In Major League Baseball, October is when legends are made, as players rise to the challenge of the playoffs, elevating their play in the biggest moments as they push to garner World Series glory.
In the UFC, the first full month of fall signals the start of the final quarter of the year — a time when big matchups that came together in the summer start to funnel into the Octagon and competitors looking to position themselves for bigger opportunities in the opening months of next year aim to deliver impressive performances that help them stand out.
Saturday night, the October slate of action in the UFC begins with a slate headlined by surging lightweight Grant Dawson stepping in opposite veteran stalwart Bobby “King” Green, and backed by several competitive, compelling matchups up and down the card.
Included in that collection of undercard bouts is a trio of competitors aiming to have the kind of dominant showing that elevates their respective profiles.
Here’s a closer look at those competitors in the latest edition of Fighters on the Rise.
The fact that Pyfer is competing after the horrific elbow injury that he suffered in his first appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) is a testament to his resolve, his focus, and his work ethic.
But Pyfer isn’t simply competing — he’s thriving — and on Saturday, the middleweight that set the tone for last season on the Contender Series returns to action looking to take another big step forward in his career.
Two years after his first trip to the UFC APEX, Pyfer returned and knocked out LFA middleweight champ Ozzy Diaz, standing as the only man to garner a contract in the opening week of last season and prompting Dana White to deliver his “Be Joe Pyfer” speech. Since then, the 27-year-old has added two additional victories, making quick work of Alen Amedovski and Gerald Meerschaert to start his UFC run with consecutive first-round finishes and establish himself as someone to watch in the 185-pound weight class.
The Rise of Joe Pyfer
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The Rise of Joe Pyfer
On Saturday, Pyfer steps in with Abdul Razak Alhassan, a battle-tested judoka with big finishing power and coming off a second-round stoppage win over Claudio Ribeiro in January. While consistency has largely eluded Alhassan over the course of his UFC career, the veteran 38-year-old has made 11 of his 17 career starts inside the Octagon, posting six stoppage wins, including a 17-second knockout of Alessio Di Chirico two fights back.
For Pyfer, this is a second straight matchup against an experienced opponent, but one that is more than happy to engage with him on the feet and has the power to match what he brings to the table. Part of what makes this pairing so compelling — and Pyfer so intriguing overall — is that he actually comes from a grappling background, having wrestled in high school and practiced Brazilian jiu jitsu for quite some time.
This feels like an opportunity for “Bodybagz” to potentially show another layer of his game, but it could also just be an additional chance to showcase the knockout power that has largely carried him to this point in his UFC journey.
The 29-year-old Buckley has been around for a minute, but his presence in this series isn’t based on the length of time he’s been in the UFC, but his recent relocation to the welterweight division.
“New Mansa” debuted in the Octagon on short notice, falling to Kevin Holland during his run of five consecutive victories in 2020. He bounced back by immortalizing Impa Kasanganay with arguably the sickest kick in UFC history and remained on the fringes of the Top 15 in the 185-pound weight class for the next couple years, putting together a 5-1 run heading into his clash with Nassourdine Imavov last fall in Paris.
Buckley dropped a unanimous decision to Imavov in September and was stopped by Chris Curtis after hustling back into action in December, sending him into this year on a two-fight skid and in need of a change. In May, the Missouri native made his first appearance in the UFC welterweight division, registering a second-round stoppage win over Andre Fialho to get things moving in the right direction again and spark a little intrigue about his upside in his new surroundings.
Saturday night, Buckley steps in with Alex Morono in what is a perfect measuring stick matchup for the welterweight new arrival. Morono is coming off a submission win over Tim Means and has won five of his last six to solidify his standing as a perennial tough out in the Second 15 in the 170-pound ranks.
This is where Buckley belonged all along, but his explosive power and overall dynamic approach produced solid results at middleweight, leading to an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” point of view. Once it was clearly broken, he relocated, and now he’s facing competitors that are more his size and won’t have the glaring physical advantages some of them carried at middleweight.
He’s brought his power and suddenness with him to his new weight class, and if he can pick up a second straight win by vanquishing an established vet like Morono this weekend, more people will be talking about the new lease on life “New Mansa” has in the welterweight division.
Two weeks after her good friend Mizuki made her triumphant return to the Octagon after a three-year hiatus, Murata looks to do the same as she steps back into the UFC cage for the first time since suffering a dislocated elbow in a clash with Virna Jandiroba more than two years ago.
Carrying the Kazushi Sakuraba stamp of approval (and his famed mask) made the 30-year-old Japanese grappler a highly regarded prospect when she touched down in Invicta FC, where she claimed the strawweight title with a split decision win over Emily Ducote in November 2019. A year later, she out-hustled divisional mainstay Randa Markos in her UFC debut before clashing with Jandiroba and coming away with a mangled arm.
Brandishing a 12-2 record overall, Murata was riding an eight-fight winning streak into her last appearance and has the skills — in theory — to get right back on track this weekend as she faces off with Vanessa Demopoulos.
The 35-year-old “Lil’ Monster” won three straight after returning to the strawweight ranks following a debut loss up in weight, including a first-round submission win over Silvana Gomez Juarez. Last time out, she landed on the wrong side of the scorecards against resurgent Polish veteran Karolina Kowalkiewicz, sending her into the weekend looking to rebound and get things moving in the right direction again.
Murata has faced a strong strength of schedule throughout her career and still profiles as someone that could make an impact in the 115-pound weight class when she’s healthy and firing on all cylinders. Mizuki looked solid in her return to action last weekend against Hannah Goldy, and if Murata can deliver something similar, the good friends will be able to celebrate their successful returns together.
UFC Fight Night: Dawson vs Green took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 7, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!