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Five fights to watch in September

Luke Rockhold returns this month after a long absence.

At the moment, it might seem like we’re all suffering from Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor hangover. But there’s actually a solid array of fights this month. Here are five worth marking on your calendar.

Ian Heinisch (8-0) vs. Marcus Perez (8-0) LFA 22, Broomfield, Colo., Sept. 8, AXS TV

Legacy returns with a middleweight fight featuring one of the more intriguing personalities to hit the MMA scene in recent years. Heinisch spent several years in a Spanish prison as part of a drug trafficking ring, where the former high school wrestler honed his striking skills in a prison boxing program. He’s turned his life around and come out flying in his MMA career with eight straight wins. Perez, meanwhile, has a less dramatic life story, but has also blitzed his way to an 8-0 record, decisioning UFC vet Ildemar Alcntara in his last fight. The duo will battle for the vacant LFA middleweight belt.

UFC on FOX 24 photos
The only flyweight champion the UFC has ever known chases history in Edmonton.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1) vs. Ray Borg (11-2), UFC 215, Edmonton, Alberta, Sept. 9, PPV

Is this necessarily the most intriguing fight the UFC could have put together? Not really. Borg is a talented youngster with upside, but the JacksonWink product is getting a flyweight title shot primarily because he’s the only 125er Johnson hasn’t already steamrolled who also didn’t already have a fight lined up. No, the hook for this one is history: With a victory in the main event of UFC’s Edmonton debut, Johnson, just two weeks shy of his fifth anniversary as champion, would have his 11th successful title defense, surpassing Anderson Silva’s record 10 as middleweight champion from 2006-13. Borg, for his part, has won two straight and five of six, but missed weight twice during that stretch.

Sara McMann (11-3) vs. Ketlen Vieira (8-0), UFC 215, Edmonton, Alberta, Sept. 9, FS1

There’s been some grumbling about the depth of the UFC 215 card in Edmonton, and not without merit. But the FS1 prelim main event is a sneaky good fight. McMann was all but written off as a bantamweight title contender when she lost three out of four fights dating back to her UFC 170 loss to then-champion Ronda Rousey. But the former Olympic wrestling medalist has been on a roll with victories in three straight fights, the past two via submission. The 36-year-old takes on an interesting challenge in Vieira, an undefeated Brazilian who has five of her eight victories via finish and is 2-0 in the UFC.

Lorenz Larkin looks to work his way back to another Bellator welterweight title shot.

Paul Daley (39-15-2) vs. Lorenz Larkin (18-6, 1 NC), Bellator 183, San Jose, Calif., Sept. 23, Spike

There’s going to be plenty of interesting stuff going down at Bellator 183, from the lightweight matchup between Benson Henderson and Patricky Freire, to Roy Nelson’s company debut, to the reset fight for Aaron Pico after his disastrous Madison Square Garden debut (as of now, he’s fighting the always fearsome “TBA”). But we’re most looking forward to the welterweight matchup between the veteran Daley and Larkin, both of whom are coming off high-profile losses. Daley was submitted by Rory MacDonald in June and has dropped two of his past three fights. Larkin, meanwhile, dropped a five-round decision to champion Douglas Lima in June in his Bellator debut. The winner of this fight figures to get right back into the thick of things in Bellator’s deepest division.

Luke Rockhold vs. David Branch, UFC Fight Night Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa., Sept. 16, FS1

Imagine, just for a moment, that back when Luke Rockhold was scheduled to defend the UFC middleweight title against Chris Weidman at UFC 199, you told someone the following chain of events would occur: 1. Weidman would fall out with an injury; 2. Michael Bisping would replace him; 3. Bisping would knock Rockhold out; 4. Bisping would defend the belt against Dan Henderson; 5. A Rockhold-Jacare Souza fight would fall out due to injury; 5. A Bisping-Georges St-Pierre fight would be announced and then not delivered for various reasons for nearly a year; 6. Robert Whittaker would beat Souza and then win an interim title against Yoel Romero; 7. When Rockhold finally returned, he’d fight David Branch, who was World Series of Fighting middleweight and light heavyweight champion when all this began? The person who you told all of this would probably claim you were insane. But MMA can be that way sometimes, and it’s with great interest that we’ll see how Rockhold fares after such a long absence.

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