The dog days of summer are almost over.
After July's relative lack of fights—we had the thrilling high of UFC 162 and Anderson Silva's very public dethroning at the hands of Chris Weidman and then...nothing else until Saturday's UFC on FOX event—we're set for an action-packed August.
How packed? There are four UFC events on the docket, and two of them come within shouting distance of each other at the end of the month.
I usually pick five fights that you should check out for any particular month. But this month, this giant beast that is August 2013, I have 10 fights that you don't want to miss. In reality, I could give you 10 fights from the UFC's return event in Boston alone, but I'm trying to spread the love around.
We should probably get started. Daylight is burning and we have the finest in combat sports action to discuss.
If you feel like Phil Davis has hovered in that misty gray area between "intriguing prospect" and "surefire contender" for what seems like ages, well, you're not alone.
From the moment Davis made his UFC debut in 2010, he's been pegged as a potential championship contender because of his excellent wrestling pedigree and incredible athleticism. He has it all.
But that was in 2010, and Davis hasn't progressed up the ladder as quickly as we thought he would. He owns a win over the next guy in line to challenge Jon Jones (Alexander Gustafsson), but a loss to the only true top contender he's faced during his UFC tenure (Rashad Evans) returned him to the drawing board.
With his UFC 163 fight against former champion Lyoto Machida, Davis finds himself on the contendership bubble once more. Davis is a sizable underdog, but if he's able to execute a wrestling-based game plan and prevent Machida from using his frustrating and yet brilliantly effective counterstriking, Davis has every chance of walking away the victor.
A win for either of these fighters likely puts them in title contention or one win away from a title shot. It's an important fight.
If Stone Cold Steve Austin were a real person instead of a wrestling character, I have to believe this is the kind of fight he'd love watching.
Matt Brown and Mike Pyle are two hardworking (or blue collar or whatever phrase you feel like using) veterans of the sport who both happen to be in the middle of revitalizing careers that most of us long ago left for dead.
Pyle is 7-1 in his last eight fights, with the only blemish on his mark coming against Rory MacDonald. There's no shame in losing to the man that many believe will assume the welterweight Iron Throne when Georges St-Pierre eventually decides that he's tired of scoring easy wrestling victories.
Brown, meanwhile, has a five-fight winning streak and has earned a reputation for turning away young hyped rookies who think they're ready for a shot at the big time (Steven Thompson, Jordan Mein).
I hate saying this because I feel like it's an automatic jinx, but there's no way this one is going to a decision. And if you're the gambling type, you might want to throw a few bones on a prop for this one being given Fight of the Night honors. It would be money well spent.
Apologies to Michael Bisping, but Irishman Conor McGregor might be the UFC's first true European superstar.
He's brash. He speaks with the poise and intensity of professional wrestling's best talkers. He's got that cool Irish accent.
Oh, and he's a good fighter. A very good fighter, actually. And he has a violent stand-up style that lends itself to exciting knockouts.
McGregor wants a title shot sooner than later; the fact that he has quickly become one of Dana White's favorite new fighters probably won't hurt his case. It's not every day that you see videos of White tooling around Vegas with random fighters in his Ferrari. McGregor was scheduled to face Andy Ogle on this card, but new opponent Max Holloway makes for a far more interesting matchup.
McGregor wants to be the Anderson Silva of the featherweight division. Finishing Holloway will go a long way toward pushing McGregor up into the rarefied air he so desperately craves. The heavy pro-Irish Boston crowd will be appreciative.
The first time Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann stepped in the cage, in April 2009, they put on an exciting fight that culminated with Kampmann scoring a controversial split-decision win.
It was Condit's UFC debut after years spent dominating the WEC's welterweight division. He would not lose again until facing Georges St-Pierre three years later. Despite two consecutive losses, Condit is still considered one of the best welterweights in the world; it says a lot about your skill that you can lose two fights in a row and still be ranked No. 2 in the world.
Kampmann is 3-3 in his last six, but his wins came over Rick Story, Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger. That's nothing to scoff at.
This is an important fight, not just for the careers of both men but also for the welterweight division. A win keeps them in shouting distance. A loss means they could find themselves in a gate-keeping role for the foreseeable future.
Apologies to all of the other fights on my list that take place in August, but this one is the one I'm looking forward to the most.
