Don't miss UFC 191 this Saturday night live on Pay-Per-View from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Running into those few times when there are only two events can sometimes make filing a column about the 10 best fights of the upcoming month challenging, but that’s not the case here.
Between UFC 191 and the company’s return to the Saitama Super Arena on September 27, putting together this collection of killer matchups was relatively easy.
Here’s a look at the best fights on tap for the month ahead.
This is The 10.
UFC 191: Johnson vs. Dodson II (September 5 – Las Vegas, Nevada)
Originally scheduled to face Liz Carmouche, Pennington gets a chance to begin what she hopes will be a “revenge tour” in a rematch against Andrade. These two first squared off at UFC 171, with the Brazilian coming away with a split decision win in what was an entertaining back-and-forth affair in Dallas.
Pennington rebounded with a submission win of Ashlee Evans-Smith before dropping a decision to the woman that will face Ronda Rousey for the bantamweight title at UFC 193, Holly Holm. Andrade, meanwhile, has gone 2-1 since their last encounter, with a loss to Marion Reneau sandwiched between wins over Larissa Pacheco and Sarah Moras.
Both ladies like to bite down on their mouthguards and sling, and if this fight is anything like their initial meeting, it should get the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on their feet.
An established bantamweight knockout artist welcomes a newcomer with a similar set of specific skills to the division in this one, and if someone doesn’t end up staring up at the ceiling wondering what in the hell just happened, I’m going to be surprised.
Lineker makes his debut in the UFC’s 135-pound ranks after (a) missing weight for the fourth time in eight UFC appearances and then (b) beating Ian McCall way back in January to complicate the flyweight title picture, while Rivera enters off a 21-second knockout win over Alex Caceres that halted his two-fight losing streak.
These two should be throwing smoke from the outset and it’ll be fun while it lasts, which might not be that long.
Both Pearson and Felder suffered losses in July, and with each man eager to get back into the cage and try to distance themselves from those setbacks, UFC 191 gets the addition of what should be an entertaining kickboxing match between these two willing strikers to close out the preliminary portion of the card.
TUF 9 champion Pearson came out on the wrong side of the scorecards against Evan Dunham in Glasgow, Scotland, and has alternated wins and losses over his last six, with a no contest mixed in there for good measure. Felder, meanwhile, suffered the first loss of his professional career at the month’s final show in Chicago opposite Edson Barboza in a bout that earned the pair Fight of the Night honors.
This should be a straight-up kickboxing match, where both guys stand their ground and sling leather, with a healthy dose of #SpinningS*** mixed in as well.
Back in May, Chambers looked to be headed towards a second consecutive setback after dropping the opening two rounds of her fight with prospect Kailin Curran, but “Astro Girl” came out hunting in the third and latched onto an armbar, forcing Curran to tap just past the midway point in the round to earn a come-from-behind stoppage win and a Performance of the Night bonus in the process.
VanZant followed up her own victory over Curran with a one-sided decision win over Felice Herrig on the April UFC on FOX show in Newark, New Jersey. A perfect 2-0 in the Octagon and riding a three-fight winning streak, the 21-year-old Team Alpha Male representative continues to make improvements between each fight and stands out as one of the top emerging talents on the roster.
In order to maintain that status, she’ll need to get through the tough Aussie Chambers in what is the Pay-Per-View debut for both fighters.
Related content: Alex Chambers embraces underdog role
This is like the light heavyweight equivalent of the Rivera-Lineker fight – a bout with two devastating knockout artists where both parties are probably going to be swinging for the fences from Jump Street, with the likelihood of somebody getting knocked out pretty high.
Manuwa enters off a decision win over Jan Blachowicz on the debut card in Krakow, Poland, where a knee injury limited his effectiveness. Still, the London-based “Poster Boy” has only lost once in his career and his victory over Blachowicz was the first time in his career that he’d gone to the scorecards.
As for Johnson, he’s coming off a third-round submission loss to Daniel Cormier in a battle for the vacant light heavyweight title at UFC 187. After catching “DC” with a clean right hand out of the chute, Johnson couldn’t stop Cormier’s takedown attempts and eventually got tapped.
