Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
A thumbnail look at each major event on September's MMA fight card calendar:
Saturday, Sept. 22
Event: UFC 152
Location: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
TV: Main card on pay-per-view; prelims split between FX and Facebook.
Main Event: Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort
Main Event Stakes: After refusing to meet Chael Sonnen as a replacement for Dan Henderson, and the subsequent cancellation of UFC 151, Jones puts his UFC light heavyweight title on the line against Vitor Belfort. If Jones, who took a verbal beating from the fans in the wake of UFC 151's fallout, is going to start winning back fans, he needs to do what most expect and roll over Belfort. Belfort must feel charmed simply to be in this position, as a huge underdog. A win would be gravy. A Jones victory would mark his fifth in a row over former UFC light heavyweight champs.
Other Bouts of Note: Joe Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson for the inaugural UFC flyweight title; Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann in a middleweight contenders bout; Matt Hamill vs. Vladimir Matyushenko in Hamill's return from a year-long retirement. (Full fight card).
Potential Fight of the Night: Benavidez vs. Johnson. The flyweight division has been all action in 2012. Benavidez scored an impressive knockout in his tourney semifinal bout and both Johnson's semifinal and re-take against Ian McCall were memorable. There's no reason to expect anything different as the first 125-pound champion is crowned.
Potential Upset: Bisping-Stann. Granted, Bisping is only a mild underdog. Would it be any real surprise if he pulls it off?
Friday, Sept. 28
Event: Bellator 74
Location: Ceasar's Atlantic City
TV: MTV 2
Main Event: Lyman Good vs. Jim Wallhead
Main Event Stakes: Good, the inaugural Bellator welterweight champion, looks to earn a shot against current champion Ben Askren as he meets Wallhead, a 23-6 Brit, in the first round of the season seven welterweight tourney.
Potential Fight of the Night: At 2-2 in his past four fights, Good should be motivated. But he can't sleep on Wallhead, a crafty veteran coming off back-to-back BAMMA wins over Frank Trigg and Joey Villasenor.
Potential Upset: If the Zaromskis who showed up in back-to-back Strikeforce losses to Nick Diaz and Evangelista Santos resurfaces against Taleb, an 8-1 Tri Star product out of Montreal, he could be in for a long night.
Saturday, Sept. 29
Event: UFC on Fuel TV 5
Location: Capital FM Arena, Notthingham, England
TV: Main card on Fuel TV; Prelims on Facebook
Main Event: Stefan Struve vs. Stipe Miocic
Main Event Stakes: The 24-year old Struve finally looks on the verge of making a real run in the heavyweight division. He's won three straight and five of six, all five wins coming via finish. His Achilles has been a suspectibility for knockouts, and he's facing a strong striker in the unbeaten Miocic. Seven of Miocic's nine victories have come via KO or TKO, but Struve represents his biggest jump in caliber of competition to date.
Other Bouts of Note: Welterweight Dan Hardy fights in his hometown against former TUF winner Amir Sadollah; Brad Pickett meets Yves Jabouin in a bout with ramifications in the bantamweight rankings, and unbeaten submission artist Paul Sass faces cagey vet Matt Wiman in an interesting style clash (Full fight card).
Potential Fight of the Night: Pickett is looking to build off the most impressive performance of his career, as he dismantled Damacio Page in April. Jabouin has won three straight decisions.
Potential Upset: Hardy looks the favorite over the hit-or-miss Sadalloh, especially with the hometown crowd behind him. But let's not forget Hardy has lost four of his past five bouts.
Event: Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy
Location: Power Balance Pavilion, Sacramento, Calif.
TV: Main card on Showtime; prelims on Showtime Extreme
Main Event: Gilbert Melendez vs. Pat Healy
Main Event Stakes: It's the continuation of a holding pattern for Melendez, the Strikeforce lightweight champion. He's been champion three years and won seven straight fights, but without any crossover fights against UFC lightweights, he's in a no-win situation. This is especially true in his opponent for this one, Healy, tough Team Quest veteran and submission artist whose name recognition has yet to match his game in the cage.
Other Bouts of Note: In a somewhat thin card on the back end of Zuffa's day-night doubleheader, Josh Thomson, in his first bout since losing a close decision to Melendez in their trilogy fight in May, faces Caros Fodor. And unbeaten Cat Zingano, touted as a potential challenger to women's bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey, makes her Strikeforce debut against Amanda Nunes (Full fight card).
Potential Fight of the Night: Zingano has turned heads by winning five of her six career fights via finish, including her third-round knockout slam over Takayo Hashi in May, 2011. Nunes, meanwhile, has never gone to a decision in her nine career fights.
Potential Upset: Thomson can't afford to overlook Fodor, an AMC Pankration product who is 5-1 in Strikeforce and looking to shake off his third-round submission loss to Healy in March.
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