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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
September 1 was supposed to mark the kick off to a big month of fights in MMA, and the UFC in particular. The date was supposed to bring a Light Heavyweight Championship bout between Jon Jones and Dan Henderson, a fight that was one of the more anticipated bouts of the year.
Instead, we're here today with no fights on the docket for tonight, and a cancelled event looming over the heads of the UFC, leaving many fans and fighters displaced and upset, with a lot of money lost or wasted on air fare and travel. But I think we've had quite enough negativity over the last nine days, and in an effort to be positive, I want to take the time today to turn my gaze towards what is still an exciting month of fights in September.
Between two UFC events, Strikeforce on Showtime, and Bellator's seventh season kicking off - not to mention the debut of a new season of The Ultimate Fighter on FX, as well as the second international version of the show with UK and Australian fighters - there is a ton to look forward to this month. So that's just what we're going to do today; instead of harping on how awful it is to not have fights to watch this weekend, here are ten fights I can't wait to see in the month of September.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson - UFC 152 - Sept. 22
The first ever UFC Flyweight Championship bout pits two former Bantamweight Title challengers against one another in a fight that many expected to come to pass once the 125 lb. division was introduced. Both had been smaller bantamweights, and even back to the WEC days there was always a lingering question of whether they'd be better off in a more natural weight class. Well, the fight's finally here, and it should be one of the most fast-paced and exciting fights the UFC has seen this year. Benavidez is going to be a massive test for Johnson to overcome, as his striking, wrestling, and submission game are all excellent tools, and to see how Johnson's speed and wrestling compares is going to be fantastic to watch. I just cannot wait to see how this fight plays out, and we'll have a deserving Flyweight Champion once all is said and done.
Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann - UFC 152 - Sept. 22
The original co-main event for UFC 152 has been dropped down one spot, but it's still a fantastic fight in the middleweight division. Bisping's been hovering around the top end of the division for years, but hasn't cracked a title-shot spot yet. Stann, though he suffered a humbling loss to Chael Sonnen last fall, is still an extremely dangerous top ten opponent, and would mark one of Bisping's biggest career wins if the Brit can pull this one off. It's likely to be a striking battle, and it should be a really fun one at that. It's a very relevant fight between two top ten talents, and that's part of why it's a must-see later this month.
Charles Oliveira vs. Cub Swanson - UFC 152 - Sept. 22
Don't worry, UFC 152 houses even more than those two fights, not to mention Jon Jones' next bout, but the rest of the card is where you'll find even more action. Oliveira has been really exciting to watch in the featherweight division, and the promise he showed prior to a three-fight slide at lightweight translates even better at 145 lbs. Swanson has been up and down throughout his career, but he can still be a very fun fighter to watch, and coming off of two straight knockout wins that makes this matchup even more exciting. It's going to be Swanson's sneaky striking game against Oliveira's varied and exciting submission game, and that's a great combination for a fun fight.
Evan Dunham vs. T.J. Grant - UFC 152 - Sept. 22
Speaking of fun fights, this is just some excellent matchmaking from Joe Silva. Grant is really good at 155 lbs., and his grappling game is fantastic. Dunham isn't bad in that department himself, and this fight could absolutely feature some great exchanges on the ground. Both are decent strikers as well, so even if things go the stalemate route on the ground, both fighters are capable enough to put on an exciting fight on the feet as well. It's just a good fight booking, plain and simple, and I can't imagine it being a bad fight.
Marcus Brimage vs. Jimy Hettes - UFC 152 - Sept. 22
This gets a slot all because of Hettes, who has been great to watch through two fights in the UFC thus far. The undefeated featherweight has looked excellent against two lower-ranked opponents in Alex Caceres and Nam Phan, and though this isn't necessarily a step up in competition against TUF-vet Brimage, he's being brought along at the right pace right now. Brimage comes in off a win over Maximo Blanco, but this fight is all about seeing what Hettes can do next.
Lyman Good vs. Jim Wallhead - Bellator 74 - Sept. 28
Bellator's seventh season kicks off with another tournament in the welterweight division, and the first round matchups are rounded out by Bellator's first Welterweight Champion, Lyman Good, taking on "Judo" Jim Wallhead. Wallhead returns to action for the first time since December, and this marks his first fight in Bellator since a decision loss to Rick Hawn in Bellator's fourth season welterweight tournament last year. This should be a great matchup to headline Bellator's first event of season seven, and it might just produce the favorite to win this season's field.
Yves Jabouin vs. Brad Pickett - UFC on Fuel 5 - Sept. 29
The UFC's now-second event of September features a number of good fights, including the heavyweight main event between Stefan Struve and Stipe Miocic, but it's in the lighter weight classes where the most exciting matchups are. This bantamweight fight in particular has the potential to be a fast paced and exciting fight, as neither fighter is really capable of putting on a boring fight, regardless of what end of the result they're on. Pickett had a setback against now-Interim Bantamweight Champ Renan Barao, but he remains a supremely talented bantamweight and is a big test for Jabouin, who hasn't yet lost at 135 lbs. This should be a great fight for the fans in Nottingham, and it's an excellent bout for Fuel TV.
Paul Sass vs. Matt Wiman - UFC on Fuel 5 - Sept. 29
This is another fight where the attention is going to be on one fighter and what he can do. Paul Sass has been uncanny in his ability to lock on submissions, and the fact that he can continue scoring triangle chokes and heel hooks when his opponents know that's what he's going for is incredible. Matt Wiman is a very good veteran fighter, and another big test for Sass, as Wiman's never been submitted in his career. That makes for an interesting dynamic, as Wiman's survival ability is excellent, and he'll likely need to survive some spots in this one.
John Hathaway vs. John Maguire - UFC on Fuel 5 - Sept. 29
It seems like an eternity since Hathaway was seen as one of the brightest up and coming prospects, but he will continue his path to getting back on track in this fight against a talented submission fighter in John Maguire. Maguire holds ten submission wins in his career, including a beautiful step-over armbar against DaMarques Johnson in his last fight. This is a really good fight to see where both of these English fighters stand in the UFC's welterweight division.
Quinn Mulhern vs. Jorge Santiago - Strikeforce "Melendez vs. Healy" - Sept. 29
There are a couple of interesting matchups on the next Strikeforce card, but I'm most looking forward to the Zuffa return of Jorge Santiago, who is returning to the welterweight division in this fight. He had a rough run in his UFC return last year, and was unceremoniously released after a close fight against a very good fighter in Demian Maia. Mulhern welcomes him back to the fold on the strength of a 10-1 mark in his last eleven bouts, the sole loss coming against a very good fighter in Jason High by decision. He's a good test for Santiago, who is historically an exciting finisher and a multi-talented fighter. It's the best matchup on this card.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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