Neither man should have to worry too much about wrestling in this one, as it’s far more likely they play a game of “Who hits the hardest?” until we get an answer one way or another.
Get the DeLorean ready, Doc!
We’re jumping in the wayback machine for a heavyweight fight that was first proposed a decade ago and carries championship implications today. Arlovski and Mir both deserve a round of applause for their perseverance and ability to work their way back into the title picture.
Arlovski also deserves props for coming out on the winning side of one of the craziest one-round fights in quite some time – his UFC 187 slobberknocker with Travis Browne. After losing four straight and taking a year off to contemplate his future, Mir has returned with back-to-back first-round knockout wins over “Bigfoot” Silva and Todd Duffee to set up this throwback showdown on September 5.
The heavyweight division is flush with contenders for the first time in a while and this bout kicks off a string of several pivotal battles in the big boy ranks between now and the end of the year that should help delineate things in the division heading into 2016.
This would be considered a grudge match if Johnson was at all bothered by the constant criticisms Dodson has been lobbing his way since their first meeting, but the reigning champion pays it no mind, opting instead to remain focused solely on shutting up the talkative Team Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter by beating him for a second time.
Their first encounter in January 2013 was an outstanding fight, with Dodson dropping Johnson with a couple clean shots before “Mighty Mouse” rallied in the championship rounds to successfully defend his title for the first time. Since then, the first and only flyweight titleholder in UFC history has added five more victories to his resume, while Dodson has rebounded with three consecutive victories of his own.
Arguably the two fastest fighters in the UFC, this flyweight championship fight should be a spectacular mixture of technique and skill, speed and movement that produces one of the top title fights of the year.
More on UFC 191: Full Fight Card | Demetrious Johnson's legacy on the line at UFC 191 | He's serious: Dodson says he'll finish Johnson | How they got to UFC 191: Demetrious Johnson, John Dodson | LISTEN: Johnson, Dodson, Arlovski and Mir sound off on media call | WATCH: Johnson-Dodson I | Fighter Profiles: Demetrious Johnson, John Dodson | Get your tickets for UFC 191 here | PPV ordering instructions
UFC Fight Night: Barnett vs. Nelson (September 27 – Saitama, Japan)
Horiguchi may have came out on the wrong side of the result in his championship matchup with Johnson earlier in the year, but the 24-year-old Japan native showed why many considered him an elite prospect, frustrating “Mighty Mouse” for the majority of the fight before getting caught late.
As for Camus, he’s quickly established himself as a tough out since moving to flyweight, edging Brad Pickett in his debut before giving Henry Cejudo all he could handle in a losing effort at UFC 188 in Mexico City.
Whoever wins this one solidifies their standing as a contender in the 125-pound ranks and likely sets them up to face a higher-profile opponent next time out.
Kudos to Hall for jumping right back into the Octagon following after earning a first-round TKO victory over Oluwale Bamgbose at the start of August in Nashville and doing so in a dangerous matchup against Mousasi.
The Ultimate Fighter alum has won four of his last five and remains a dangerous striker when he’s aggressive and ready to pull the trigger. Unfortunately for Hall, he’s also had moments where he’s been hesitant and allowed fights to get away from him, something that he can’t afford to do in this one.
After alternating wins and losses through his first four UFC appearances, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champ Mousasi has picked up consecutive victories to cement himself as a contender in the middleweight ranks. A third straight win puts him in the title conversation heading into 2016.
Barnett hasn’t fought since losing to Travis Browne at UFC 168, but returns to the land where he had his greatest success for the first time more than five years in hopes of getting back into the win column in this clash with “Big Country.”
A fixture in the Top 15 since winning Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, Nelson is looking to avoid the first three-fight losing streak of his career after suffering back-to-back defeats at the hands of Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem.
While these two may be on the outside looking in when it comes to title contention, this year has shown that in the heavyweight ranks, all it takes is a couple strong performances and you’re right back in the conversation, which is something that should compel these two to leave it all in the cage in the final fight of the month.