Most people associate October with playoff baseball, the start of the hockey and basketball seasons and football getting into full swing, not to mention Halloween and my birthday the day before everyone dresses up and seeks out candy. In addition to knowing it means I’m getting another year older (and one step closer to The Big 4-0), I’ve come to appreciate October as a month where there are always sneaky good fights.
While there have routinely been big cards drawing huge attention in November and December, October has regularly crept in with some crackerjacks that catch people off guard and earn some Fight of the Year consideration.
The third time Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard threw down was in October, same with the second time Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes locked horns. Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez went to battle in October; so did Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson.
What fights will join that collection of classics this month? Here’s a look at 10 contests with a pretty good chance.
This is The 10.
UFC 216: Ferguson vs. Lee – Saturday, October 7 (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Bobby Green vs. Lando Vannata
Are there more high profile lightweight matchups on tap for UFC 216? Absolutely. Are there fights with greater divisional significance at the moment? Indeed. Will either of them be anywhere near as fun and entertaining as this tussle promises to be? Hell no!
In his first three Octagon appearances, Vannata has pushed Tony Ferguson to the limit on short notice, wheel kicked John Makdessi into highlight reel infamy and paired with David Teymur for a Fight of the Night at UFC 209. As for Green, he’s a perennial tough out who likes to talk junk in the cage and is always down for a scrap, which makes him an outstanding dance partner for the Jackson-Wink MMA product in this one.
There is just no way this field doesn’t yield excitement as both Green and Vannata are charismatic showmen who like mixing it up. While there are plenty of bigger names and bigger fights on this card, no one should be surprised if these two lightweights walk away with Fight of the Night honors on October 7.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis
Top 10 heavyweights clash in this bout featuring a pair of finishers looking to get back into the win column after sub-par efforts last time out.
Werdum returns for the first time since dropping a majority decision in the rubber match of his rivalry with Alistair Overeem at UFC 213 this summer, while Lewis had his six-fight winning streak halted when he traveled to Auckland and lost to Mark Hunt at the start of the summer. With the top of the division wide open at the moment, an emphatic win for either man should propel them into the title conversation as we head down the home stretch.
Stylistically, this one should be interesting as Lewis is a knockout artist with savage power who uses strength and size as his defense, while Werdum is a technician on the feet, incredibly dangerous on the ground and easily the most seasoned and savvy competitor to stand opposite “The Black Beast” inside the Octagon.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg for the UFC flyweight title
An illness to Borg during fight week in Edmonton forced this contest to be rescheduled here, but despite the delay, the significant stakes on the line remain the same.
Johnson is the most complete fighter in the sport today – he has no real holes in his game and still continues to get better every time out – and he looks to make history with his 11th consecutive successful title defense. For the 24-year-old challenger, this is a chance to shock the world and earn his own place in the history books by becoming the first man to defeat “Mighty Mouse” in the 125-pound division.
Don’t let last month’s disappointment cloud your view of this contest – it is an outstanding matchup between one of the best to ever grace the UFC cage and a confident upstart with nothing to lose.
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Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee for the interim UFC lightweight title
Elite lightweights clash for the interim title in a bout that came together, in part, as a result of a contentious post-fight interview on FS1 when Ferguson was on the desk and Lee had little interest in hearing what “El Cucuy” had to say about his place in the divisional pecking order.
Of course, they’re both red hot as well, with Lee having rattled off five straight victories and wins in nine of his last 10 appearances heading into this one and Ferguson sporting a four-year, nine-fight winning streak of his own.
Lee is a tremendous athlete with smooth boxing, powerful takedowns and an underrated submission game, while Ferguson is an inventive, awkward offensive threat who is just as likely to dive after a leg or throw a cartwheel kick as he is to offer a jab or run through a double leg. There won’t be much of a feeling out process in this one either, as both like to start quick, initiate the action and avoid the scorecards.
UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Till – Saturday, October 21 (Gdansk, Poland)
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jodie Esquibel
Fighting in her home country for the first time since signing with UFC, Kowalkiewicz will aim to rebound from the first two losses of her professional career in this homecoming assignment opposite Invicta FC veteran Esquibel.
After earning 10 consecutive victories to begin her career and earn a shot at the women’s strawweight title, the 31-year-old Kowalkiewicz dropped a unanimous decision to Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 205 and was quickly submitted by Claudia Gadelha when she returned to action seven months later.