I've long believed (and still do) that former Olympic wrestler Sara McMann has the best chance of anyone in the 135-pound division of dethroning Ronda Rousey. Two Olympic medalists, one in judo and the other in wrestling, squaring off? Yeah, go right ahead and sign me up for that one.
McMann's career has been deftly handled by her management and matchmaker Sean Shelby, but there's no question that Kaufman is the toughest opponent she has faced thus far. She's also the best fighter McMann will face until she steps in the cage with Rousey or Miesha Tate.
Kaufman is a very good boxer, and McMann will not be able to handle her if the fight stays standing for very long. Fortunately for McMann, she has that Olympic wrestling to fall back on, and it might even be enough to help her score the biggest win of her career. If that happens, we might see the UFC's two female Olympians squaring off much sooner than we thought.
I just spent one slide talking about Sara McMann vs. Sarah Kaufman being my most-anticipated fight of August. I was wrong, and I see that now.
A rematch between Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis is quite obviously going to be the most-anticipated fight of the month, even when August is stacked from top to bottom with excellent matchups.
The first bout, which closed down the much-loved World Extreme Cagefighting promotion, was one of the most memorable fights I've ever seen from my cage-side media seat. That it ended with the now-famous Showtime Kick was just the icing on a very tasty and filling cake.
That night, Pettis challenged for Henderson's WEC title. This time around, he'll go after Henderson's UFC title. The similarities between the two fights are quite remarkable, and I expect the rematch to be just as thrilling as the first.
Here's one I've been looking forward to for nearly a decade.
And, truth be told, I'm a little shocked we're actually getting the chance to see Frank Mir and Josh Barnett punch each other in the face, mostly because I never believed Barnett would be given a second chance in the Octagon after the unceremonious way he departed the first time around.
But the combat gods love us, as it turns out, and we're finally going to see two of the best American heavyweights in history in the cage together.
This one is going to be fun, and that's pretty much all I've got to say about that.
There was a time not too long ago when the idea of either Dustin Poirier or Erik Koch fighting Jose Aldo for the featherweight championship didn't require any sort of stretch of the imagination.
Both were considered legitimate contenders. Both suffered big losses when they most needed big wins. And now here they are, trying to prevent a losing streak from accumulating speed and weight.
Koch was derailed by Ricardo Lamas the last time out, while Poirier found himself a hapless victim of Cub Swanson's improbable career revival. Neither man is out of title contention going into this fight; the loser, however, will find a climb back to championship territory fraught with danger.
The real reason you need to watch this fight? It's highly likely that one of these two fighters will end up on their back, staring up at the lights and trying to figure out how they got there in the first place. This is what we call an all-action fight, and it will deliver.
Do you remember the days when Clay Guida was considered an exciting fighter? When, even if he lost, he still earned the love and admiration of the crowd because he put on thrilling, nonstop fights?
Those days are a distant memory. This is not to say that Guida has morphed into Jacob Volkmann. But with two consecutive stinkers against Gray Maynard and Hatsu Hioki, Guida has shown that he's much more likely to follow an effective game plan than he is to put it all on the line in the name of entertainment.
Against Chad Mendes, however, Guida won't be able to dictate the pace of the fight. If Mendes wants to stay standing, that's what will happen. If Mendes decides to go to the mat, well, Guida is going to the canvas.
Mendes is looking for his fourth consecutive victory since losing to Jose Aldo in early 2012. A win puts him back in the driver's seat for the rematch he so desperately wants, and I don't see any way Guida can prevent him from doing just that.
Brandon Vera once famously claimed that he would win championships in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions.
This was a boastful and perhaps arrogant claim, but there was also a time when the idea of Vera reigning in both divisions wasn't an entirely ludicrous one. He actually earned a title shot against then-champion Tim Sylvia, but a contract dispute with the UFC put him on the shelf and prevented him from realizing his championship aspirations.
Things haven't worked out all that well for Vera since then; he actually found himself cut from the UFC, only to get back in when Thiago Silva failed a post-fight drug test. Vera came back into the fold and put on a thrilling fight against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua; it was a loss that did more good for Vera's career than many of his previous wins.
And now, Vera returns to the heavyweight division against Ben Rothwell. It's a favorable matchup for Vera; Rothwell is just 2-3 in the UFC and once wore this outfit. If Vera is going to begin a career resurgence and start making good on the promise of his youth, he needs to win this one.