Raise your hand if you’re surprised there are only three months left in 2016? Doesn’t it feel like UFC 200 wasn’t that long ago?
It was 13 weeks ago; that’s crazy.
With autumn now in full swing and the UFC at the top of the home stretch for this year, it’s time to scan the calendar for the most intriguing and compelling contests set to hit the Octagon in the month of October.
This is The 10.
UFC Fight Night: Lineker vs. Dodson (Saturday, October 1 – Portland, Oregon)
“Ill Will” picked up a workmanlike win over Ross Pearson in his promotional debut in July, pushing his overall winning streak to nine heading into his co-main event assignment against Oliveira this weekend in the Rose City. The 29-year-old American Top Team product is 18-1 in his career and remains a question mark in the loaded lightweight division, with this weekend’s penultimate bout standing as another chance to try to figure out where he fits in the 155-pound ranks.
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— #UFCPortland (@ufc) October 1, 2016
Returning to lightweight after a solid run competing at welterweight, Oliveira has quietly gone 4-1 over his last five with his lone loss coming in the “Battle of the Cowboys” earlier this year in Pittsburgh. While he’s a guy whose permanent address is under the radar, Oliveira is a well-rounded talent with sound finishing instincts and the potential to give Brooks fits in this one.
Every event seems to result in a new twist or turn in the lightweight division and this is the bout that will be responsible for that shift this weekend. Either Brooks will continue marching forward or the Brazilian “Cowboy” will propel himself into the rankings by pulling the upset.
Bantamweight has become one of the most interesting, competitive collections of talent in the organization this year and these two men are very much a part of that rise to prominence.
Dodson returned to the 135-pound ranks with a bang in April, charging across the cage and stopping Manny Gamburyan in 37 seconds in Tampa. The only man to beat him inside the Octagon to date is flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson, who got him twice, and if “The Magician” can conjure up another victory here, the 32-year-old will have quickly established himself as a contender in his new weight class.
In many ways, Dodson is looking to follow the same path Lineker has blazed over the last year, as “Hands of Stone” has gone a perfect 3-0 with three terrific performances since moving up from flyweight. The Brazilian finisher, who has carried his big power and shown greater conditioning since departing the 125-pound ranks, has already worked his way into the Top 5 and a win here would put him on the short list of potential title challengers heading into 2017.
UFC 204: Bisping vs. Henderson 2 (Saturday, October 8 – Manchester, England)
Leo Santos vs. Adriano Martins
Checking in on the UFC FIGHT PASS portion of October’s Pay-Per-View event, this is a quality lightweight clash that people seem to be overlooking and I’m not sure why.
Santos is 4-0-1 in the UFC and unbeaten in his last 10, most recently knocking out Kevin Lee at UFC 194. One of the best jiu-jitsu players on the roster, the 36-year-old has very good length, trains with an elite camp and has quietly shown steady improvement in his striking over the last couple years. If he picks up another victory here, people will have to start paying more attention to the Brazilian veteran.
The same goes for Martins, who has gone 4-1 in his five UFC appearances to date and has picked up three straight wins heading into this one. He has two losses in the last six years – to Cowboy Cerrone and Francisco Trinaldo – making him another “why is no one talking about him at all?” member of the lightweight ranks.
With both men out to garner some shine in the deepest division in the organization, don’t be surprised if this one is a jolt of electricity to start the evening.
The main storyline for this card is obvious, but one of the interesting subplots is how many young, promising talents will step into the Octagon in Manchester.
Tumenov is very much part of that group, as the welterweight prospect won’t turn 25 until Boxing Day and has already worked his way into the Top 15 in the deep and talented welterweight division. Before running into Gunnar Nelson last time out, the K Dojo Warrior Tribe member had won five straight, including a split decision victory over Lorenz Larkin and a first-round finish of Alan Jouban.
Edwards is a durable young Brit coming off a solid showing against Dom Waters last time out, getting himself back into the win column after dropping a decision to TUF winner Kamaru Usman at the close of 2015. With good movement and crisp hands, “Rocky” still has room to grow and can fast track his rise up the ranks with a victory over “Einstein” on October 8.
Speaking of promising talents from the welterweight division, Danny Roberts and Mike Perry both fit that description, and when they square off in the UFC FIGHT PASS Featured Bout, the judges’ scorecards may not be necessary.
London’s Roberts has been plying his trade in Florida with the Blackzilians as of late, but after two UFC wins over Nathan Coy and Dominique Steele in Las Vegas, he will get a homecoming bout in England against the equally dangerous Perry in what promises to be an action-packed contest.