Esquibel auditioned for Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, but came out on the wrong side of a controversial split decision verdict after two rounds in the qualifying round. But the Albuquerque native rebounded from that disappointment with a victory over TUF 26 fourth seed DeAnna Bennett in March and is the kind of hard-nosed, gritty veteran who will push Kowalkiewicz from start to finish.
Donald Cerrone vs. Darren Till
Till lobbied for a matchup with a Top 10 opponent following his win over Bojan Velickovic earlier this fall in Rotterdam. Having extended his unbeaten streak to 16 with another impressive display of his Muay Thai skills, the Liverpudlian pleaded for a chance to prove himself against one of the top welterweights in the UFC.
I like to think “Cowboy” was watching the fights at home, heard Till’s post-fight interview and sent UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby a text that simply said, “I’ll be his Huckleberry,” setting up this main event matchup.
Regardless of how it came together, this is a huge opportunity for the 24-year-old Till, who has impressed in his first four Octagon appearances but takes a considerable step up in competition by facing off with Cerrone, who has only two fewer UFC appearances than Michael Bisping, despite “The Count” having a five-year head start on the former WEC standout.
This one should be all kinds of fun.
UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida – Saturday, October 28 (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
John Lineker vs. Marlon Vera
The first of two electric bantamweight clashes on this card, Lineker and Vera have the potential to blow the roof off the Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo.
Lineker has amassed an impressive 4-1 record since moving to bantamweight, showing that his power and pressure style has translated well to his new division, while Vera has found a rhythm since joining Team Oyama, earning back-to-back stoppage victories and three straight wins overall heading into this one.
While both fighters have been far more tactical and technical recently, no one would be surprised if this one turned into a slobberknocker, with Lineker swinging hammers and Vera responding in kind. Neither man is capable of being in a boring fight, and when you put them in the cage together, it could produce something special.
Pedro Munhoz vs. Rob Font
The other half of the bantamweight two-piece that should get the raucous Brazilian crowd fired up, Munhoz and Font are both looking for a signature victory that carries them into the upper echelon in the 135-pound ranks.
Font has rebounded from his loss to Lineker with back-to-back highlight reel finishes – a first-round knockout of Matt Schnell and a second-round submission of Douglas Silva de Andrade – to push his record to 4-1 in the UFC and 14-2 overall. The Mark DellaGrotte protégé has excellent footwork and crisp hands and is one of the most underrated members of the bantamweight ranks.
The same can be said of Munhoz, whose only setbacks since matriculating to the UFC have come against Top 5 contenders Raphael Assuncao and Jimmie Rivera. The 31-year-old Sao Paulo native has earned three straight victories heading into this one and has an opportunistic submission game and a nasty squeeze on his guillotine.
Don’t be surprised if being stationed alongside Lineker and Vera provides a little extra motivation for these two to show out in this one.
Demian Maia vs. Colby Covington
Covington has spent the last several months calling out every top-ranked welterweight possible, combining his social media campaign with a collection of victories to become a dark horse contender in the 170-pound weight class. Now the American Top Team product gets a chance to show and prove as he shares the cage with one of the top talents in the division.
Fighting at home in Sao Paulo for the first time in three years, Maia makes a quick return after coming up short in his second bid to claim UFC gold earlier this summer. Previous to that loss to Tyron Woodley, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master had won seven straight, steamrolling the first six of those opponents before edging out Covington’s teammate and close friend Jorge Masvidal.
Will the collegiate wrestler look to prove himself on the mat against the submission specialist? Will Maia make a quick return to the win column? Can Covington keep rolling? These are the questions that make this one of the most anticipated clashes of the month.
Derek Brunson vs. Lyoto Machida
A very intriguing middleweight clash closes out the final event of the month, as Brunson ventures to Brazil to welcome “The Dragon” back to the Octagon.
After coming out on the wrong side of a questionable split decision verdict opposite Anderson Silva in February, Brunson went on the road to Auckland and ended Dan Kelly’s surprising run of success in June. He’s earned each of his last five victories by way of knockout – all in the first round – and you can be sure that the North Carolina native will be looking to make quick work of the former light heavyweight champion in this one as well.
Fighting for the first time in more than two years, Machida looks to start fresh in his return to the Octagon after dropping three of his last four contests. The 39-year-old veteran has shared the cage with some of the top talents to compete in the UFC over the last decade and was a fixture in the Top 10 prior to his suspension.
Can Brunson spoil Machida’s comeback or will “The Dragon” make a triumphant return?