2c7a6a2c509e3ecc098e791b2a0518a5_crop_north
USA Today

Say this much for Michael Bisping: The man is a professional.

From the outside looking in, it’d be easy to greet Bisping’s latest assignment with one of the brash Brit’s trademark sneers. Cung Le? In China? As the headliner of an early-morning fight card airing only on the UFC’s Internet subscription service?

Surely Bisping deserves better than that.

Granted, he’s had a tough go of it recently, scuffling to a 2-3 record since the beginning of 2012. But after eight years and 20 fights as one of the UFC’s most polarizing figures, this seems decidedly beneath his station.

052940f9570c60db30f0b80195f25d79_crop_north
Getty Images

If you were looking for a reason to wake up at 6:30 a.m. ET to watch the preliminary card for the UFC's latest return to Macau, China, on Saturday, well, I've got nothing for you.

That's a little early in the morning when all you have to look forward to is Danny Mitchell vs. Wang Sai in a preliminary "main event."

The idea of a main event for a preliminary card is one of the dumbest things the UFC has created in recent years, and it is even sillier when it features two men named Danny Mitchell and Wang Sai.

But if you are the obsessive type and are still riding a high from Saturday's mostly excellent fight card from Maineor perhaps Sunday's even better WWE SummerSlamthen perhaps it is worth waking up at 9 a.m. ET to see Michael Bisping and Cung Le invade The Venetian Macau.

7864ce65d0497ec2ec7ed250e439e6f0_crop_north
USA Today

There were times when it seemed like nobody wanted to be there.

Ryan Bader succeeded only in spurts, Ovince Saint Preux finished looking lost and tired, and as the clock crept past 1 a.m. local time in Bangor, Maine, many spectators began to openly wonder if the UFC Fight Night 47 main event really needed five rounds.

In the end, the better-prepared, better-rounded Bader asserted a kind of dominance, winning a unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46) over the overmatched Saint Preux. With it, he ran his win streak to three consecutive fights and will likely improve on his No. 8 standing in the UFC’s official light heavyweight rankings.

Whether any other spoils are in store for him remains unclear.

208f3305a3d5c914c90efc8ca75a3140_crop_north
USA Today

Lauren Murphy hit Sara McMann a whopping 193 times Saturday night in Bangor, Maine, banging her about the head over and over again over the course of 15 minutes. McMann, in return, scored less than one-third as many blows, with a relatively paltry 64 punches landing cleanly on her opponent.

On paper, with just those stats in hand, you'd expect an easy decision win. The blitzkrieg from Murphy was never-ending—in fact, she landed a strike every 4.66 seconds. But when the decision was read, McMann's name was called twice and Murphy's oncea split-decision win for the heavily favored wrestler. When the decision was read, McMann's face lit up in an unabashed smile. Murphy's fell, if only momentarily, as she lost her composure, however briefly.

And me? I just shook my head. The wrestler's bias, once again, had reared its ugly head, and another fight was stolen from the hands of the rightful winner. New week, same story. 

It wasn't always like this. The early days of MMA, in fact, were spent re-educating the audience about what a fight would look like if athletes weren't confined by the artificial constraints of boxing. It turned outsurprising absolutely no one who had ever seen two lugs rolling around on the groundthat fights all too often hit the mat. 

Hi-res-fa3f5c95b59ad02cff4599f2f713c596_crop_north
USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps more than anything else, UFC Fight Night 47 has positioning going for it.

The Octagon makes its first trip to Maine on Saturday in the UFC's first fight card in 21 days. By the measure of 2014's jam-packed live event schedule, that's basically an eternity. With a week's worth of mostly bad news also clogging our timelines at the moment, it's easy to get the impression fight fans are just going to, you know, want to watch some fights this weekend.

To that end, Saturday night looks just right. Despite a head-scratcher of a main event, this event serves up a handful of other interesting attractions.

But what will happen? Exactly? Glad you asked. Here, Bleacher Report MMA lead writers Chad Dundas and Jonathan Snowden take their best, boldest guesses... 

E0deb45a9310d6ec969ded4b457cbce3_crop_north
USA Today

We constantly hear discussion of Ronda Rousey or Jon Jones being the UFC's biggest pay-per-view draw. But who really has the correct answer? With Brock Lesnar and Georges St-Pierre—easily the UFC's highest-selling stars of the past decade—out of the spotlight, a void has been left for Rousey, Jones and others to step in and stake their claim.

