September is normally the best time of the year for sports fans. It means the start of college football and the NFL regular season, as well as the climax of the MLB division and wild card chases (and even more so with the extra wild card spots). For the fight fan, this September has already been marred by the cancellation of UFC 151, but it's still shaping up to be one of the busiest months of the year. In fact, Las Vegas still has MMA this weekend at an amateur level, as Tuff-N-Uff hosts an event this Sunday at the South Point Arena. If there's any incentive for anyone in the Vegas area to go besides the fights themselves, Shane Carwin is scheduled to make a guest appearance and there's free beer and whiskey tasting pre-show. The promotion's most notable fight was this recent 5 second KO in a women's MMA bout.
After the jump you can take a look at what boxing and MMA have to offer for a loaded beginning to the autumn season.
Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson (September 8th, HBO, 10 PM ET/7 PM PT). While the USA has experienced a noticeably sharp decline in Olympics success, 2004 gold medalist Andre Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) has proven to be one of the best boxers in the world and has shown little to no signs of vulnerability. Ward is the reigning WBC and WBA super middleweight (168 lbs) champion who has beaten the likes of Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham, and Mikkel Kessler all in impressive fashion. All of those fights were a part of that never-ending Super Six tournament run by Showtime. What Ward lacks in power he makes up for with crisp, technical boxing. Chad Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) is an interesting opponent because his last super middleweight bout was in 2006. However, he has been excellent at light-heavyweight, having twice beaten Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver and most recently defeating Bernard Hopkins in a rematch of their no-contest in 2011 (Hopkins couldn't continue due to an injured shoulder resulting from Dawson practically getting a single-leg takedown). I will admit, neither guy is exciting to watch and this fight will probably be very tactical and not entertaining for the viewer. It is still a big fight for both men and it takes place in Ward's backyard of Oakland, CA at the Oracle Arena.
Randall Bailey vs. Devon Alexander (September 8th, Showtime, 9 PM ET/PT). Believe it or not, Randall Bailey (43-7, 37 KOs) is a world champion again at age 37, having won the vacant IBF Welterweight crown against Mike Jones on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley. Bailey is about as one-handed a puncher as you can get, but when he lands his right hand on your face you're probably not going to stay upright. His KO of Jones was a right uppercut from hell after decking him with a straight right in round 10. Otherwise, Bailey was solidly losing that fight and it was dreadful to watch. Alexander (23-1, 13 KOs) has been on the ... generous end of some hometown judging, with narrow wins over Lucas Mathysse and Andrei Kotelnik at 140 lbs. His only loss was a technical decision to Timothy Bradley, and his last fight saw the Missouri native move up to welterweight to beat Marcos Maidana in a non-title fight. Bailey has long struggled to defeat top-level fighters, particularly ones unwilling to brawl, and Alexander could definitely outbox him, but this is still an intriguing tilt between a veteran of the sport with fight changing big KO power and a more technical boxer looking to return to title form following the Bradley loss.
Vitali Klitschko vs. Manuel Charr (September 8th, 5 PM ET/2 PM PT). Honestly, I threw this in here because it's possibly Vitali's final fight and Charr is probably dead meat. The challenger from Germany is 21-0 but only has 11 KOs with just one notable win (Danny Williams). Everything else is against 3rd tier opposition. If you have absolutely nothing to do in the day time, then watch this fight and see if Vitali once again earns a KO victory between rounds 8 and 12.
Sergio Martinez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (September 15th, HBO PPV, 9 PM ET/6 PM PT). Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KOs) is easily the best middleweight in the sport right now, and the 37-year-old Argentine has been in some entertaining battles in the last few years. His famous win was a stunning one-punch KO of Paul Williams back in 2010, and it was even more surprising considering he's not a one-shot type of puncher. Martinez also beat Kelly Pavlik in an excellent bout (when Pavlik was still a top fighter), and clearly beat Kermit Cintron in the eyes of everyone except two judges who thought it was a draw. Martinez's somewhat controversial decision loss to Williams in their first fight stands as his only defeat in the last decade. Chavez Jr. is often criticized for not fighting top-tier talent like Martinez, and rightly so, and this is his chance to show that his 46-0-1 (32 KOs) record isn't completely smoke and mirrors from beating C-level guys like John Duddy.
