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To borrow a phrase from former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, UFC 189 has been in “chicken salad” mode for more than a week now.

From the moment reports surfaced that featherweight champion Jose Aldo had broken a rib during the final stages of his training camp, our hopes for an epic clash with Conor McGregor on July 11 began to dim. On Tuesday, we learned for sure that Aldo was out and Chad Mendes was in against McGregor, with an interim title on the line.

Considering the regrettable circumstances, this was about as good as matchmakers were going to do. And hey, it’s still pretty good.

Better, in fact, than seeing McGregor take on some lesser, hobbled version of Aldo.

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For Yoel Romero, perhaps the trick will be avoiding any further episodes of foot-in-mouth disease just long enough for him to fight for the middleweight title.

A few days removed from his stunning third-round TKO win over Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 70, most of the headlines about Romero are still fixated on the fighter’s bizarre postfight comments, rather than his actual performance in the cage.

That must be disappointing for Romero. He turned in the most complete and impressive showing of his career on Saturday, walking through Machida’s kicks to his legs and body, landing his own punches with shocking regularity and finishing the fight mere seconds after dropping Machida with a beautiful takedown in the early stages of the final stanza.

Then again, what do you expect? You can’t use your mic time on live TV to deliver an incomprehensible diatribe aimed—probably, maybe—at the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent legalization of gay marriage without expecting it to completely overshadow the biggest victory of your life.

Bellator MMA

It was either going to be quick, or it was going to be bad.

Those were about the only two options Friday night, when Bellator MMA dusted off 51-year-old Ken Shamrock to fight 41-year-old Kimbo Slice in a nationally televised main event bout.

Luckily for almost everyone involved—with the notable exception of Shamrock—it was the former.

Slice saw to that, surviving a deep rear-naked choke attempt and flattening Shamrock with a winging right hand in just two minutes, 22 seconds. Along the way, Bellator MMA pulled off the unthinkable, squeezing a halfway entertaining fight out of two middle-aged men who had not competed in MMA since 2010.

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There has obviously been no end of name calling between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor during their lengthy, well-publicized feud over the UFC featherweight title.

As the two archrivals continue to skip gleefully down the path toward an epic grudge match and a mutually beneficial payday at UFC 189, they’ve hurled every offensive and profane thing they can think of at each other.

Frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Of late, however, the discourse has gotten truly nasty. As the build to this fight enters the home stretch, Aldo and McGregor have each resorted to the vilest, most insulting slur in all of MMA marketing.

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Nobody thought Gilbert Melendez would start his UFC career 1-3.

The former Strikeforce lightweight champion had just been too good during a decade spent fighting elsewhere. By the time the UFC absorbed Melendez with the rest of Strikeforce at beginning of 2013, he’d amassed a record of 21-2 and had deeply ensconced himself among the top 155-pounders in the world.

At the time, Melendez was considered perhaps the biggest prize of that acquisition. During the ensuing couple of years, however, he hasn’t soared to the heights of fellow Strikeforce alums like Ronda Rousey, Daniel Cormier or Fabricio Werdum. In fact, when Melendez dropped a particularly tough split-decision verdict to Eddie Alvarez last weekend at UFC 188, it raised some disquieting questions about his future.

Have we seen the last of Gilbert Melendez as a top contender?

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Since the beginning, the only real constants in the UFC heavyweight division have been disorder and delay.

Even in a sport that so often thrives on chaos, the 265-pound class has always been an abject mess. It stumbles from one calamity to the next, stuck in perpetual rebuilding mode, as one champion after another proves incapable of being the breakout star it so desperately needs.

This is the way it has always been and maybe the way it will always be.

So when Fabricio Werdum toppled Cain Velasquez to claim sole possession of the heavyweight title on June 13 at UFC 188, he may have defied the odds and made fools of most prognosticators, but his victory really only confirmed the one thing we know for sure about this weight class:

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While the loudest cheers no doubt came from Fabricio Werdum's corner, the new UFC heavyweight champion's extended entourage weren't the only interested parties watching his fight with longtime champion Cain Velasquez at UFC 188 closely. 

Sitting ringside was Junior dos Santos, until now Velasquez's greatest rival. And the Brazilian slugger was no doubt smiling from ear to ear when Werdum choked the champion out in the third round. 

To most dos Santos is, at worst, the third-best heavyweight in the world. He's beaten six of the big boys in the UFC's top-15 rankings, most in spectacular fashion. In a perfect world, he'd have been the perfunctory top contender, just waiting word of the winner so he could properly prepare his training camp.

The problem, simply put, was Velasquez. The two men had already met three times in the Octagon. After dos Santos' stunning knockout victory in the very first UFC fight broadcast on network television, Velasquez quickly went about setting the record straight. In the last two, Cain starched dos Santos in dominant performances, the kind of savage beatings that are hard to forget. 

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In the end, there was just too much working against Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez for them to really do their yearslong rivalry justice.

It might have been foolish for us to ever expect they could.

Alvarez and Melendez had many battles to fight on Saturday at UFC 188. They had to overcome not only the weight of a beef dating back to their days as rival champions of smaller organizations, but the stamina-sucking altitude of Mexico City and—for Alvarez, at least—a badly swollen left eye, which plagued him through nearly the entire bout.

If their long-awaited grudge match gave us anything, however, it was a close-up lens on the former Bellator MMA 155-pound champ’s toughness.

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Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez both took the scenic route to the UFC.

For better or worse, Alvarez and Melendez both spent the heart of their careers toiling in smaller organizations, where they became lightweight champions and gained reputations as fearsome, all-action fighters.

Had their UFC 188 co-main event gone down a few years ago—say, anytime from 2009-11, the approximate span when Alvarez’s reign in Bellator MMA and Melendez’s dominance over Strikeforce overlapped—it might have been considered a bona fide dream fight.

As it stands, their scrap will still likely be worth the price of admission and is the odds-on favorite to scoop up Fight of the Night honors.

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In October 2013, UFC heavyweight Cain Velasquez dispatched his greatest rival with disturbing ease. Junior dos Santos, the second-best heavyweight in the world, didn't even come close to giving the champ a fight.

With contemporary challengers looking both helpless and hapless, attention turned to Velasquez's place in the sport's history. It was clear he stood alone among his peers and was starting to shoulder up with established all-time greats in Fedor Emelianenko and Randy Couture.

While the aforementioned was fun to ponder, a funny thing happened on the way to the UFC Hall of Fame.

Since that fateful night in Houston, Velasquez hasn't stepped into the cage once, slowed by a rotator cuff injury and knee surgery. His bout against Fabricio Werdum on Saturday at UFC 188 in Mexico City will be his first in nearly 20 months.