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USA Today

Demetrious Johnson takes another one for the team Saturday night.

Since becoming the UFC’s inaugural flyweight champion two years ago, Johnson has been nothing short of a workhorse for the world’s largest MMA company. His main event bout against Chris Cariaso at UFC 178 this weekend will mark his fifth defense of the 125-pound title and his third fight in roughly nine months.

For obvious reasons, it also shapes up as something of a no-win situation for the 28-year-old AMC Pankration fighter.

This meeting with Cariaso felt so random as to be plucked from a hat when the fight company announced it in July. Word of it came less than a week after expected challenger John Dodson revealed he needed knee surgery and just a few days before Ian McCall and John Lineker had the chance to emerge as more fitting replacements.

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USA Today

Donald Cerrone and Eddie Alvarez are going to get in the Octagon on Saturday night. They’re going to fight.

It is probably going to be awesome. I never want to pull the Mike Goldberg/Joe Rogan jinx and say "there is no way this fight will be boring" or "there is no way this one will go to the judges." Because when you say those sorts of things, you guarantee two things: (1) that it will be the most boring fight you have ever seen and (2) that it will certainly go to the judges' scorecards.

I don't want to be that jinx. Not for Alvarez and Cerrone. I've been looking forward to this fight for far too long.

So instead, I'll just say I think it's going to be a great fight. It'll probably be the fight of the night, and I will live in forever happy bliss with my memories of the time when two of the more exciting fighters in the world got in the Octagon and, in the words of my Bleacher Report colleague Chad Dundas, did the damn thing.

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Eric Jamison/AP Images

It seems ridiculous considering his placement on this weekend's UFC 178 preliminaries, but, believe it or not, bantamweight Dominick Cruz was once one of the most dominant champions in UFC history. At the height of his career, just entering his athletic prime at 26, he was nearly untouchable. 

All the great little men of the era gave him a tumble—Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson.

None of them came close.

After dispatching Faber, his great rival, at UFC 132, and Johnson on the Versus Network, Cruz was firmly entrenched in the sport's pound-for-pound top 10 as 2011 came to a close. 

He was purpose-driven and only growing as a fighter. Against Johnson, matched for the first time in the speed department, he relied on a strong wrestling game to secure a decision. He was no one-trick pony, dancing around the cage in a confusing, chaotic whirlwind of lanky limbs, part kickboxer and part flamenco artist. Cruz contained multitudes.  

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Gregory Payan/AP Images

Growing up in Dublin, Conor McGregor was just like every other Irish boy.

Which is to say, McGregor grew up with dreams of playing football. In a family filled with fans of Manchester United—for many Irish, United are a way of life despite the club's location in another country—McGregor followed suit. When he was eight years old, he'd pull on his United kit, walk outside and kick the ball against the wall of the family home. When he scored an imaginary goal, he launched into an imaginary celebration, running around the yard and picturing 100,000 fans packing Old Trafford, all screaming his name.

In that way, McGregor was preparing himself for his future life. The football fandom would eventually fade away. Today, McGregor couldn't name a single member of Louis van Gaal's 2014-2015 United squad. He is still surrounded by the football and United-mad Irish in Dublin, but McGregor is no longer part of that world.

But no matter how much things change for McGregor, one thing remains the same: Even as a child, running around the yard in his United kit, McGregor wanted to be a star.

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Yoel Romero spent much of the last 18 months establishing himself as the UFC middleweight division’s most wonderfully weird newcomer.

Romero is the hulking Olympic wrestling silver medalist who prefers flying knees and standing elbows to double-leg takedowns (though he’s got those, too). At 37 years old, his physique looks carved out of granite, and even though he comes to press conferences dressed like a lost cast member from Newsies, his mild mannerisms don’t quite convince us he’s the benevolent kind of monster.

His unconventional southpaw striking style is nonchalant—borderline lackadaisical, really—until suddenly it turns murderous. He’s jetted to 4-0 in the Octagon since an April 2013 debut, including three knockouts, all while occasionally looking like he has no idea what he’s doing out there.

Saturday at UFC 178, Romero takes the biggest leap of his short career, meeting Tim Kennedy in a bout that likely leaves the winner a stone’s throw from a title shot. As of this writing, the Cuba native and American Top Team product is going off as a slight favorite, but it’s also not unreasonable to wonder if Romero’s oddball style is just waiting for someone like Kennedy to come along and undress it.

