<
>

Fighters overcame more than just foes

We'll get to the nuts and bolts of fighters' performances, but first, how about taking a moment to praise some of men who fought Saturday?

Just for getting in there, hat tips to Jake Shields, Rad Martinez, Court McGee, Bryan Baker and Alan Belcher.

There are others, of course, and I don't want to dismiss anyone's circumstances in life, but I can't name everyone. So Shields, Martinez, McGee, Baker and Belcher.

Shields lost his father two weeks ago.

Martinez has endeavored to keep his alive for years.

McGee "ruined" his life with drugs, yet he's still here, stronger than ever.

Baker fought last year -- three weeks after the remission of his leukemia -- and won, which is all he's done since.

Belcher almost went blind because of MMA, but there he stood in the cage, fearlessly gambling that his surgically repaired retina would hold.

All fighters have a reason or two for doing what they do in life. No matter what the truth is for these guys, you quickly sense how meaningful MMA is to them when they're willing to go through what they go through to do it. Great competitors sacrifice everything to win. Is that the same thing that drives fighters to fight? The fight sports are different, are they not? They have to be. They require something unique in person's DNA, I think. Not better or worse, just unique.

It's no coincidence that the fighter-to-compelling human interest story ratio is about 1-1.

Before tackling how the UFC guys fared, Baker and the Bellator boys get their due.

Baker, 25, stopped Jared Hess -- the protagonist in quite a story himself -- in the opening round of Bellator's new middleweight tournament. Baker-Hess was the best fight on any card Saturday night. All heart. Baker (16-2) gets an A-minus for the Round 3 stoppage. The Californian fights Vitor Vianna (a C for Saturday's effort) in the semifinals, Oct. 15 in Atlantic City. And Alexander Shlemenko (B-plus) takes on Brian Rogers (B-plus).

As for the UFC clan, here's how they fared in New Orleans:

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