Top 5 MMA fights to watch in October 2017

Tony Ferguson in action against Michael Johnson during their bout at UFC on Fox at the Izod Center in E. Rutherford, NJ on Saturday, May 5, 2012. Johnson won via unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan) MMA
(AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Easily the slowest month left in a fairly slow year for the both MMA and UFC, October still brings a wealth of value to fans of the Octagon.

Hosting two title fights (one of which is basically fake, but still fun), the promotion will do its best to keep the train rolling along as it prepares for a pair of months bound to showcase some of the more enticing matchups available in 2017.

Here, we take a look at the top five MMA fights to watch in October of 2017.

5. Demian Maia vs. Colby Covington

Event: UFC Fight Night 119
Date: Oct. 28
Location: Geraldo Jose de Almeida Gymnasium; Sao Paulo, Brazil

Easily the most under-the-radar contest on this list, Demian Maia-Colby Covington is the only featured fight that is neither a main event nor a championship fight. It does, however, carry a great deal of consequence in the realm of the welterweight division.

Maia is coming off what is easily the worst performance of his career at 170 pounds, dropping a one-sided decision to Tyron Woodley in what was a long-overdue shot at the welterweight championship. After picking up seven straight wins against top contenders in the class, Maia had nothing against the calculated champion, offering troubling reminders of what happened the last time Maia fought for a championship in the UFC when taking on Anderson Silva seven years ago.

He’ll have a chance to rekindle some fan support against a rising contender in Covington, who has quickly made a name for himself as one of the more outspoken fighters in the class. Covington is not a particularly exciting fighter to watch, earning many of his victories with his grappling abilities.

One has to wonder how effective he’ll be here, taking on arguably the scariest grappler MMA has ever seen.

4. Donald Cerrone vs. Darren Till

Event: UFC Fight Night 118
Date: Oct. 21
Location: Ergo Arena; Gdansk, Poland

Following a ultra-impressive start to his career at 170 pounds, picking up four straight wins over noteworthy talent, Donald Cerrone has dropped his last two fights. It’s difficult to attach a world of significance to those losses, considering they came against elite opposition: Jorge Masvidal and former champion Robbie Lawler. Cerrone may not be fit to topple the cream of the crop (whether based on his shortcomings or the overactivity to which he exposed himself), but he’s probably not ready to concede to Till, a rising contender.

A 24-year-old and undefeated fighter hailing from Liverpool, Till has yet to be presented with the opportunity to showcase his skills against a recognizable contender. He’s 3-0-1 in the UFC, but you’d be hard pressed to find anybody outside the inner MMA community who can recall any of the four fighters he faced. That’s bound to change on Oct. 21, when he faces arguably the most popular man competing at 170 pounds today.

It may be a big step up in competition for Till, or it may just be the first step toward the next chapter in welterweight supremacy.

3. Lyoto Machida vs. Derek Brunson

Event: UFC Fight Night 119
Date: Oct. 28
Location: Geraldo Jose de Almeida Gymnasium; Sao Paulo, Brazil

It may not feel like it, but Lyoto Machida has been out of the cage for more than two years. About 10 months of that was due to a layoff following a devastating loss to Yoel Romero in June of 2015, and another 18 months following a suspension after Machida admitted to taking a substance featured on USADA’s list of no-nos.

He now returns to the cage as a 39-year-old man, hoping to turn his career around after going 1-3 in his last four fights. Machida didn’t look the part of a true contender in his last two fights, suffering crushing defeats to both Romero and former champion Luke Rockhold. He’ll have a much more feasible test in Derek Brunson, now running out of time in the sport.

Brunson will try to pick up the biggest win of his fighting career, making it two in a row since seeing his winning streak end in late 2016. Known for his erratic albeit sometimes effective striking techniques, it’ll be interesting to see how willing Brunson will be to let his hands go, considering the strengths Machida possesses as a counter-striker.

2. Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg 

Event: UFC 216
Date: Oct. 7
Location: T-Mobile Arena; Las Vegas

We’ve been here before. Originally scheduled to take place in September, a flyweight championship bout between Demetrious Johnson and Ray Borg has been moved into the following month after the challenger fell ill just days before the fight.

Johnson-Borg was No. 2 on the list of fights to watch in September when that piece first ran, and it remains as the silver medalist despite having a fresh batch of fights to compete with in an entirely different month. Amanda Nunes-Valentina Shevchenko, expected by many to truly determine the world’s best 135-pound female fighter, was No. 1 on the list last time out. While the top fight this month won’t exactly determine any sort of finality in any particular weight class, it’s still a far more enticing matchup than this fairly predictable contest.

Still, Johnson is one victory away from officially surpassing Anderson Silva for the UFC record for most consecutive title defenses. That should count for something.

1. Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee

Event: UFC 216
Date: Oct. 7
Location: T-Mobile Arena; Las Vegas

Despite the fact that these two men are competing for what is essentially a fake interim championship, a bout between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee is about as enticing as it gets from a competitive standpoint.

Ferguson comes into the bout aiming to extend his winning streak to 10, rising from the darkest of shadows to insert himself into the conversation as arguably the best fighter in one of the deepest divisions in mixed martial arts. Having picked up wins over Josh Thomson, Edson Barboza, and former champion Rafael dos Anjos, a victory over Lee would essentially guarantee Ferguson an eventual shot at the actual championship (even if he won’t be the first to welcome champion Conor McGregor back from his hiatus).

Lee, riding a five-fight winning streak of his own, has a chance to steal the spotlight in what feels like one of the most opportunistic narratives in recent memory. Having defeated just two top-15 contenders who don’t strike much fear in the grand scheme of things, “The Motown Phenom” can secure a big-ticket fight with what will be just the second main-event fight of his UFC career.

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