Florida’s Perry is everything you want in a knockout artist – he’s aggressive, heavy-handed, and he’s not afraid to tell you what he’s going to do to you before he does it. It’s a gutsy move for him to follow up his August KO of Hyun Gyu Lim with a trip into Roberts’ backyard, but the way Perry sees it, every fight is his to win.
Not only is this a pivotal clash in terms of the middleweight division, but it’s an important bout in the careers of both competitors as well.
Mousasi enters in search of a third-straight victory and the 40th win of his professional career – a victory that would propel him up the rankings and solidify his standing as one of the elite competitors in the 185-pound ranks. He’s looked very good in his last two outings, wins over Thales Leites and Thiago Santos, and seems to finally be comfortable in the UFC cage. Adding a win over Belfort to his current run of success – particularly a finish – would likely carry him to the fringes of the title contention conversation.
That’s a place where Belfort has permanently resided for the last several years and despite coming off a stoppage loss to Ronaldo Souza in May, “The Phenom” still has the power and explosion to end a fight in a hurry and halt Mousasi’s upward climb in an instant. The 39-year-old has been facing a steady diet of Top 5 talent for the last four years, with his only setbacks before his loss to Souza coming in championship clashes.
The roof is going to come of Manchester Arena when the lights go out and the opening riff of “Song 2” starts pumping through the P.A. system as Bisping begins his first walk to the cage as the middleweight champion. This will be a tremendous homecoming moment for “The Count” and it’s an intriguing matchup as well.
Henderson’s finish of Hector Lombard was a reminder that the UFC’s elder statesman still carries finishing power. Given that he said he’s calling it quits win or lose after this one, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the 46-year-old come out a little more aggressively in this one, hunting for the finish and the chance to close out his legendary career with a championship victory.
As for Bisping, the opportunity to defend the middleweight title at home and potentially avenge the most memorable loss of his career are sure to have him even more fired up than normal, which is saying something because he always hits the cage like a man on fire. After working so hard to reach this point – dusting himself off after failing to clear the final hurdle a couple different times – there is no way Bisping is going to relinquish the belt without putting up one hell of a fight.
Plus, you know these two will be chirping each other non-stop throughout fight week, so that should be fun too.
UFC Fight Night: Lamas vs. Penn (Saturday, October 15 – Manila, Philippines)
This is a meeting of two elite flyweights who are a combined 10-3 in the Octagon, with two of those losses coming in championship bouts against Demetrious Johnson and perennial silver medalist Joseph Benavidez accounting for the other.
Horiguchi has rebounded from his loss to “Mighty Mouse” with back-to-back wins over Chico Camus and Neil Seery, turning in quality efforts that continued to show his further development since being hustled into his title opportunity at UFC 186. Now training at American Top Team, the 25-year-old Japanese fighter remains one of the best young talents in the division and can further validate that standing with another strong performance here.
Bagautinov got back into the win column last time out, picking up a decision win over Geane Herrera in Ottawa, Ontario in June. The compact Russian contender has a suffocating grappling game and packs some pop in his hands, which makes him a tough matchup for anyone and a quality litmus test for Horiguchi at this point in his development.
With the heavyweight division starting to show its age, this clash between two ascending talents is one that carries must-see status.
Lewis pushed his winning streak to four with a split decision victory over Roy Nelson during International Fight Week. While his power has always been evident, “The Black Beast” has been steadily improving the other facets of his game over the last couple years as he continues to gain further experience, so he’s only going to become more of a threat in the big boy ranks.
After suffering just the second career loss in his UFC debut, Tybura rebounded with a highlight reel head kick knockout over Viktor Pesta in August to get back into the win column and remind everyone why he was an intriguing addition to the division earlier this year. An equal-opportunity finisher – six KOs, six submissions in 14 career wins – the 30-year-old Polish heavyweight has the diverse arsenal to potentially be a threat in the future; now it’s just about putting it all together and taking those positive steps forward.
One of the most beloved and respected talents to ever grace the Octagon returns after two years and change to take on a perennial contender in the main event of the UFC’s second trip to Manila.
Penn called it quits following his third loss to Frankie Edgar in July 2014, hiding the heartbreak and anguish behind the brim of his cap at the post-fight press event. But as is often the case, he couldn’t stay away and a move to Albuquerque to train with the Jackson-Wink crew has rekindled his fire and carried him back to the Octagon once again.
He doesn’t get an easy assignment for his comeback fight either, stepping in with Lamas, a former title challenger and constant presence in the Top 5 in the featherweight division. “The Bully” has shared the cage with the best of the best in the 145-pound ranks and has the kind of aggressive, high-pace approach that is a handful for just about anyone.
Will the former champion be able to turn back the hands of time and pick up another victory or will Lamas tack another loss on Penn’s resume and turn his dreams of returning into a nightmare?