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Monday, February 4, 2013
Competitive fights define UFC 156

By Josh Gross
ESPN.com

Expectations were ramped up over the weekend in Las Vegas, and UFC 156 delivered in more ways than one. The top of the card produced a memorable championship fight, while the rest included a series of division-jarring upsets.

Throughout the night, these things stood out to me:

• The recent additions from Strikeforce were in no way outgunned. Isaac Vallie-Flagg pressured Yves Edwards into a split decision win. Bobby Green looked as good as I've ever seen him, pulling off a shocker of a rear-naked choke against Jacob Volkmann. And Tyron Woodley was downright evil against Jay Hieron. This indicates that fighters who can scrap will do so regardless of the promotion that signs them. That's why I always pay attention to the men in the cage, not the promotional partner they are tied to. There's a lesson here for people who opt instead to believe that if a fight doesn't happen in the UFC, it doesn't matter.

• It's the same old song and dance in the officiating department. Referee Kim Winslow's standup of Green as he worked over Volkmann from top position was so wrong. Like really awful.

• The pay-per-view portion of the card was as competitive as I thought it would be. True enough, I managed a meager 1-4 on picks (only had Benavidez correct), but its was clear that Joe Silva and Sean Shelby booked incredibly close matches. Anything was possible, as we saw.

• During fight week, it was announced that UFC would implement official rankings. This is tricky territory for the UFC (dare I say unnecessary and potentially risky) and it didn't take long to see why. After Jose Aldo dispatched Frankie Edgar, Ricardo Lamas and Chan Sung Jung were immediately thought to be next in line based on what they've done recently at 145. That's fine and makes sense. But because lightweight Anthony "Showtime" Pettis texted UFC president Dana White that he could make 145, a guy who never fought at the weight and, unlike Edgar, hasn't won a UFC title, could very well be up next. I'm having a difficult time envisioning Zuffa ceding matchmaking control to these newfangled rankings.

• The first glimpse of Zuffa's marketing for UFC 157 hit TVs during the pay-per-view portion. This, of course, includes the Ronda Rousey-Liz Carmouche bout at the top, which is why it was noticeable (not in a positive way) that the promotion opted to go with something as trite as "They'll break more than your heart." I can't remember UFC ever marketing a men's fight this way. They should do better in this department.