Before we take a look at November's most intriguing fights, let's pause for a moment and honor the memory of the Strikeforce card that could have been.
Remember that one? The Oklahoma City city event scheduled for Saturday was supposed to feature Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir and Sara McMann vs. Liz Carmouche. But it's vanished into the same void which sucked up UFC 151 and Gilbert Melendez vs. Pat Healy.
November's fight schedule just isn't the same without it.
But the news isn't all bad. December's schedule is killer -- knock on wood -- and there's still enough going on until then to keep fans interested. So without further ado, a look at six fights with interesting story lines, for a wide variety of reasons, over the next month:
1. Tyson Griffin vs. Effrain Escudero, RFA 4, Las Vegas, Nov. 2: The opening bout of UFC 67 figured to feature a future lightweight champion. And it did, with a twist: Frankie Edgar handed the much-hyped Tyson Griffin his first career loss. Griffin never quite regained his "future champion" shine after that loss and was finally cut from the UFC after dropping four of his last five bouts. Escudero is a former TUF winner who was cut from the company after going 0-2 in his second stint. It's wrestler vs. submission artist in the main event of a show coincidentally being held at the Fertitta-owned Texas Station, and the winner will get a big head start on his career revival effort.
2. Anthony Johnson vs. D.J. Lindermen, World Series of Fighting, Las Vegas, Nov. 3: Don't get me wrong, I'm not expecting this fight to be a classic by any stretch of the imagination. But with a live national television platform, this will be the first most have seen of "Rumble" since his weight-related escapades punched his ticket out of the UFC. Since dropping out of the spotlight, the former welterweight has settled in at light heavyweight and scored three straight wins, most recently knocking out Jake Rosholt in September. California native Lindermen, the current Cage Warriors heavyweight champ, has won four of five as he drops down to 205.
3. Joe Warren vs. Owen Evinger, Bellator 80, Nov. 9: It wasn't all that long ago that Joe Warren was one of MMA's hottest up-and-coming fighters. The then-undefeated Bellator featherweight champion was openly talking about defending the 145-pound crown, winning a bantamweight tournament, and simultaneously training for Greco-Roman wrestling's U.S. Olympic team. Since then? Warren lost his Bellator bantamweight quarterfinal bout, then Pat Curran knocked him out to take his featherweight belt. Can Warren get his career back on track? If so, he absolutely needs to defeat Owen Evinger, loser of three of his past four bouts, at Bellator 80 in Florida.
4. Thiago Silva vs. Stanislov Nedkov, UFC on Fuel 6, Nov. 10: Two simple questions in this one: 1. Is Nedkov legit? and 2. Is Silva still a contender? We'll start with Nedkov, who has been under contract to the UFC for more than two years, but will only compete for the second time. An injury forced him to pull out of his planned debut against Rodney Wallace. Steve Cantwell got hurt before their UFC 120 bout and they couldn't get a short-notice replacement. Visa issues forced him out of a bout with Fabio Maldonado. Somewhere in the middle of all that, we got our one look at the undefeated Bulgarian, an impressive first-round TKO of Luiz Cane at UFC 134 which improved his record to 12-0. Then there's Silva, who at one point was 13-0 and seemed destined for big things. But it's been all downhill for him since, with a suspension for a fake drug test sample and a 1-3 record with a no-contest in his past five fights. For Silva, this fight is about staying relevant; for Nedkov, it's a chance to prove he's worth the wait.
5. Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit, UFC 154, Montreal, Nov. 17: If I need to explain why this one is relevant, you've probably stumbled onto this website by accident. I don't think anyone could have foreseen how much turbulence the MMA industry would hit since the night just a year and a half ago when St-Pierre retained his title against Jake Shields at a sold-out Rogers Centre in Toronto. Or that St-Pierre would be out of action until now. Or that Condit would help further marginalize the welterweight division in St-Pierre's absence by sitting on an interim "championship" for the bulk of 2012. Regardless, St-Pierre vs. Condit is finally on the horizon, and with it the obvious questions: Will Octagon rust affect St-Pierre? How will his knee hold up? Condit used a cautious game plan tailor-made to outpoint Nick Diaz in their UFC 143 bout. But that's not nearly as likely to work against GSP as it did against an arrogant brawler. Will we see a return of the old go-for-broke Condit, or is Greg Jackson cooking up something completely different? We'll find out on Nov. 17.
6. Johny Hendricks vs. Martin Kampmann, UFC 154, Nov. 17: The Montreal event also features a quality welterweight contender's bout. Former NCAA wrestling champion Hendricks has won four in a row, with the last two being a flash knockout of Jon Fitch and a grinding split decision over Josh Koscheck. Kampmann has earned admiration for his comeback performances this year: A late submission victory over Thiago Alves when it appeared he was on his way to a 30-27 loss; and his second-round finish of Jake Ellenberger after nearly being put away in the bout's opening moments. Let's hope this one goes off as planned. After everything that's gone down this year, it would be nice to have one of these two guys who have built their momentum earn their title shot strictly based on what they've done in the cage and not due to fight fallouts and injury replacements.