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez vs. Josesito Lopez (September 15th, Showtime, 9 PM ET/PT). Canelo (40-0-1, 29 KOs) is easily the best junior middleweight (154 lbs) in the world and he's only 22. The Mexican sensation retired Shane Mosley, and convincingly stopped Kermit Cintron, Alfonso Gomez, and Carlos Baldomir. He's got very good power and is highly entertaining to watch. Canelo should've been fighting Victor Ortiz, but Josesito Lopez (30-1, 18 KOs) derailed those plans. He holds arguably the upset of the year by beating Oritz in a fight that dramatically ended with Ortiz unable to continue due to a broken jaw. Lopez was behind on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage. Before that, Lopez's only notable win was a KO against Mike Dallas Jr. in 2010 at junior welterweight. This looks like a total mismatch on paper, and I think everyone was expecting but if you want to see Canelo's excellence in action, watch this fight.
UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort (September 22nd, PPV, 10 PM ET/7 PM PT). One of the benefits of losing UFC 151 is that UFC 152 became a lot more exciting. Jon Jones is headlining yet another Toronto card and if things stay the same *knock on wood* this will be the first two-title fight card of 2012 for the UFC. While Jones vs. Vitor Belfort is probably a complete mismatch, the co-main of Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson should be a close and exciting battle for the inaugural Flyweight title. Michael Bisping and Brian Stann battle in the first of many fights to clear up the middleweight division title picture, and the card opens up with a dynamite fight between featherweights Cub Swanson and Charles Oliveira. Even the preliminary card is stacked with intriguing storylines like the development of Jim Hettes, Evan Dunham battling T.J. Grant, and the return of Vinny Magalhaes.
Bellator 74 (September 28th, MTV2, 8 PM ET/8 PM PT). The latest welterweight tournament kicks off in Atlantic City, which includes the quarterfinal matchup of Jim Wallhead vs. Lyman Good in the main event. Marius Zaromskis enters the tournament against Canada's Nordine Taleb. It would've been better if Paul Daley and Ben Saunders could've also taken part, but alas it's not happening this go-round.
UFC on FUEL 5: Struve vs. Miocic (September 29th, FUEL, 4 PM ET/1 PM PT). International shows, particularly non-PPVs, generally don't bring out the big PPV names UFC fans are familiar with, and it's no different here. That said, this card is still deep from top to bottom and the headliner between Stefan Struve and Stipe Miocic could go a long way in determining who is a potential contender in the heavyweight division. England's Dan Hardy co-headlines against Amir Sadollah, but other British talent like Brad Pickett, Paul Sass, John Hathaway, John Maguire, Tom Watson, Jason Young, and others will all look to impress in front of the Nottingham crowd. European prospects like Jorgen Kruth, Jimi Manuwa, and Gunnar Nelson also make their UFC debuts. If college football for baseball doesn't float your boat in the afternoon, this has potential to be one of the most entertaining shows of the year.
Strikeforce was going directly against the WEC and the UFC. Now they're the nightcap of an MMA doubleheader. A few hours after UFC on FUEL ends, the next Strikeforce card kicks off in Sacramento, CA. Gilbert Melendez, easily the best lightweight outside of the UFC, defends his title against Pat Healy. Josh Thomson fights Caros Fodor on the main card and veteran Jorge Santiago makes his SF debut against Quinn Mulhern. For women's MMA fans, hard-hitting Brazilian bantamweight Amanda Nunes returns to action to fight Cat Zingano on the ShoExtreme undercard. It's not one of SF's better events in terms of names and matchups, but it should be plenty entertaining.It wasn't too long ago that
I don't know about you, but I'm excited. And yes, Bloody Elbow will be here to cover all of the MMA. If you want wall-to-wall coverage of the above boxing events, head over to the excellent Bad Left Hook.