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Lytle serves up lesson at UFC Live 5

8/17/2011

A rare Sunday excursion for the Ultimate Fighting Championship meant fight fans had three straight nights of televised mixed mixed martial arts to watch, were they so inclined to do so.

I'm guessing most weren't, which isn't meant to be an indictment of their fandom. Why would they take the time, really?

Friday night featured a Strikeforce Challengers card, propositioned as a place for prospects, lacking a noteworthy up-and-comer on the men's side. Ronda Rousey, a dangerous 24-year-old female pugilist, was definitely worth watching -- so long as the officials let her fight.

Unfortunately, referee Steve Mazzagatti did his thing again and completely botched the end. Battling for an armbar against Sarah D'Alelio, Rousey, a bronze medal judo player for the U.S. in Beijing, told Mazzagatti she heard a verbal tap. Mazzagatti clearly didn't, he hesitated, then moved in to stop the contest.

This, unfortunately, was the only noteworthy event on the card.

On Saturday, fans were asked to drop $30 for a card full of familiar (i.e. old) names. Most have and/or had little to offer the fight world, yet a bit of good news emerged from the mire.

Jens Pulver won in his bantamweight debut. The former UFC lightweight champion actually appeared to have some life at 135 pounds. He wasn't terribly drawn down at weigh-ins, and came off as fresh and ready to fight Coty "Ox" Wheeler, who made for a nice place to start.

Pulver (25-15) showed pop in his left hand and dropped Wheeler several times en route to a second-round stoppage. Does any of this suggest a return to glory for "Little Evil?" I doubt it, but for one night at least he looked like the old Jens.

I'm not going to waste your time with analysis of whatever it was Junie Browning failed to accomplish. Nor do I believe Houston Alexander is destined to do much at light heavyweight again, despite beating Razak Al-Hassan for his fourth straight win.

Since we're all about grades here, Strikeforce Challengers and MMA Fight Pit: Genesis earned a combined C-.

As for the focus of the weekend, Sunday's UFC event in Milwaukee, well, that one was terrific thanks to the efforts of Ben Henderson, Chris Lytle, Donald Cerrone and Ed Herman.

Before we get to the grades, a few words on the retired Lytle.

There's a reason Lytle earned $515,000 in performance bonuses over the course of his eight-year UFC career. He decided to forgo any hope of being a contender. In that decision, somewhere, was the realization from him and his promoter that he simply didn't have what it took to be a champion. But against the right kind of opponents, Lytle was certainly capable of entertaining contests, and so that was the focus of his career after losing on points to Matt Serra in 2006.

What's the lesson here?

Know your limitations and play up your strengths.

That's what Lytle did. That's what the UFC did. That's why he stuck around and, in spots, excelled. Lytle was not a top-10 fighter, but he didn't care. And, in the end, neither did many other people, including the people that paid him for his services.

Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.