Saturday’s UFC 103 marked the end of a run that saw the organization roll out three pay-per-view events, an Ultimate Fight Night and the debut of The Ultimate Fighter in the span of eight weeks.
A yeoman-like effort even for the biggest name in the business, the UFC enters the fall with a five-week respite before Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua take to the cage for UFC 104 in Los Angeles.
Calm down; the world isn’t going to end just because the UFC is on hiatus.
In fact, this is a golden opportunity to expand your horizons and step outside the Ultimate Fighting Championships bubble for a couple of weeks and get acquainted with some of the other fighters and organizations in Mixed Martial Arts.
Yes, there are other organizations besides the UFC.
Japanese organization World Victory Road is first up in this UFC-less stretch, as Sengoku Tenth Battle takes place on September 23 from the Saitama Super Arena.
Headlining the show is Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, the former EliteXC Heavyweight champion who earlier this summer stated that a win here would put him into a November title fight with fellow steroid abuser Josh Barnett.
While Silva may be the biggest name on the card, look for Nick Thompson and Dan Hornbuckle to put on the best performance. Thompson is a talented veteran of just about every organization to ever exist, while Hornbuckle is coming off a vicious head kick knockout of Akihiro Gono.
Two days later, Strikeforce rolls out the third installment of their Challenger series. In addition to the Strikeforce debut of Ray Sefo, rising prospect Tyron Woodley looks to extend his winning streak to four against veteran Zach Light.
In the main event, undefeated Zak Cummings takes his 10-0 record into the cage to face Tim Kennedy, the former Army Ranger who returned to full-time fighting in June with a win over the aforementioned Nick Thompson.
Canada gets involved in the action early in October with the most UFC-friendly card on the calender, as Maximum Fighting Championships (MFC) 22 – Payoff lands in Edmonton loaded with recognizable names.
For those fawning for fighters they know, MFC 22 offers UFC veterans like Marvin Eastman, David Heath, and Pete Spratt, as well TUF 4 winner Travis Lutter taking on Jason “The Athlete” MacDonald.
What is more impressive is that none of these name brand fighters make the main event, as that honor goes to MFC Lightweight champion Antonio “Mandingo” McKee and Brazilian Carlo Prater.
McKee is riding an eight-fight winning streak and hasn’t lost since a 2003 decision to Karo Parisyan, while Prater is a veteran of more than 30 fights and holds wins over Spencer Fisher, Melvin Guillard and Carlos Condit.
As entertaining as each of those cards will surely be, the real week to watch for is the first week of October, as championship action takes to the ring on Tuesday, October 6 with DREAM 11 before the rescheduled WEC 43 lands in San Antonio for Cerrone vs. Henderson.
Honestly, DREAM 11 has the opportunity to be one of the best fight cards of the year. In addition to the semifinals of the Super Hulk tournament and the final two rounds of the 2009 Featherweight Grand Prix, the highly-anticipated rematch between Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen and “The Tobikan Judan” Shinya Aoki (both pictured above) will finally take place.
This fight will mark Hansen’s return to the ring after recovering from various injuries, and he will do so against the last man he faced, Aoki.
After earning the right to serve as the injury replacement in the 2008 Lightweight Grand Prix, Hansen subbed for Eddie Alvarez in the finals of the event when the Philadelphia native couldn’t continue following his win over tournament favorite Tatsuya Kawajiri.
The Norwegian capitalized, stopping Aoki before the five minute mark of the first round, capturing the DREAM Lightweight Championship in the process.
While Hansen hasn’t set foot in the ring since, Aoki has won four of five fights, most recently scoring a Unanimous Decision over Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro in DREAM 7. Finally, after 15 months of waiting, the submission specialist will finally get his chance for redemption.
For days later, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Ben “Smooth” Henderson will finally wage war for the WEC Interim Lightweight title at WEC 43.
In addition to determining a new champion in the absence of the injured Jamie Varner, WEC 43 offers the usual assortment of exciting fights and emerging talent that has become synonymous with the brand.
Fear not faithful followers of the UFC, despite the fact that the best in the business won’t be back with a vengeance until seven days before Halloween, it doesn’t mean that MMA has gone off the grid.
There is a wealth of quality events taking place before Dana White and company return.
Do yourself a favor and catch some of the outstanding action that is set to take place outside the walls of the UFC.
UFC is MMA, but MMA is not UFC; expand your horizons and try something new.
Chances are you’ll like it.