The Ultimate Fighting Championship slowed things down in September, with only two fight cards, but it’s hard to complain given the many engaging battles that took place, capped off by the entertaining five-rounder between defending light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, the main event at UFC 165.
October also has its share of intriguing matchups, so MMA fans should get lots of treats if the combatants take a page from the UFC 165 headliners’ book.
Here are the five most-intriguing matchups the UFC has to offer in the next 31 days:
1. Demian Maia vs. Jake Shields (UFC Fight Night 29)
Maia (18-4-0, 9 submissions) has been an unstoppable beast ever since he dropped down to the UFC’s welterweight division, walking right through guys like Dong Hyun Kim and Rick Story. His most impressive performance as a welterweight came when he faced Jon Fitch UFC 156 though. Maia beat the grind-master at his own game, putting on a grappling clinic as he took Fitch down with ease and kept him there for the majority of the fight — which he won via unanimous decision.
Shields (28-6-1, 10 submissions), who has never lost a fight via submission, has been sort of impressive lately as well, racking up a split decision victory against the always tough Tyron Woodley during his last outing at UFC 161.
Both men are well-rounded fighters (yes, Maia’s boxing technique is pretty decent), but they’ll likely spend a majority of their time on the canvas if Maia has his way at UFC Fight Night 29 — which he probably will. Shields has a tendency to be more of a lay-n-pray tactician when things hit the ground, but it’s hard to see him getting away with that against a high-caliber BJJ specialist like Maia.
Expect an entertaining grappling exhibition, with lots of transitions, sweeps, and submission attempts.
2. Erick Silva vs. Dong Hyun Kim (UFC Fight Night 29)
Even with the loss to Jon Fitch at UFC 153, Silva (15-3-0, 9 submissions) remains one of the brightest rising stars in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s welterweight division. The Brazilian couldn’t have looked any better during his last outing against Jason High, which he won 71 seconds into the contest via submission, earning the “Submission of the Night” award.
However, Silva will be in for another serious test when he faces Kim (17-2-1, 6 KOs) on Oct. 9 at UFC Fight Night 29.
Even though he might not be popular with casual MMA fans, Kim is a battle-tested veteran with wins against top caliber guys like Nate Diaz, TJ Grant, and the always game Matt Brown.
With only two loses on his professional MMA record against Demian Maia and Carlos Condit, don’t let the oddsmakers fool you; Dong Hyun Kim is the more accomplished mixed martial artist heading into UFC Fight Night 29.
Not sure why they have him at +220.
3. Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos (UFC 166)
Dos Santos (16-2-0, 12 KOs) made defeating Velasquez look easy during their first tilt, putting him away with punches 64 seconds into the inaugural UFC on Fox headliner.
Velasquez (12-1-0, 10 KOs) exacted his revenge during their UFC 155 rematch, beating the crap out of dos Santos for 25 minutes.
Given how one-sided the second fight between the two was, some would argue that’s there’s no point in a third fight. However, that theory is flawed since dos Santos was concussed for the majority of their UFC 155 tilt thanks to a huge Velasquez right hand which landed flush during the first round.
With time to make a few adjustments to deal with Cain’s attacks, expect Junior to put on a much better performance at UFC 166.
4. Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson (UFC 166)
Cormier (12-0-0, 5 KOs) continues to make his way down to 205 pounds, so this might be the last time we see “DC” fight in the heavyweight division for quite some time if things go well against Nelson (19-8-0, 12 KOs) at UFC 166.
Cormier’s world-class wrestling gives him the edge in this one, but Nelson’s ability to generate serious power with his right hand gives him a fighting chance. If Cormier isn’t as overly cautious as he was during his UFC debut against Frank Mir, there’s a decent chance this will turn into an entertaining battle.
5. Nate Marquardt vs. Hector Lombard (UFC 166)
Prior to his entry into the UFC, Lombard (32-4-1, 18 KOs) was unbeaten in the previous five years, winning 24 fights during that timeframe.
However, things quickly cooled down for “Shango” when he signed on with the Ultimate Fighting championship.
Lombard lost his debut bout to Tim Boetsch via split decision (I personally scored the bout in his favor), looked awesome against during his KO victory against Rousimar Palhares, then put on another dismal performance against Yushin Okami losing via split decision once again.
Hector will now try to turn things around fighting in the UFC’s welterweight division.
Marquardt (32-12-2, 15 submissions) has had his share of problems lately as well, losing consecutive bouts to Tarec Saffiedine and Jake Ellenberger after putting one of the best performances of his MMA career against Tyron Woodley.
Given their recent struggles, there a pretty good chance the loser of their UFC 166 encounter will be sent packing from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, so motivation won’t be an issue for either man.
Notable Mentions: Lyoto Machida vs. Mark Munoz (UFC Fight Night 30), Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez (UFC 166) and Raphael Assunção vs. T.J. Dillashaw (UFC Fight Night 28).