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A weekend of welterweight wackiness (and other stories)

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

What a weekend for UFC welterweights. In the span of a few days, the division’s past, present and future kind of went rogue in the post-GSP era.

Start with Josh Burkman, the homecoming welterweight, who joked on Sunday that he lost to Steve Carl on purpose in the WSOF to expedite a return to the UFC. He’s back because he was the only person within the entire 170-pound kingdom willing to fight Hector Lombard, which is either admirable or insane. Then there was recent Hall of Fame inductee, Pat Miletich, who by Sunday night was siccing Ebola on Washington. At this point it almost feels like Miletich has an ounce of that right-wing blood in him.

And yet these things were predictable next to Rick Story, a fighter who by now has become the very embodiment of the fight game’s Great Unknown.

Story was booked to fight Icelandic upstart Gunnar Nelson, in Nelson’s adopted home of Sweden, as little more than an afterthought. Story even admitted to ESPN that he was being set up as a "sacrificial lamb" in the scenario before the fight, just a "name" fighter for Nelson to clear like a hurdle on the track to a future title shot.

So what does Story do? Well, he do what Story do, which is show up looking like the mischievous big brother hell-bent on destroying your parlays. Story upset Nelson via a split decision. He put the future of the division on layaway, while once again inserting himself into the conversation. Not many people really saw that coming.

But then again, maybe we should have. Look at the man’s trajectory. It’s filled with wins where he should have lost and losses where he most certainly should have won.

Story is the only active UFC fighter with a win over current champion Johny Hendricks. He scored that one during a torrential six-fight winning streak, in which he also beat Thiago Alves. At the time, I remember he wanted to fight either Jon Fitch or Josh Koscheck, the perennial top-fivers in the division, but instead he was asked to replace Anthony Johnson in a fight with Nate Marquardt.

That set up a weekend in Pittsburgh that played out like The Mephisto Waltz. Nevermind that the President was in town, or that there was a Furries convention at the fighter hotel, or that Chris "Birdman" Anderson was buying Jager-bombs for the willing, that was the time Marquardt fell out of the fight at the weigh-ins (testosterone levels) and was replaced with Charlie Brenneman.

And that was the weekend Story got sucked into the vortex. He lost to Brenneman in a fight where he had everything to lose. Given the unfair circumstances, the UFC gave him a profile fight with Martin Kampmann next at UFC 139. He lost that, too. That set up a ragged run of mediocrity for Story, who beat the occasional Quinn Mulhern but lost a couple of split decisions en-route to Sweden. In essence, his career went off course by taking that last-minute fight with Brenneman. He became the cautionary tale to think twice before automatically saying yes to last-minute opponent switches.

Now Story has a modest two-fight winning streak in the UFC, his first consecutive victories since that golden run between late-2009 to mid-2011. When asked who he’d like to face next afterwards, the "Horror" said he had no idea who was where in the rankings or why, and that he didn’t care so long as it was somebody up there doing something.

Maybe his days of calling his shots are over.

One welterweight who wasn’t as vague in his post-fight callouts was Rory MacDonald, the division’s clear-cut No. 1 contender who fought in the UFC’s nightcap in Halifax. MacDonald walked out to his own music for the first time in his career, and put the tamps on former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine. MacDonald patiently and methodically finished Saffiedine in the third round, before saying he thought he’d done more than enough for a title shot.

In the post-GSP era of the welterweight division -- which means no conflict of interest in fighting his friend, training partner and Forever Champion Georges St-Pierre -- MacDonald is at liberty to fight for the belt. He just has to wait out Robbie Lawler’s rematch with Hendricks at UFC 181 in December. You can just see the excitement on his face at the prospect.

For as wild of a weekend as it was for the welters, MacDonald’s performance was the most predictable. And hey, in a bizarro division where things tend to get a little nuts, that feels like something.

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