September 2013 hasn't been a great month to be a mixed martial arts fan, at least for those of you who crave non-stop action.
Okay, we did get one of the best fights in the history of the sport. No, not Myles Jury vs. Mike Ricci. I'm talking about Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson. Silly you.
But with just one major UFC event, we were severely lacking in the fight quantity department. That all changes in October. Three cards in three weeks equals plenty of chances for the fight fan in all of us to get our fix.
Today, I'm taking a look at the 10 best fights for the month of October 2013. Maybe you don't agree. Maybe you do. But either way, I ranked them in ascending order for all of you who enjoy lists. So take a look at my list and then leave me your own in the comments below.
In an absolutely perfect world, we'd see Demian Maia and Jake Shields—one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists in the world and the creator of "American jiu-jitsu," respectively—in the comforting zone of a grappling mat, perhaps in a superfight at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club or some deserving place.
But this being the Ultimate Fighting Championship, well, there's every chance Maia and Shields will end up being the worst kickboxing fight you've ever seen.
I don't think that'll be the case. Since dropping to welterweight, Maia has wholeheartedly embraced the jiu-jitsu that he'd dropped like a bad habit over the past few years; the end result is an undefeated streak, looming title contention and a new term (that would be "Fitching Fitch") added to the mixed martial arts fan lexicon.
Put simply, what we want to see here is a grappling fight the likes of which we rarely experience in the UFC. I'm crossing my fingers.
It's easy to see the UFC's reasoning for booking this fight on the UFC 166 card. I live in Houston, and I can assure you that it's primarily a Hispanic market when it comes to fights. That's why Cain Velasquez is in the main event, and that's why Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez are assuming such a prominent spot on the fight card.
But look past that, and you see one hell of a fight. Sanchez has a knack for pulling off Fight of the Night performances, and Melendez is never better than when someone is trying to goad him into a dogfight.
This one came close to assuming the top spot in my list this month. It's going to be a war and a barnburner, and I'll eat my shoe if you're bored watching these two warriors fight each other.
Two rising bantamweight contenders. Two men with four-fight winning streaks. One hell of a fight.
Outside of a brief snafu—we'll call it a snafu, for lack of a better term—T.J. Dillashaw has been undefeated in his mixed martial arts career. Granted, there's not a big track record to point to, but the guy is one of the best fighters Team Alpha Male has ever produced. And given the track record of that gym, that's saying something.
Raphael Assuncao has a long track record, with a career dating back far longer than Dillashaw. But Assuncao has also historically struggled when facing top-shelf opponents, and despite his short tenure in mixed martial arts, I believe Dillashaw is a top-shelf opponent.
Plus, there's also the fact that Duane "Bang" Ludwig has completely re-energized the Team Alpha Male roster. I'm sure you've heard something about it this year.
No matter which way this one goes, it's going to be good.
If you don't know Darrell Montague, you should familiarize yourself. He's one of the very best flyweights in the world, and he's facing another of the world's best flyweights in the opening fight of the UFC 166 pay-per-view card.
The very fact that John Dodson vs. Montague is occupying prime pay-per-view real estate should show you how much faith the UFC has in these two putting on a thrilling performance. So often the little guys are maligned for not being finishers; while that's often the case, it isn't here. Dodson is a power puncher, and only three of Montague's 13 wins have gone the distance.
This one is going to be fast, and it's going to be a pint-sized bottle of violence.
This fight had plenty of intrigue for those of us interested in seeing how Daniel Cormier would fare against one of the UFC's more durable heavyweights.
But now? With Beardgate and Cormier insisting that Roy Nelson will be forced to shave his beard? It feels like an old-school pro wrestling angle, and I can dig that.
There's more to it than just the hair problem. Cormier is a fighter on the rise, but his UFC debut against Frank Mir—though dominant in every sense of the word—seemed to underwhelm bloodthirsty mixed martial arts fans who seemingly believe that any fighter who doesn't finish their often equally skilled and world-class opponent isn't very good, after all.
But that's another story for an entirely different day. For now, I'll just say this: Cormier vs. Nelson may be less hairy than we were expecting when the fight was signed, but it will still be quite good.
