5789a4f8bb9b3fe44101ad4cf20d9771_crop_north
USA Today

The UFC heavyweight division is a pretty weird place right now.

Weirder than normal, even.

It was hard to shake that strangeness on Wednesday night, watching 36-year-old UFC lifer Frank Mir fell 29-year-old powerhouse Todd Duffee like a stick of lumber in the main event of Fight Night 71.

The 265-pound class has long been one of the oldest, shallowest wells on the roster. This year, however, it’s starting to seem like—to borrow a phrase from new interim featherweight champ Conor McGregor—the distinguished elders of the heavyweight division aren’t just here to take part.

They’re here to take over.

Mir’s victory over Duffee was his second first-round stoppage in a row and his second this year, extending an improbable turnaround after he went 0-4 from 2012 to 2014. Even Mir seemed a bit surprised about how it all went down once he had a few minutes to reflect on it.

1fb03c2ae109350274ca54bae68d8d29_crop_north
Getty Images

Last weekend, Conor McGregor cemented himself as the biggest star in the UFC with his knockout win over Chad Mendes at UFC 189.

It was one for the history books, capping off a thrilling fight card that ranks among the best main cards in UFC history. The atmosphere, the crowd, the entrances: All of it set McGregor up to make a statement, and that's exactly what he did.

But then on Sunday, the UFC announced that McGregor would coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter against Urijah Faber. Social media groaned; why were the UFC so intent on overexposing McGregor? Wouldn't it be better to just put him on the sidelines for a few months, to make the fans desperate to see him?

To discuss the UFC's decision to name McGregor as a TUF coach, Jeremy Botter and Jonathan Snowden got together to answer the question: Is too much Conor McGregor a bad thing?

B4209df5b852e2de3fa11c2e69eb9793_crop_north
AP Images

Nobody makes a clean break.

If any knowledge can be gained from Tuesday’s announcement that 38-year-old Fedor Emelianenko is plotting a return to the cage, perhaps that’s it. It doesn’t seem to matter who you are or where you’re from, once MMA gets its hooks in you, it’s awfully hard to get free.

This is even true, it appears, for Emelianenko—the man who marched through a 12-year, 39-fight career during the sport’s golden age without ever showing us much more than a stoic gaze and a murderous right hand. It’s true for the guy who was already regarded as the greatest heavyweight of all time. It’s true for the guy who never gave any indication that he wanted anything other than to live simply in his obscure Russian hometown, surrounded by his family, friends and his religion.

If that guy can’t walk away? Man, it must be damn near impossible.

B735b6967f55925451de814774988ce5_crop_north
USA Today

Aside from questionable taste in chest tattoos, perhaps there are no obvious similarities between the UFC’s newest male superstar and its last one.

Yet, the further Conor McGregor stomps into the forefront of the MMA world, the more his meteoric journey is reminiscent of Brock Lesnar’s rise to power in the UFC six years ago—and maybe sniffs of Lesnar’s eventual fall, too.

Sound crazy? On the surface, these two men seem like complete opposites.

Lesnar was an enormous man from the upper Midwest, for starters. He was a brooding, disagreeable fighter who always seemed more at ease lugging a deer carcass through the underbrush than allowing mere mortals to ask him questions or take his picture. An NCAA champion at 23 and superstar pro wrestler by age 25, Lesnars lucrative athletic future was never really in doubt.

31868ae2d6237df07ee1e997ec01bcc3_crop_north
USA Today

On a UFC 189 fight card that at times felt like a flying leap into MMA’s future, Robbie Lawler served up an old-school slugfest in the evening’s co-main event.

It turns out you can drape Lawler in his brand-new Reebok “champion’s kit,” overhaul the pay-per-view broadcast with fancy retooled graphics and summon some technological wizardry to project hype videos on the actual floor of the Octagon, but the UFC welterweight champion is still going to do what he’s been doing since he was 19 years old.

Now 33, he just does it better than ever.

Lawler shifted through a number of familiar gears during the 21 minutes he spent in the cage with Rory MacDonald on Saturday night. He went from laid back to deadly serious and back again as the two put on a brawl that lifted an already stellar PPV.

7fbc6dbc17ddad020edf7648a6cc773b_crop_north
USA Today

One way or another, we’re all going to get smarter.

No matter how things go for Conor McGregor against Chad Mendes on Saturday at UFC 189 in Las Vegas, we’ll come out of it with a clearer idea of what kind of fighter McGregor can truly be.

Until now, we’ve had to take his word for it. He’s jetted to a 5-0 record in the UFC and has dispatched everyone matchmakers have handed him with extreme prejudice. He had never fought anybody as good as Jose Aldo, his intended opponent, however, and—even now that the true featherweight champion is out with a rib injury—he’s never fought anybody like Mendes, either.

You might say this matchup is going to go a long way toward separating the facts from the fiction about McGregor. That’s important, since the brash Irishman has spent his entire UFC career spinning fantastical yarns about his own ability. If nothing else, it’ll be nice to finally do some fact-checking on McGregor’s wild tales.

02cc5ea88fe136db002b7f67679667cf_crop_north
USA Today

It’s always awkward when you know a fight promoter has a rooting interest.

In the case of Saturday’s UFC 189 main event between Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes, it doesn’t take a lick of guesswork to figure out what ownership wants to happen. We know it for a stone-cold fact, because the UFC’s first preference had already been on the books for months: to have McGregor fight Jose Aldo in a high-profile grudge match for the featherweight title.

The fight company had booked that fight, put it on billboards, produced a documentary series about it and bankrolled at least one stunning and pricey television commercial to advertise it.

In all, UFC President Dana White said the company spent $10 million promoting the fight. The more conspiracy-minded might even tell you the UFC had orchestrated it from the beginning, feeding McGregor a series of overmatched, stand-up-oriented opponents for the express purpose of quickly and publicly building him into the division’s top contender.

8533cad75c2aa1b0734c9dcece4835ee_crop_north
USA Today

The full extent to which the world was ignoring Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald didn’t hit home until the top trending topic of UFC 189 became Jose Aldo’s ribs.

That’s saying something, since we had already overlooked Saturday’s UFC Welterweight Championship fight between Lawler and MacDonald for months. From the moment the UFC made the pragmatic but precedent-bucking decision to make Aldo’s featherweight title defense against Conor McGregor this pay-per-view’s main event, we pretty much knew how things were going to go.

McGregor and Aldo got all the headlines. They got the “world tour.” They got the documentary series and the late-night talk show appearances.

Lawler and MacDonald? They got mostly bupkis.

2e5b61a94c28a8ac47ca950efebf34f4_crop_north
Getty Images

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.

250ec5c9322f7b4df89970ecd9178ef1_crop_north
AP Images

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.