that he can take a hard shot and keep his torrid pace over five full rounds.

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USA Today

Ronda Rousey, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's biggest star, sent her fame soaring to unprecedented heights with a 16-second knockout win over Alexis Davis at UFC 175.

It wasn't just the speed, though there was plenty of that. It was Rousey's efficiency, the way she effortlessly transitioned from striking to grappling.

The champion stormed out of the gate with strikes, catching one punch to the face during the first exchange. From there, everything happened far too quickly for Davis to comprehend; Rousey landed a left hook that staggered Davis and then a knee to the body.

And then, in a move Rousey has executed countless times during her career as a judoka, she grabbed Davis in a headlock and sent her soaring, flipping her with a picture-perfect throw. Rousey landed on top of Davis and immediately began punching her in the face. Davis, who had never recovered from the first left hook and the shock of being tossed on her head, went limp. The fight was stopped.

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AP Images

Just in case anyone was wondering, UFC President Dana White wants us all to know the state of his company is strong, thank you very much.

"Business has never been better for us,” White told Yahoo’s Kevin Iole this week, bolstered by healthy live-gate figures from the UFC’s recent shows in New Zealand and San Antonio, as well as his estimation that paid attendance for UFC 175 could top $5 million.

Iole wrote White “angrily scoffed” at recent criticisms that the world’s largest MMA organization is spreading itself too thin, quoting the bombastic UFC boss saying he was “just sick of listening to it, because it's so (expletive) stupid and wrong. People are (expletive) without any facts.”

Not that he’d tell us if anything was wrong, mind you. The UFC guards most of its financials as state secrets, so any effort to gauge the promotion’s health necessarily includes a lot of conjecture. It would be easier on everyone if the company opened its books, but so long as it won’t, we all have to make do with the information that is available.

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AP Images

Ronda Rousey is the biggest star in the known universe.

This may not be the most truthful statement ever written. But it feels that way, here in one of the many rooms that make up the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Rousey, clad in a gray Marilyn Monroe shirt, black leather jacket, designer Chuck Taylors and a gold Octagon necklace, is holding court on a small stage constructed specifically for her.

To Rousey’s left is UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. He is discussing his title defense against Lyoto Machida in the main event of UFC 175 on Saturday night. He has twice beaten the best fighter in the history of MMA. He is young, athletic and good-looking. He is a fight promoter's dream.

There are five reporters standing in front of Weidman's stage; Rousey is surrounded by so many journalists and cameras that it's difficult to see her.