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USA Today

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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USA Today

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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USA Today

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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USA Today

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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USA Today

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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USA Today

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.

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Really quick, let’s lay out the doomsday scenario for T.J. Dillashaw.

The new men’s bantamweight champion is already getting the short end of the stick on Saturday—slated for a nonsensical immediate rematch against Renan Barao on an otherwise dreadful UFC 177 card.

It’s the sort of booking that can only be justified by the fight company’s constantly increasing menu of live events and its subsequent need to furnish them all with headliners—even if those headliners don’t seem marquee-worthy or remotely defensible from a competition-based standpoint.

Dillashaw beat Barao in every imaginable fashion just three months ago at UFC 173, pummeling the former pound-for-pound poster boy for more than 20 minutes before finally finishing him off in the fourth round.

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Tyron Woodley was on Canfield Drive just two days before Michael Brown was gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson.

"I was a one-minute walk away from where it happened," Woodley says. "It was way too close to home."

Woodley was with his three sons, getting his hair cut. He'd been down Canfield Drive many times, because Woodley is part of Ferguson, Missouri.

He grew up in Ferguson. He attended elementary, middle and high school in the Ferguson school district. He lived in one house in Ferguson for 13 years and then moved and lived in another home in Ferguson for 10 years. He went away for college but then moved right back to Ferguson.

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Tyron Woodley does not care if his ideal next opponent is coming off a loss. He does not care if they are ranked two spots lower than him in the UFC's official rankings.

What Woodley cares about is obtaining the kind of fight that can push him closer to a title shot. As Woodley told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview, he has the perfect opponent in mind: Matt Brown, who squandered a seven-fight winning streak when he fell to Robbie Lawler in July.

Woodley believes Brown is the perfect opponent for several reasons.

"It's a hard fight. His tenacity, his conditioning. He's like a walking zombie," Woodley said. "He's a top-five welterweight. He was just one fight away from being in the title picture.

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You didn’t think we were going to get through an entire Benson Henderson fight without a little controversy, did you?

Sorry, but that’s just not how he rolls.

Just as they seemingly always do after his fights, opinions differ on Henderson’s knockout loss to Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 49. Depending on whose social media ramblings you follow, a lot of things may or may not have happened.

Dos Anjos may or may not have stunned Henderson with a flying knee midway through the first round. Henderson may or may not have been out cold after dos Anjos dropped him with a left hook in the ensuing scramble. Referee Big John McCarthy may or may not have been a little quick to stop the fight, as Henderson may or may not have been grappling for position on the ground.