MMA: Power Ranking August's 10 Best Fights

Andrew SaundersCorrespondent IIAugust 24, 2012

MMA: Power Ranking August's 10 Best Fights

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    The month of August featured some events that could turn fans off from the sport of mixed martial arts. Former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields turned in a lackluster performance in his return to middleweight, Anderson Silva is seemingly disinterested in fighting No. 1 contender Chris Weidman, the injury bug continues to ravage countless fight cards and UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones made a selfish decision that caused UFC 151 to be canceled entirely.

    In times like these, it can be easy to miss the MMA high points of August 2012. However, at Bleacher Report, we never forget the incredible achievements created by the sport we love.

    Here is a look at the 10 best fights of the month.

10. Erik Perez vs. Ken Stone

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    Fights don't have to be lengthy engagements to thrill fans. That thought was proven by Erik Perez and Ken Stone, who squared off in a bantamweight battle at UFC 150.

    If you thought that the bantamweights don't have a lot of knockout power, you aren't alone in that mindset. However, Erik Perez is on a mission to change your mind.

    Quickly knocking Stone down (and out) with a right hand, Perez followed his opponent to the ground. When Stone recovered, Perez didn't hesitate to land some nasty ground and pound to earn the official KO 17 seconds into the first round.

    Short, but sweet.

9. Ronda Rousey vs. Sarah Kaufman

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    Speaking of short but sweet, I hope you guys didn't bet against the hype of Strikeforce women's champion Ronda Rousey.

    Many felt that former champion Sarah Kaufman wasn't being given enough credit in the pre-fight buildup, but opponent Rousey wasted little time in asserting her dominance.

    Opening the contest with a triple jab, Rousey was able to quickly close the distance and gained control of this fight immediately. Utilizing a trip from the clinch, "Rowdy" was able to attempt her signature armbar finish almost immediately. 

    While Kaufman defended the maneuver well in the early moments, it was only a matter of time before the Olympic judoka scored the tapout victory 54 seconds into the opening frame.

8. Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader

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    UFC on Fox 4 will go down as one of the most exciting events that the UFC has offered. One of the reasons for that distinction was the light-heavyweight contest between former champion Lyoto Machida and hot prospect Ryan Bader.

    Reminding us of what The Machida Era was all about, The Dragon was more elusive than ever as Bader was unable to connect with anything worthwhile during the bout.

    It's not just that "Darth" couldn't land his strikes. The fact that Machida would utilize fade-away strikes and powerful counter punches meant that Bader looked helpless.

    Getting frustrated during the second round, Bader charged in hopes of finally doing some damage. It proved to be his undoing.

    Machida once again proved that bumrushing is not a bright strategy when fighting a karate wizard.

    Although Bader did connect with his strike, The Dragon landed a fierce right hand that put the Ultimate Fighter star to sleep and earned Machida a crack at champion Jon Jones in the process.

7. Benson Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar II

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    If you had told me on July 31 that the lightweight championship bout between Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar wouldn't be among the top five exciting fights in August, I would have laughed in your face.

    Mostly a striking affair, fans were treated to some great boxing skills as well as a sprinkle of grappling from time to time.

    Former champion Edgar did a much better job the second time around and many feel that he deserved to get the judges nod. At the end of the day, Henderson picked up his first title defense and Edgar was ousted from the division that he once called home.

6. Meisha Tate vs. Julie Kedzie

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    The first 30 seconds of this bout is the closest thing to Sanchez vs Guida that I've had the pleasure to see in women's MMA. Both women came out swinging from the opening bell with Julie Kedzie doing the most damage.

    Between head kicks and a Superwoman punch, the striking was fierce in the opening frame. 
    Former champion Tate was in a lot of trouble and she would have likely lost the first round 10-8 were it not for an armbar attempt that nearly scored a finish in the final seconds.

    Showing the heart of a champion, Tate found her stride in the last two rounds. With superior grappling, avoiding submissions and threatening with her own ultimately culminated in a third round armbar victory.

    Dana White went to Twitter to share his excitement about the bout with the world here, here and here.

    Dana wasn't alone in his excitement. Hopefully, these girls made enough of a case for "Fight of the Night" bonuses that Strikeforce fighters might get some love on upcoming events.

5. Shogun Rua vs. Brandon Vera

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    When Shogun Rua and Brandon Vera took center stage at UFC on FOX 4, fans knew that a muay thai battle between two excellent strikers would bring a fantastic card to a thrilling conclusion.

    We weren't disappointed.

