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Beyond the Octagon: Following prison, UFC vet Mike Whitehead returns

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Your weekly look at what big-show veterans are up to on the regional circuit.

After the briefest of hiatuses (hiati? hatusi? Batusi???), Beyond the Octagon makes a triumphant return to continue the chronicle of UFC, Bellator, PRIDE, and Strikeforce veterans as they make their way through the world's regional shows. Perhaps somewhat less triumphant, however, was the return of UFC vet Mike Whitehead.

Whitehead (27-8, 0-1 UFC, 1-1 Strikeforce, 4-0 IFL) entered the UFC as part of TUF 2's class of heavyweights. He was a favorite to win the tournament but wound up dropping a decision to season underdog Rashad Evans in the opening round (a performance that would elicit a full-blown freak-out from coach Matt Hughes). Many believed that the tepid performance was merely a fluke (that season seemed riddled with giant men who were totally spooked by the cameras) and he was invited back to the UFC for a fight with Keith Jardine at UFC 57, which is nearly ten years old, by the way. Take this opportunity to stand up from your desk, find a bathroom mirror, and stare at your unexpectedly aged face while wondering where the time went. At any rate, Whitehead turned in another tepid, decision-losing performance and was released. But things began to look up in the years following: he had a successful run in the now-defunct IFL and later began to develop a reputation as a very strong training camp member. All of that would, however, be deeply overshadowed by charges of sexual assault that emerged against Whitehead in 2010. As part of a plea deal struck in 2011, he was sentenced to 1-4 years in prison.

Fast-forward to last Saturday, and Whitehead is back in competition. The time away did no favors for his fight craft, however: in the co-main event of Dakota FC--out of, naturally, Fargo, North Dakota--Whitehead dropped a unanimous decision to the well-traveled Brian Heden (28-15-0). Whitehead slips to 3-1 since his last major appearance--a 2009 knockout loss in Strikeforce to Muhammad Lawal. Heden, who owns a victory over UFC vet Sean McCorkle, is 2-0 for the year.

Also last weekend, at M-1 Challenge 63 in St. Petersburg, Luigi Fioravanti (26-14, 4-5 UFC) found himself in a fight for Ramazan Emeev's middleweight title. This, on the strength of a submission victory over the undefeated Sergey Kovalev this past summer. Emeev would prove too offensively potent, however, officially halting "The Italian Tank" in the fourth when Fioravanti's corner called off the fight in between rounds. With his first title defense, Emeev improves to 13-3.

Other results:

At XFC International 13 in Sao Paolo, Brazil, UFC vet Junior Assuncao (16-5, 2-3 UFC) knocked out Mauricio dos Santos, Jr. (12-10-0) in Round 2 of their main event bout. Assuncao is 3-0 since the loss to Ross Pearson at UFC 141 which closed out his second UFC campaign.

Also on the card, Wendell Oliveira (24-10, 0-2 UFC) returned to the regional circuit in a risky fight with the undefeated Antonio Trocoli. Oliveira wound up dropping a unanimous decision, pushing him into a three-fight slump. Trocoli, who's slated to face UFC vet Jacob Volkmann in February, improves to 9-0-0.

And Rafael Silva (24-5, 3-2 Bellator) improved to 2-0 since departing from Bellator thanks to a second-round armbar of Jeferson Vieira da Silva (9-3-1).

At Shooto Brasil 60, Ronys Torres (30-5, 0-2 UFC, 0-1 WSOF) handily defended his lightweight title, putting away challenger Wallace Lopes (5-4-0) with a kimura in the first half of Round 1. Torres is 5-0 since a 2012 loss to Brian Cobb in the WSOF.

And at CFFC 53, TUF 19's Dan Spohn (12-4, 0-1 UFC, 1-3 Bellator) captured the organization's light-heavyweight title with a second-round TKO of recently crowned champion Azunna Anyanwu (9-4, 1-0 Bellator). Spohn is 3-0 since his lone UFC appearance, a surprising loss to Pat Walsh in 2014.

In the co-main event, Anthony Morrison (20-10, 0-2 WEC, 1-0 Bellator) took a unanimous decision over Jordan Stiner (9-4-0). Morrison has won four straight.