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Old 03-19-2014, 08:42 PM
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Default Signal to Noise: UFC 171's best and worst

From MMAFighting.com (By Luke Thomas on Mar 18 2014, 2:00p):
UFC 171 had a lot to offer on the good and bad side. Sure, there was insanely indefensible scorecards in close bouts, but the crowd was enormous, the fights mostly delivered, a new champion was crowned in an instant classic main event and there's still plenty more welterweight action to chew on.

It's time to separate the winners from the losers, the good from the bad and the signal from the noise.

Best Fight: Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
I've been trying to put my finger on what I liked about this fight so much. Partly it's the basic construct: two elite fighters in a bout of significance with enough time to and space, i.e. five rounds, it let the action and drama breathe. That's a necessary condition of it's greatness, but not sufficient. It was more than that. The bout was contested at close striking quarters for almost its entirety, thereby giving the audience a constant feeling of everything being on the precipice of sudden, violent change. But perhaps more than that, it was just nice to see two high-level welterweights compete in such as way that was as technical as it was blood and guts. Everything both did revolved around years of preparation and skill development, yet was exacted in this cauldron of mutually-assured destruction. This is what fighting is supposed to look like, or at least, this is a great example of what high-level fighting can look like. This is the sort of fighting that pulls in fans, creates allegiances and inspires as much loyalty as it does action.

It's also something that is regrettably rarer these days, both by UFC matchmaking and fighter choices. For my buck as a consumer, this is what I look for in upper echelon mixed martial arts. I want something that can't really be replicated anywhere else. On Saturday night, fans were treated to welterweight action of a variety and level that couldn't possibly have existed anywhere else in the world. It's that exclusivity that makes it special.

This Guy Gets It Award: Tyron Woodley
It's difficult to walk away after speaking with or hearing Woodley speak and not think the guy is ultra impressive. Here is a fighter who gathers that lobbying for better opportunities consists not merely in what happens during fights, but before and after. Moreover, he does so with an appropriate understanding of how matchmaking works, which talking points and messaging matter, why certain fighters are popular and where he fits into the entire scheme. I can't remember the last time I saw a fighter effortlessly navigate the space of contendership while making sure they touched on every area of need and sensitivity along the way to get what they want. It's comforting to see a fighter understand and make use of all the resources at their disposal to lay claim to what they believe is theirs for the taking.

Most Pressing Problem That Didn't Get Solved: Welterweight contendership
I don't have a strong opinion about what to do with the welterweight division moving forward. I know many others do. I saw all sorts of permutations floated as the way to move forward. Some want Tyron Woodley to get the title shot. Others believe Woodley should fight Hector Lombard. S