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Fortunes changed for five at UFC 177

On Friday, nearly everything that could go wrong for UFC did. On Saturday, after a rough patch early of having to stretch out the TV prelims, the pay-per-view show, while limited in names, was strong in action with a number of fighters making strides in their careers.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
UFC had one of the most disastrous days before a pay-per-view in history on Friday. Yet, when Saturday was over, it seemed everyone was breathing a sigh of relief.

There's few things that can be worse than losing a participant in a championship match just hours before weigh-ins. On Saturday showed, in hindsight, how much worse it would be to lose a champion than a challenger, and there may be a valuable lesson to learn from all this.

On the list of UFC's problems that need to be addressed, the plight of a challenger for the title not only failing to make weight, but being hospitalized and in no condition to fight, would be high on the list of worries. It happens, but it's rare.

Like Barao, a few title challengers have missed weight over the years. Two of the more memorable were Travis Lutter missing weight challenging middleweight champion Anderson Silva in 2007, and Joe Riggs missing when challenging welterweight champion Matt Hughes in 2005. In both cases, while the title wasn't at stake, the match took place and the champions in both cases won convincingly. In the WEC, Paulo Filho once blew weight by a wide margin when he was to defend his middleweight title against Chael Sonnen. Sonnen won that fight, and didn't get the title, just as WEC dropped the weight class.

To have it happen on a pay-per-view show on a card weak on star power to begin with, was almost as bad as things could get. Except bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw was willing to be a team player and save the show in his home town. And Joe Soto, moving from a prelim to a title match, gave a competitive accounting of himself before falling in the fifth round to a head kick.

The situation may be a lesson for the future. It's not always possible, but there at least should always be an attempt to have a solid fight in the same weight class on the same cards with a title fight. For one, if it's a top contenders bout, the show would get fans ready for the next title bout. But it also books for peace of mind. In that instance, there would always be on the show a quality fighter on weight, if the challenger falls through.

Soto saved the show as the best of the two bantamweights already booked, but he was still a fighter in his UFC debut who wasn't even ranked. It saved the day. It was the best solution on that day, but far from the optimal solution. For example, had the Dominick Cruz vs. Takeya Mizugaki fight been booked this month instead of next month, the show could have been enhanced. Cruz, while working as an analyst on Friday, said he'd have taken the fight even on a few days notice. But he didn't have that, and there was no chance of that fight this weekend, simply because it's not possible to cut from about 154 to 135 in less than two hours.

An evening with more intriguing what ifs revolved around Urijah Faber. Had Faber not suffered a broken rib in his last fight, he would have been probably on this show, given it was in his home town and he's the company's biggest drawing name in Sacramento. Faber has made it clear he doesn't want to fight Dillashaw. The two are training partners, and Faber was the one who brought Dillashaw into the sport and trained him from the ground up. But, if saving a show in Sacramento was on the line, could that forbidden fruit of a fight have taken place and, in the end, made the show something to remember?

Neither of those situations were in the cards. As it turned out, the pay-per-view broadcast may have been short on top-ranked fighters, but the fights themselves were entertaining and there was no shortage of things to talk about when they were over.

So here's a look at how Fortunes Changes for Five and where they could be headed next:

T.J. DILLASHAW - Dillashaw (12-2), in his home city, came across like a champion, as far as presence and skill. He also owned it in the conditioning aspect. The question posed that would be answered at UFC 177 was if Dillashaw, one of biggest title match underdogs ever, caught Renan Barao on a bad day, or he really was as good as he came across at their last meeting.

The answer is that we still don't know. Dana White said Barao, who lost his entire paycheck because he couldn't fight, would also need a major win, or two, before being considered for a title opportunity. Most of all he'll have to prove he can still be the old Barao while making 135 pounds.

Even though Dillashaw looked to have won every round against Soto, he really needed a finish to shut up any critics with the idea the world champion couldn't put away a guy who had never stepped foot in a UFC Octagon previously. As far as what is next for Dillashaw, no decision should be made for at least five weeks.

Raphael Assuncao (22-4), faces Bryan Caraway (19-6) on Oct. 4 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Cruz (19-1) faces Takeya Mizugaki (20-7-2) one week earlier in Las Vegas. The picture should be much clearer after that, based on who wins those two fights and who looks the most impressive in doing so.