    The Truth connected more than many expected him to in the early goings. After receiving more damage than anticipated, the former PRIDE star worked the fight to the ground in hopes of winning the grappling exchange.

    For four rounds, I found myself on the edge of my chair. Was Brandon Vera about to knock out Shogun Rua? Although the fight wasn't one sided, it certainly appeared to be the case at several points in the encounter.

    Ultimately, an exhausted Rua was able to land a left hook that stumbled his opponent. Vera looked to adjust his mouthpiece, but was pounced upon with strikes.

    Crumpling to the canvas, the fight was called to a stop at 4:09 in the fourth round.

4. Donald Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard

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    What fight stole Fight of the Night honors from Henderson vs Edgar II? None other than a striker vs grappler battle between Melvin Guillard and Donald Cerrone.

    Going into the fight, Cerrone was a massive favorite to the Ultimate Fighter alum, and rightfully so. After all, Cerrone is a well-rounded fighter with a potent submission game, while Guillard has long been considered a one-dimensional striker with an Achilles heel in his submission defense.

    Shocking many, Guillard hurt Cerrone in the opening moments with a counter left, and did not hesitate to hunt for the kill.

    Cerrone was able to regain his composure and then stun Guillard with a head kick that wobbled the striker in a way that UFC fans had never seen. We knew that Guillard could be choked, but could he actually be knocked out?

    The answer was yes, as Cerrone charged in with a big right hand that left "The Young Assassin" in a limp heap of bones on the canvas.

    The fight would win Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night honors despite lasting less time than it takes to microwave a burrito.

3. Mike Swick vs. DaMarques Johnson

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    Thirty months on the sidelines is a death sentence to a young fighter in his prime. AKA's Mike Swick unfortunately had to suffer that fate when an esophageal condition kept him out of the cage.

    In his UFC return, he and DaMarques Johnson kicked off the live card on FOX. 

    After a wild first round, it was clear that Swick still had what it takes to be exciting and that Johnson is a welterweight who can turn up the intensity on any opponent.

    Entering the second round, the fighters were itching to get back into things. One minute and twenty seconds into the round, a decisive and violent finish shocked and awed fans.

    Catching a low kick, Swick put Johnson on his back with a counter. As the two fell to the ground, Swick cocked back and began to fire a right hand. The shot landed perfectly and knocked Johnson into a deep slumber.

    It was the first victory for Swick since a UFC 99 victory over Ben Saunders, and boy, what a fight it was. 

2. Nam Phan vs. Cole Miller

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    In case this list hasn't said it for me, I'll state it outright: UFC on Fox 4 is one of the best cards that the UFC has ever put on.

    The final bout on the Fuel TV prelims saw featherweights Cole Mill and Nam Phan do battle for 15 minutes.

    Despite having excellent grappling, neither man seemed concerned with taking the action to the ground. Instead, each man unleashed an incredible series of kicks, flying knees and power punches that could have ended the bout at any moment.

    The fight summary indicated that the margin of victory was razor-thin. Miller landed 103 significant strikes to Phan's 108. However, Miller scored 88 head strikes to Phan's 77. Phan did score more strikes to the body and legs.

    Ultimately, this bout went to a split decision in favor of Phan. Miller should not fret, as this performance was strong enough to keep his job safe, despite being his third in four bouts.

    But if this fight didn't win Fight of the Night, what did?

1. Joe Lauzon vs. Jamie Varner

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    The comeback story of Jamie Varner is inspiring to many. Once the WEC lightweight champion, Varner began 2010 with a record of 16-2 (2), a pair of title defenses and a victory over Donald Cerrone.

    Winning only one of his next six contests, it appeared that Varner simply wasn't as good as he was once thought to be. So when the UFC called him in as a late replacement at UFC 146, few thought he had a chance against undefeated Edson Barboza. 

    Varner shocked Barboza with a first round TKO victory, and looked to continue building momentum against the Ultimate Fighter standout, Joe Lauzon.

    In an epic battle that is a sure-fire nominee for Fight of the Year, Varner and Lauzon engaged in a three-round fight which could have ended on several occasions. Momentum swings, power strikes and submission attempts galore, this fight appeared to be heading to the scorecards.

    But Joe Lauzon is a finisher.

    With a beautiful sweep that transitioned into a triangle choke, J-Lau finished Varner with the submission at 2:44 of round three. The bout saw both men pick up Fight of the Night honors and gave Lauzon another bonus for Submission of the Night.

    This fight sits in the record book as the bout where Joe Lauzon broke the record for total fight-night bonuses.