September 2016: As of where we are today regarding MMA contests, the time during and around this month, will be remembered for its inter-weight class battles, deep division contests and bounty of championship fights. It’s a time for fans to feel the way boxing enthusiasts must have felt in the late 60’s thru the mid 70’s. We find ourselves not looking forward to a single big fight on a distant card but instead enjoying multiple, amazing cards per month.
I am writing this on September 10th, a little less than twelve hours before the main card in Cleveland kicks off at UFC 203. Only ten days into the month and we’ve already seen a slugfest between Ryan Bader and Illir Latifi resulting in a second round starch via a Bader knee to the jaw. We watched Alexander Gustafsson put himself back into contention while putting on a five round clinic at the expense of Jan Blachowicz. Then we witnessed two nearly twenty year long paths collide in a war in which the Warmaster, Josh Barnett tapped Andrei Arlovski to put himself squarely back into the Heavyweight discussion.
With all of that in the rearview, believe it or not the Best Five Fights of September are still yet to come…
1) Stipe Miocic vs Alistair Overeem: This fight is crawling with anticipation and oozes a sense of danger, truly a ‘don’t blink’ contest. Stipe, slinging leather on the big stage for the first time in front of his home crowd, has shut off the lights on the likes of Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski and Fabricio Verdum in his past 3 fights.
Alistair needs no introduction to any fan living on planet Earth for the past 7 years or so. He’s a living Kickboxing legend who has been on an absolute tear as of late with the help of the Jackson-Wink Academy.
This fight should, and I suspect will be an absolute barn burner of a main event. Miocic won backing up against an overly anxious Werdum but I’m not sure ‘da’ Reem’ will be baited into a hockey fight so easily. I see Alistair winning the strap and retaining for several fights.
2) Fabricio Werdum vs Travis Browne: it’s as easy a segue as it is an obvious candidate for the best matchup of September. Werdum, coming off a KO loss to Stipe, is as hungry as ever to put the hurt on someone. Also, having registered 39 years on planet Earth I’m sure his sense of urgency is in high gear as his time is likely now, or never.
Travis is actually serving as a fill in on this monster card for Ben Rothwell who recently submitted Fight Night Hamburg winner, Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett. That said this is obviously one of the biggest opportunities of his career. Finishing Werdum would substantiate his reappearance onto the contender scene and allow him to officially relinquish his newly administered “Gate Keeper” card. All said, I look for Fabricio to dominate this fight anywhere it goes, reestablishing himself and earning a title shot in the coming year.
3) Uriah Faber vs Jimmie Rivera: What a massive opportunity for the 12th ranked Rivera. The 27 year old New Jersey native is on a three fight win streak and on the cusp of solidifying his presence as a top Bantamweight. The problem with that? The California Kid, Uriah Faber will be standing in his way.
Uriah is a future hall of famer who has fought just about everyone you’ve ever heard of near his current weight. Despite later going 0-2 he has a submission win over current champion, Dominick Cruz and his only losses are to current and past champions. Uriah has finished 79% of his 33 victims and it’s hard to imagine that Jimmie won’t be number 34. I see Uriah winning this one via choke.
4) Chris Cyborg vs Lina Lansberg: Alright, so this one isn’t for a title, It isn’t for contendership, hell it’s not even in an existing weight class. Nonetheless, it’s Cyborg, the most ferocious, dangerous and arguably feared female fighter in the history of the sport headlining a UFC Fight Night in Brazil, as a fan that’s hard not to love.
Lina Lansberg, however, is no slouch. ‘The Elbow Princess’ is 6-1 with 4 of those wins coming by KO via punches and elbows. I doubt seriously, though that Chris will be number five. Cyborg via windmill in a tornado beat down.
5) Dustin Poirier vs Michael Johnson: This Fight Night Headliner takes place in Hidalgo, Texas and could make a serious impact on whoever comes out on top. TUF finalist Michael Johnson is coming off of a two fight skid and desperately needs a convincing win to get back into the mix of one of the sport’s deepest divisions.
Poirier, currently ranked 7th, has won 4 in a row after being KO’d by Conor McGregor back in 2014. A win over Johnson on the 17th in Texas could see Dustin Poirier land in the top five of the Lightweight division – especially with the uncertainty surrounding Nate Diaz’s new fight weight and Cowboy Donald Cerrone making a seemingly permanent move up to Welterweight. It’s a hard one to call but I’ll give Poirier the nod in a decision over the tough to finish Michael Johnson.