Cruz would make the most intriguing opponent, as the former champion who never lost his title. He was considered among the best fighters in the UFC when his three years of battling injuries and being on the sidelines began. If the Cruz of three years ago resurfaces against Mizugaki, he would be Dillashaw's ultimate measuring stick. If that person doesn't show up on Sept. 27, Assuncao, who beat Dillashaw via decision on Oct. 9 in a fight Dillashaw to this day insists he won, and it was close, would fit the bill. Dillashaw himself acted as if he's moved past Assuncao and the loss, saying he believes he won and has no special want or need to avenge his hand not being raised.

TONY FERGUSON - Ferguson (17-3), came off winning season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter and is now 6-1 in UFC competition, losing only a decision to Michael Johnson.

His win over hometown fighter Danny Castillo was not well received by the audience, with the decision and Ferguson being booed. It appeared the press was more split in their reactions. It was a fight that could be fairly judged either way, as Ferguson won a back-and-forth first round. The second round was the one that decided the fight. Both landed standing, and on the ground, Castillo was on top, but Ferguson was aggressive on the bottom, which seemed to sway two of three judges. Castillo won the final round solidly, which was the most dominant round.

With the closeness of the fight in a deep division, Ferguson didn't win decisively enough to break out of the pack, but he should be fighting high level opponents. He may need two more wins to start facing the top ten guys, and a good test to see where he is would be with Ross Pearson (16-7). Pearson is coming off a name win against Gray Maynard two weeks ago and was robbed against Diego Sanchez before that. Both fighters have some name value.

BETHE CORREIA - The obvious storyline of Correia (9-0), going through the two other "Horsewomen" on the UFC roster, to set up a match with Ronda Rousey would make it Rousey's biggest fight since Miesha Tate.
It wasn't just beating Shayna Baszler, but the hands that Correia displayed in round two. Correia connected with body and head shots at will against Shayna Baszler. The win leaves Correia in a wait-and-see position.
Cat Zingano (8-0), is almost the female version of Cruz, at least as far as being at the top of her game and ready for huge exposure when her body turned on her. Zingano returns after 17 months off on Sept. 27 to face Amanda Nunes (9-3).

Zingano, promised a title fight first, would seem to have the edge if all things are equal. But anything less than a strong performance would give Correia the edge based on how she finished. If Nunes wins, Correia should be under top consideration. But the special attraction type of bout with Gina Carano is also said to be close, so Correia would have to fight someone else.

Sarah Kaufman (17-2) and Leslie Smith (7-5-1) would seem to be the two best picks for Correia if next time out isn't Rousey. Smith is coming off an equally impressive finish of Jessamyn Duke six weeks ago. Kaufman, a perennial top contender, is a former champion with some of the best standing skill in the women's side of the sport. There is also the curiosity pick of Holly Holm (7-0), but Holm should probably get at least one fight under her belt in UFC before being matched up with Correia.

JOE SOTO - What to do with Soto (15-3) becomes a real question. He came out of Saturday with some notoriety, and upped his name value. He gave a nice fight. It wasn't Patrick Cummins, who came in as a late replacement, talked big, but then lost quickly.

Seeing Soto in a main event was an interesting story because years ago, when Jon Jones was an unknown, he talked about when he wrestled in junior college at Iowa Central, he didn't really know much about UFC. But his college roommate loved it. He noted the former roommate became a fighter. Soto seemed moved that he lived a dream of just fighting in the UFC, let alone going almost five rounds in a title fight. Fortunes changed for him, more than anyone. Still, the only thing for him now is to start back at the bottom. Stepping up may get him an extra chance if he stumbles, but even as a former Bellator champion, he is a beginning UFC fighter who is going to be a little better known than most.

DIEGO FERREIRA - Ferreira (11-0) gained a reputation as a submission guy to watch out for in his UFC debut on June 28 over Colton Smith, winning in 38 seconds. With Ramsey Nijem, he was given a much stiffer test. And again he passed with flying colors, and showed a new dimension with his first career knockout.

He'll have no shortage of opponents in one of the deepest divisions in the sport. He's ready to step up, and this Friday, may find the right person to try next, in the winner of the Joe Lauzon (23-9) match with Michael Chiesa (11-1). Both men have the ability to test him both standing and on the ground, and that's the kind of fight that can show how far Ferriera can go.

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