Even though Michael Bisping once accosted me, screaming in my face in a Toronto hotel about a story someone here at Bleacher Report had written (as though every single writer at Bleacher Report are exactly the same person), I still believe him to be much more talented than people give him credit for.
In the previous slide, I spoke of fans who discredit Cormier because he wasn't able to finish Mir. Bisping often receives the same treatment, but it's only because he's British, a loudmouth and, to be quite frank, says a lot of dumb things he probably shouldn't say from time to time.
But there's no question that he's a very good fighter. He's not a knockout artist, but he's an excellent striker. Opponent Mark Munoz is not a great striker, but he hits incredibly hard and is a powerful wrestler. That's what makes this one so very interesting: Bisping has good takedown defense and can't knock you out, while Munoz can take you down and knock you out.
Part of me wants Bisping to win here and finally move into title contention because I think he's been overlooked far too long. But part of me wants Munoz to win, mostly because he's the nicest man in the history of the world but also because Bisping can be such a jerk. I suspect most of you feel the same way.
This, for better or worse, could be the end of the Hector Lombard experiment in the UFC.
Lombard came to the promotion as Bellator's best champion (at the time), and the UFC signed him to an absolutely massive contract. And then Lombard proceeded to, for lack of a better term, crap all over the bed, losing to Tim Boetsch in his UFC debut. He beat Rousimar Palhares in his next fight, but then lost to Yushin Okami.
Losing to Okami is not a big deal. That happens a lot. But Lombard saw the writing on the wall and decided to move down to welterweight, which is pretty much the same move Nate Marquardt made when he started losing fights. The only difference is that Marquardt, after beating Tyron Woodley in a thrilling fight, lost his next two bouts and is firmly staring down the barrel of a loaded gun here.
This is what we call a Loser Leaves Town fight, folks, and it should be a fun one. Unless it isn't.
Erick Silva is Jacob from Twilight. You know it, and I know it.
The only difference is that Jacob from Twilight wasn't Brazilian (he was a werewolf), and I suspect Silva is probably better at Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Though, to be fair, the ability to change into a werewolf gives Jacob from Twilight the real-life advantage in just about every other area.
Silva is one of the brightest prospects on the UFC's roster, especially as they make a concerted push into the Brazilian market with fight cards filled with unknowns. Silva can be one of the knowns, but he must continue winning, and he must beat Dong Hyun Kim, a stifling grappler who has wins over T.J. Grant, Nate Diaz, Siyar Bahadurzada, Paulo Thiago and the new legend Matt Brown.
Seriously. Kim has defeated all of those people.
Which makes him the toughest test of Silva's career thus far, and if our Jacob from Twilight lookalike can win the fight, well, it might be time to start considering him for main event status.
Some of you will get downright hangry (my term for hungry and angry at the same time) with me for including the biggest fight of October so far down my list. To you, I say this: It's the biggest fight of October, but it's not the best or the most intriguing.
Sure, it's a heavyweight title fight between two guys who have already defeated each other once already. But I've been quite vocal (much to the chagrin of Juinor's camp, mind you) that I believe Cain Velasquez is far and away the better and more complete fighter. He lost the first bout to Junior dos Santos, of course, but he went into the fight with a badly damaged knee and was caught with a punch behind the ear that was intended for Velasquez's chin. Anyone in the world would lose their balance after that punch.
The second fight between them was more like what I envisioned the first fight would be, and it's exactly what I envision here. Velasquez will use ridiculous cardio and pace to keep dos Santos from creating space, and in doing so he will fluster and batter the former champion. He won't finish Junior, but there won't be many moments in the fight where Junior shines.
And that is not to say that Junior is a bad fighter, because he is clearly the second-best heavyweight in the world. All I'm saying is that Velasquez, fully prepared and ready, is one of the best fighters in the world regardless of weight class, and there is no man on the planet who can defeat him on his best day.
I had to include this one because, to be honest, Palhares is crazy. You never know what he's going to do.
Mike Pierce is a very good fighter, but Palhares is insane. Crazy. And there's every chance in the world that he'll grab one of Pierce's legs and start cranking it long after Pierce taps. Or maybe he'll start eating it like one of those new McDonald's Mighty Wings. You just have no idea.