Is it Rousey, the UFC's brightest-shining starlet of the moment? Rousey has captured the attention of fight fans through sheer dominance, and she starts her attempted takeover of Hollywood with the release of The Expendables 3 this Friday. The future is unquestionably bright for Rousey, but does she attract more pay-per-view-buying fans than Jones, who may very well be the best fighter on the planet?

Or is it another champion? I decided I wanted to find out, so I delved into the numbers. Using Dave Meltzer's reported pay-per-view numbers (because, quite frankly, they are the most reliable thing we have available), I charted each current UFC champion.

For each of them, I gave them credit for the pay-per-view number if they were involved in a championship fight on the card. That means it doesn't have to be the main event to count; Ronda Rousey's two co-main event title defenses are absolutely worthy of inclusion for two reasons:

E4b1ef076488f7c2f28a5cf2004e4c80_crop_north
USA Today

It’s easy to feel sorry for a guy like Ryan Bader.

OK—scratch that—more accurately, I suspect it’s easy for fight fans to feel absolutely nothing for a guy like Bader.

As he approaches his Saturday showdown with Ovince Saint Preux at UFC Fight Night 47, the former The Ultimate Fighter winner is likely viewed by most as an athlete whose best days have come and gone without him ever reaching his full potential.

We’ve already seen Bader tested against the best in his division and come up wanting. At 31 years old and 15 fights into his UFC career, he’s a fully known commodity—eternally kicking around the outskirts of the 205-pound top 10, with a fleet of A-listers like Alexander Gustafsson, Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson between him and anything resembling top contender status.

50eaa71b1b3341fa5e65511d77fdec96_crop_north
Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today

Being an MMA fan isn't always easy. Nice things are few and far between. For every truly compelling fight such as like light heavyweight champion Jon Jones vs. Olympian Daniel Cormier, we get our share of random and pointless dreck, a culture informed by the grossest misogyny imaginable and a dark cloud of steroid abuse that continues to linger over the entire sport.  

The fights keep us coming back for more, making the rest of it manageable. At its best MMA is about the triumph of the human will—about science and tactics combining with strength and courage in the most beautiful ways.

Top-level MMA contests between the most gifted and stubborn fighters on the planet represent competition in its purest form. It's primal, ugly and magnificently regal, often in the span of just seconds. Nothing else comes close.

That's why the announcement that an injured Jones has pulled out of his bout with Cormier hurt so much. There are a lot of MMA fights on television. Most of them are random displays of violence between anonymous competitors that either end spectacularly or drone on for a seemingly endless 15 minutes.

B0bc68ebf54f87c76a6f7d0d79f16608_crop_north
Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Michelle Waterson, the Invicta Fighting Championships 105-pound champion, is already reaping the benefits of Invicta's recent broadcast deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Beginning September 6, Invicta events will stream live on Fight Pass, the UFC's digital subscription service. Previous Invicta events aired mostly via Internet pay-per-view, with mixed results; purchasing problems with their pay-per-view partner forced Invicta founder Shannon Knapp to give away her last two events for free. So Knapp signed a deal with the UFC that gives the promotion access to her complete library and allows any subscriber to the Fight Pass service to view Invicta's live events.

Waterson will headline the inaugural Fight Pass event when she defends her championship against Yasuko Tamada at InvictaFC 8. She has been out of action since beating Jessica Penne in April 2013 to capture the Invicta belt, and so the UFC public-relations team has flown Waterson to Las Vegas to begin promotional efforts. She visited the UFC's headquarters on Sahara Avenue, where a makeup artist gave her a once-over before she began a series of video interviews designed to promote her fight.

"They're pampering me," Waterson says with a laugh.

D5cbd0de0d1c6040dce7d0cea4231b97_crop_north
AP Images

For my money, the best part of last week’s instantly infamous off-air SportsCenter squabble between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier comes before either of them even utters a word.

The death threats and trash talk are fine—to borrow a phrase from Nick Diaz, it’s whatever—but the truly golden moment of this exchange emerges the instant Jones decides he’s going to go in on Cormier. You can see it as he fiddles his earpiece into place, a little grin creeping across his face before he opens his mouth and says: “Hey p---y, are you still there?”

And for a moment even Cormier has to laugh.

Whether Jones knew this recording would eventually become public or not, that one mischievous half smile tells us everything we need to know about how the light heavyweight champion is approaching this fight. With their mega-bout looming at UFC 178 on Sept. 27, it’s no accident the notoriously aloof Jones is picking this moment to abruptly lose his cool.