Five Things We Learned From UFC 138

3. Look out, Dominick Cruz – Renan Barao is coming.

Twenty-seven wins in a row.

That’s just about all I need to say, really, though I’ll say more. Renan Barao has long been considered a potential championship contender, dating back to the days when he dispatched foes with ease on Brazilian independent cards.

After his first-round submission over Brad Pickett, however, Barao can no longer be considered a prospect. He’s a title contender. He may not get the next shot, because the winner of the Urijah Faber/Brian Bowles fight in two weeks will surely be on the receiving end of that honor. But Barao is “in the mix,” as Dana White is so very fond of saying, and if he notches another dynamic win in 2012, he’ll get his crack at Cruz.

4. Terry Etim is back, obviously.

Terry Etim’s career thus far has been defined by potential. It was an oft-spoken refrain: if Etim could live up to his potential, we might finally see our first Briton capture UFC championship gold. If Etim lived up to his potential, he might go be able to run through that lightweight division. He’d be everything that Michael Bisping wasn’t, which is to say that he’s a nice guy and people generally like him in addition to being a good fighter.

Etim’s 17-second submission of Edward Faaloloto wasn’t a revelation of any sort. Faaloloto was an epic underdog, the largest on the show, and the only hopes he had of beating Etim were the kind generally held by severe underdogs who steadfastly refuse to believe that the world is about to crash down around them.

The only thing beating Faaloloto proved is that Etim is a superior fighter who can come back from a 19-month layoff and look like he never left the gym, not even for a second. It’s not much, but it was enough for Etim.

5. Joe Silva and Sean Shelby are pretty good at their jobs.

It happens more often than not: a UFC card looks terrible on paper. We decide that it’s probably the worst UFC card in history and vow not to watch it. We have other things we can be doing on a Saturday night. And then Saturday rolls around and we watch it anyway, because we’re fans and fans watch everything they can – even that ProElite card featuring Tim Sylvia jiggling his way to a unanimous decision in the main event.

So we watch these UFC events, these cards that are supposed to be a disservice to regional fans or an afterthought tacked onto the end of a lame-duck contract. Much to our surprise, the damn things end up being awesome. They blow our theories about television ratings and television contracts and too many shows and parting shots out of the water.

UFC 138 proved, once again, that Joe Silva and Sean Shelby know what they’re doing. Styles make fights, no matter how famous you are, and awesome fights are awesome fights.

Follow Jeremy Botter on Twitter @jeremyheavymma