Thirty one magical days. That's all it took to rekindle a passion for MMA that had been slowly slipping away. Before August began, in the midst of a summer doldrums, I predicted it would be a heck of a month for the fight game:
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.
I've never been happier to be right. Last month was one of the most amazing in MMA history. There were a series of great fights all over the map, the kind of fights that don't fade from memory, the kind of fights that make an impact. And as Cageside Seats writer Gene Mrosko points out, it wasn't just the usual suspects delivering the tremendous bouts. Even Japanese MMA pulled its head out of its fourth point of contact long enough to wow us all:
Sengoku though gave us what may have ended up being Fight of the Year. Jorge Santiago and Kazuo Misaki had an unbelievable rematch that went back and forth over the duration of the fight until Misaki's corner threw in the towel with less than 30 seconds remaining in the fight. The scores may have revealed a win for Misaki so the fact that his corner threw in the towel was questionable at first but he later revealed that it was the right decision. Instead of any sort of controversy involved in a decision we got a clean victory in an unreal fight.
August is now behind us and September is off to a great start. Two days in, and we've already got a classic: Bellator's Joe Warren and Joe Soto put themselves on the map as two stars to watch with a tremendous clash for the Bellator Featherweight gold. What else can we look forward to this month? I've got five fights that have me salivating after the break.
5. Antonio McKee vs. Luciano Azevedo: MFC 26 "Retribution," Sept. 10 -- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
McKee is one of the sport's most controversial figures, at least amongst hardcore fans. Casual fans have no idea who he is - and to him, that's the problem. McKee, to put it kindly, fights very conservatively. You know the fights that fans boo in the arenas, the ones fans decry as "lay and pray?" McKee sometimes makes those fights look like Nick Diaz-Takanori Gomi. He hasn't lost since 2003. He's also only finished a single fight in that time frame (another opponent had to quit with an injury).
This time though, this time will be different. McKee promises he will finish the fight or retire. And Azevedo is no easy mark. He once choked out WEC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo and has fought some serious competition like Hayato Sakurai, Din Thomas, and Rodrigo Damm. This could be a very good fight, good enough to warm a chilly Canadian night.
4. Paul Daley vs. Jorge Masvidal: Shark Fights 13, Sept. 11 -- Amarillo, Texas
The former UFC bad boy is looking to come back strong. Jorge Masvidal is in the way. Although Daley has the UFC pedigree, I think Masvidal (at just 25) is actually a more promising prospect. This is just one of a smorgasboard of incredible fights on this Shark Fights card, headlined by Keith Jardine vs. Trevor Prangley. The announce crew of Bas Rutten and Don Frye is worth $29.95 on their own. Very promising night of fights in Amarillo.
3. Ryan Bader vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: UFC 119, Sept. 25 -- Indianapolis, Indiana
UFC 119 has one of the worst main events in the modern era, a fight between Mirko Cro Cop and Frank Mir that might have wowed them in 2005, but in 2010, leaves my blood cold. What it does have, lurking just beneath the surface, is a great fight between Bader and the twin brother of his Ultimate Fighter coach.
Bader doesn't really get his due. In truth, he's probably the UFC's best prospect at 205 pounds. And this is the night he proves it.
2. Jeremy Horn vs. Bryan Baker: Bellator 30, Sept. 23 -- Louisville, Kentucky
It's a barely hidden secret that Jeremy Horn is one of my all-time favorite fighters. And I realize that his fight with Bryan Baker may not be on the minds of the masses. Too bad! This is my list; if you don't like it make your own! Seriously though, this is one of those interesting fights that shows how a young fighter is progressing. Baker has held his own with several UFC vets. If he beats Horn, I'd expect Joe Silva to be dialing his cell by the end of the night.
1. Mark Hominick vs. Leonard Garcia: WEC 51, September 30 -- Broomfield, Colorado
Leonard Garcia is an exciting fighter. Over and over again, from the USWF to the UFC, he's wowed the crowd with a level of violence that's unusual even for cagefighting. Hominick could be a great foil for him. Both are more than willing to throw down, and both have sneaky submission games as well. To top it off, Jose Aldo will follow the two in the main event. Another triumph of WEC matchmaking that no one will watch.