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Card By Card: September 2009

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Card By Card is our monthly look at the upcoming 30, 31, or very rarely 28 days in the MMA world.

August saw an end to the beautiful (tolerable) summer weather that we here on the East Coast had been fortunate to enjoy (when we weren’t kayaking in the streets). August was hot, humid, disgusting. We, the bright MMA fans of the world, had a break though: we could stay indoors, sip lemonade, and be privy to one of the wildest months in MMA history.

The Affliction card that was supposed to start the month? Cancelled, along with the future of the promotion. The resulting aftermath saw Fedor sign a megadeal with Strikeforce. In the ring, Cyborg unprettied Carano, Anderson made Forrest run, Torres got stunned, and Minotauro and Couture showed that they’re not quite ready to pick up their MMAARP cards. Plus, Tito Ortiz got comped tickets to a UFC show for the first time in a while!

How can September hope to top that? The short answer is: it can’t. While schoolchildren (and idiot grad students, like myself) return to the classroom, the cages of the world will be mostly quiet, gearing up for a much larger October rush. While the schedule is mostly devoid of huge names, there are plenty of free fights available for you to get your scout on, looking for the next big star.

UFC is packing the vast majority of their September events into a four day stretch. Things get started on Wednesday the 16th with Fight Night 19 in Oklahoma, continue that night with the premiere of Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights, and finish on the 19th with UFC 103: Franklin vs. Belfort in Dallas.

Fight Night is a nice little bonus card this month. It’s hard to do anything major just days before a big PPV show, but it’s good that the UFC love is extended across the panhandle into Oklahoma. The headliner, Nate Diaz against Melvin Guillard, isn’t going to take anybody’s breath away, but live fights are live fights. I’m actually more interested by the Gray Maynard/Roger Huerta fight. Maynard’s undefeated and Huerta, returning to the cage after a year off, has gone from UFC golden boy and SI cover star to wannabe actor; this is the last fight on his contract. A decisive finish for Maynard could be what his UFC career needs in a relatively open lightweight division.

I’m still a sucker for The Ultimate Fighter (mostly because my TiVo is filled with my girlfriend’s crap reality shows these days and I need balance on my consumer electronics), but I’m aware not everybody is. And the last couple seasons were relatively weak. Nonetheless, this could be the most interesting season in a while. There are a few interesting fighters on the roster, including former IFL champ Roy Nelson and ex-Buccaneers DE Marcus Jones. The verbal sparring between Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans (which may yet produce some black on black crime) should be fun to watch. Oh, and there’s another well-known heavyweight competing… who am I forgetting here? I feel like I’ve seen him on YouTube, or CBS, or a Nike commercial… or somewhere. Eh, it’ll come back to me.

In a perfect world for UFC, Kimbo Slice will be the last fighter to fight on TUF so they could stretch out the drama as long as possible; if I’m Dana White, I’m making sure Rashad and Rampage don’t send him out there until the bitter end. Of course, if I’m a legitimate coach, I call him out first and send out my best fighter against him; but this is reality TV, not reality itself. Don’t expect Slice to catch a match for a while.

UFC 103 is a relatively underwhelming card after the quality action delivered by 100 and 102 (and the big headliners offered up by 101). To make up for it, the UFC is doing what it can for the fan. The preliminary fights will air for an hour free (free!) on Spike TV. What prompted the generosity? The Floyd Mayweather comeback fight against Juan Manuel Marquez is head to head against the card on PPV. (This is me, desperately crossing my fingers that my bar of choice will also be generous and air both).

While Vitor Belfort’s return to the UFC is a story, it’s hard to tell what any result would mean given that they’re fighting at Franklinweight (195). Cro Cop/Dos Santos could produce a vicious KO, given the two men’s track records, and Swick/Kampmann will produce the next contender for GSP’s belt, but beyond that, there aren’t a ton of storylines on this card.

Strikeforce is foregoing a major card this month, but they will be airing the next installment of their Challengers series on Showtime on the 25th. The headliner, Tim Kennedy vs. Zak Cummings at middleweight, could be a fun little fight. Cummings is protecting an undefeated record and Kennedy is coming off an impressive win against Nick Thompson. Strikeforce needs more credible contenders at middleweight, with Cung Le not defending the belt, so building some talent from within could produce a very interesting tournament. (That’s just fantasy booking, but I’d like to see it.)

World Victory Road holds Sengoku 10 on the 23rd. Not much there outside the realm of the hardcore fans, but former EliteXC champ Bigfoot Silva, IFL lightweight champ Ryan Schultz and Nick Thompson will all be competing. Keep an eye on Hiroshi Izumi, making his MMA debut at 205 after a very successful judo career.

A few big promotions are dark for the month. WEC is taking the month off before returning with their Cerrone vs. Henderson card in October, although if you missed the big Brown-Faber rematch back in June, this is a good time to catch up as Versus will be replaying it twice this month. DREAM is also having a silent September before coming back for a pair of cards in October. Bellator doesn’t get rolling again until January. Elite XC? Still dead.

If you only have money to spend on one card… …save your cash for next month so you can watch Machida/Rua and Velasquez/Rothwell from the comfort of your home.

If you only have time to spend on one card… …I’d be keeping an eye out for Kimbo’s debut fight on TUF, assuming it happens this month, because that’s the one most people will be talking about the next day. UFC 103 is worth watching, but without any title fights it’s hard to think there’s going to be much buzz about it.

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About Matt DeTura