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UFC 178 was a long time coming for Eddie Alvarez.

It took nearly two years of legal wrangling, followed by wholesale regime change to disentangle the Bellator lightweight champion from his previous place of work. When Alvarez enters the Octagon on Saturday opposite 155-pound mainstay Donald Cerrone, it will probably feel like something close to freedom.

That’s the good news here—that after considerable ugliness and bad feelings all around, Alvarez will finally arrive at the destination he set into his GPS back in October 2012. Perhaps the better news, especially for those of us on the outside looking in, is that he gets the chance to prove he’s really the guy we believed him to be all along.

For Alvarez, nothing short of an impressive victory over Cerrone will do if he means to make his case as one of the best lightweights in the world—that is, if he wants to show that Eddie Alvarez the fighter is in the same league as Eddie Alvarez the idea.

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There's something so cool about UFC heavyweight Mark Hunt (10-8-1)—entrancing even. He's a human paradox, a man whose very existence defies the carefully crafted rules that govern the world of combat sports.

A gargantuan with neck tattoos and fists of granite, he should be one of the scariest men alive. A man who beats people up for a living definitely shouldn't exude such zen and peace, even in the midst of carnage.

And yet...

In the cage there are no secrets, not when Hunt, 40, is fighting. His game is simple as games go. He wants you to make a mistake, to duck your head just a little too low, leave your chin unprotected just a little too long. And then he pounces. A man that size, old and fat to be frank, shouldn't be able to move like that.

And yet...

A fighter who once lost six in a row, who has been hit in the head over and over again, by everyone from Jerome Le Banner to Antonio Silva, doesn't belong among the top 10 fighters in his weight class. He's at the point of his career when most are little more than punching bags. He lost to Sean McCorkle, for God's sake; he shouldn't be in contention for a UFC title.

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USA Today

If you follow me on Twitter—and let's be honest with each other, you have no reason not to—you've no doubt seen me trumpeting my excitement for Saturday's UFC 178 card.

For months.

Ever since this card started taking shape, it was clear it would be the answer to any of our ongoing concerns about pay-per-view events not measuring up to the expectations we build up within ourselves. Back then, of course, the main event was going to be Jon Jones defending the light heavyweight title against Daniel Cormier, and it was going to be grand.

That went up in smoke, however—or at least in a cloud of Albuquerque dust—when Alistair Overeem injured the champ's knee while training.

Even without that promised and anticipated main event, UFC 178 is one of the best cards I can remember. It is filled with fights I can't wait to see. Folks, this is the fight card where Eddie Alvarez makes his UFC debut, and he's doing it against Donald Cerrone! It's like Joe Silva was sitting in his home office, thinking of me and me alone, when he decided to make this fight happen.

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Chances are, Jon Jones will never have another 2011.

To say that year was a good one for the UFC light heavyweight champion is a drastic understatement. Simply put, Jones’ 2011 may well go down as the greatest individual year any MMA fighter has ever had.

Jones won four straight fights during that calendar turn, capturing the 205-pound title and defeating three former light heavyweight champions in a row in Shogun Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto Machida. Unfortunately, the ensuing three years haven’t been quite as stellar for him.

Sure, there were high spots—he beat Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort to run his streak to five straight former champs vanquished, for example—but there have also been injuries, underwhelming matchups and a string of public relations gaffes.

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Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Veteran mixed martial arts fighter Wanderlei Silva has filed a reply in support of motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction in the case brought against him by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

The motion was filed on Tuesday by Silva's Las Vegas-based lawyer, Ross Goodman, and was stamped as received by the Nevada Attorney General's administration office on Wednesday. Bleacher Report obtained a copy of the reply from Goodman Law Group. A full version of the reply may be viewed here.

Goodman told Bleacher Report that the motion is set to be heard on September 23.

The Attorney General's office filed a formal complaint against Silva on August 5 after the fighter fled from a random drug screening earlier this year. The complaint urged the Nevada Athletic Commission to punish Silva for evading a random drug screening during the lead-up to his scheduled fight with Chael Sonnen earlier this year.