For the last two weeks we've been in the summer doldrums, a rare period without any major fight cards. It's been like an ugly flashback to the bad old days, when hardcore fans often had to wait months in between UFC and PRIDE shows. All that is about to change next month when the summer finally heats up with great shows all over the map. The fights are amazing across the board, but there are several that I am chomping at the bit to see-five cards, five fights, in four different promotions.
Scott Jorgensen has quickly become one of my favorite fighters, combining outstanding wrestling with a propensity to come charging forward and slug it out. Brad "One Punch" Pickett is another interesting young star. He's grown up under our watchful eye as fans, which may be why it's taken so long for hardcores to take Pickett seriously as a real challenger. We remember too clearly when he was a limited young prospect on the Cage Rage undercard, learning on the job against the Alex Owen's and Hideo Tokoro's of the world.
Quietly, however, Pickett has moved from prospect to contender. He's won nine fights in a row, including a win over Demetrious Johnson that opened eyes. Jorgenson represents a new level of opponent, a chance to see how Pickett performs against a great wrestler with a very aggressive attack-oriented style. The winner here will be in line for a title shot. The promotion is banking on Jorgenson-but I wouldn't bet the house on it.
UFC 117: Junior dos Santos (11-1) vs. Roy Nelson (15-4)
This is another fight that will put a talented prospect through his paces. Everyone has anointed Junior dos Santos as the next big thing-but who's bigger than Roy Nelson? Junior passed a major test by dispatching Mirko Cro Cop in Dallas last year, but Nelson presents a whole new set of problems.
The behemoth that won The Ultimate Fighter is a real fighter, but fans may be overstating his abilities a bit. Nelson has won two fights in the UFC, but they've been wins against two untested prospects, Brendan Schaub and Stefan Struve. People have seemingly forgotten that prior to his reality television debut, Nelson had lost his last two, falling victim to two UFC refugees (Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson).
Here's what we know: Roy Nelson isn't a world-class fighter. And if he can't pass this test, neither is Junior dos Santos. This is the most fascinating fight on a great UFC card.
Strikeforce-Houston: KJ Noons vs. Jorge Gurgel
Listen-it's easy to criticize Jorge Gurgel for his insistence on standing and banging when he might be better off taking fights to the mat. But the results, while bad for Gurgel, have been great for fans. Fight after fight, Jorge goes out and leaves it all in the cage. And, fight after fight, fans are treated to an amazing battle of wills.
Noons is a fighter with a lot of potential. He's a very solid wrestler and I don't think Gurgel, who has bad knees, will be able to take this one down even if he wanted too. Instead, Noons will test his technical boxing against Gurgel's indomitable will. I, for one, can't wait.
Bellator 24: Megumi Fujii vs. Angela Magana
Megumi Fujii is the best fighter to ever step into the ring for Bellator, and I'm thrilled by the opportunity to see her main event for the second time on American soil. Although you never know what is going to happen in a fight, a ground battle seems likely here. Both women are standouts on the mat, but Fujii stands above almost everyone else there. She's won 16 of her 20 fights by submission. I think she'll get her 17th submission here, moving on to the next round in Bellator's 115-pound tournament.
UFC 118: Kenny Florian (13-4) vs. Gray Maynard (9-0)
Joe Lauzon talked a little bit about this fight in our community interview. What's interesting here is what happens if the fight goes into the third round. Kenny Florian, as Lauzon points out, tends to outlast his opponents, staying strong in the latter rounds as other fighters fade. Maynard is a tireless worker who isn't likely to get exhausted.
Last time Florian faced a great wrestler like Maynard he was dismantled by the superb Sean Sherk, before Sherk turned himself into a short armed boxer who can't get inside his opponent's reach. What has Florian learned in the last couple of years that will make this look different? How have outside opportunities, like MMA Live on ESPN or his UFC announcing duties, affected his training and focus? There are several side plots here-plenty of questions about both men that need to be answered.
It's a fight everyone needs to watch carefully, especially the two guys in the main event. Whoever ends up with the lightweight title is likely to see the winner of this fight down the road-especially if it is Maynard who hasn't had his shot at the title yet.
These are just five of more than a dozen great fights coming up next month. This is truly the golden age of mixed martial arts. Which fight are you looking forward to the most in August? Let us know in our official Bloody Elbow poll.