That was the theme in Las Vegas on Saturday night at UFC 175 from the top of the card, right on down to the bottom.
Title holders got the last laugh, with Ronda Rousey downing the No. 2 fighter to hush any whispers of doubt and Chris Weidman surviving a surge from Lyoto Machida to quell the Anderson Silva "fluke" questions.
But before the co-main events, the trend was birthed by rising contenders with everything on the line. Three names in particular stuck out (it may have been four had Stefan Struve not experienced another scary healthy situation) as contestants who furthered their title aspirations.
They are as follows, and the current owners of the straps better pay attention.
Strangely relegated to the preliminaries on Fox Sports 1, one of UFC's most popular fighters used the stage to announce to the globe that he is fully recovered from his loss to Renan Barao at UFC 169.
While it was awkward to see the promotion keep one of its biggest stars off the grand stage of a pay-per-view—especially on Fourth of July weekend—to Faber, it made perfect sense, as captured by Submission Radio via BloodyElbow.com:
You know, for me it actually makes a little more sense. It's the main event on the free card, the Fox Sports 1 card, so you know I think as far as exposure goes, I'll probably get a wider view for more viewers that don't have to pay. I think the PPV numbers haven't necessarily been as high as they used to be, so for me it makes more sense.
I'm the featured fight on the free card right before the PPV, and I don't get piece of that PPV anyway, so I'd rather more people watched the fights.
See why he's a fan favorite?
While Alex Caceres was not the most recognizable opposition, the American did enter Saturday's bout having won five straight but quickly was at a disadvantage against The California Kid. Faber dominated the fight from the opening bell, using a series of takedowns and ground-and-pound to gain the upper hand early.
It helps Faber that Bruce Leeroy was so willing to pursue the grappling avenue, an area where he had a clear disadvantage, but credit goes to the surging contender for taking advantage and applying the deciding rear-naked hold in the third round.
Logic says Faber, having won five of six (nine straight in non-title bouts), wants a shot at strap holder T.J. Dillashaw next (he has a rematch with Barao first), but Ryan Yamamoto of News10 KXTV may have a reason for us to pump the brakes:
We'll see if Faber changes his mind, as a fleeting shot at gold doesn't come around often.
It may have been ugly, it may have featured a controversial decision, and it may have been an upset, but Russell Doane announced to the world on Saturday night that he is here to stay and should be one of the first fighters to get a shot at the crown in the division.
An underdog despite facing off against Marcus Brimage, who had been out of the Octagon for more than a year after a vicious knockout in 67 seconds by Conor McGregor (with an Achilles tendon injury to boot), Doane looked undeterred in his pursuit nonetheless.
Doane came out early and took things to the mat, winning the first round with ease. The next two rounds seemed to favor both sides at points, but the Hawaiian scored his second win thanks to a better overall performance and took to Twitter to celebrate:
Perhaps now The Young Punisher is not such an unknown in the UFC realm after downing a returning former contender known for his prowess in the Octagon. His win Saturday makes it a 2-0 mark in UFC to this point, but it's important to remember his past strong performances in PXC and Tachi Palace Fights, too.
For Doane, Saturday was a step in the right direction, and it's hard to think he wouldn't give the title a serious run for its money.
The owner of wicked knockout power and a resume that had seem him perhaps cut from the promotion before a win over Chris Leben last December, Uriah Hall continued to further himself from the bust label on Saturday night.
While Thiago Santos is certainly no slouch, all of the attention in the match was dialed in on Hall, who suffered a broken toe and continued with the match anyway. Bleacher Report's Jeremy Botter did a great job of illustrating the moment:
Hall, owner of some of the promotion's most dangerous knockout power, used his elite speed to his advantage against Santos and continued to land staggering combinations throughout the course of the match, which made the work for the judges rather simplistic.
After the win, Hall took to social media to show fans he was making it through the injury:
To be transparent, Hall's contention in the middleweight division is more based on potential at this point than anything.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. Hall has shaken off his early struggles, is one of the most popular names in the sport and has knockout potential that can fell any opponent once the cage door slams shut.
Given his ability to recover, with Saturday night being the capper, it's about time Hall got his title shot. An injection of more new blood to the title scene is nothing but a good thing. Either way, the door in the division is wide open, and Hall seems an obvious candidate to go sprinting through.
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