5. NATE MARQUARDT VS.ROUSIMAR PALHARES
(UFC Ultimate Fight Night 22: Sept. 15)
Palhares comes into the bout on a UFC three-fight win streak, including victories over Jeremy Horn and Tomasz Drwal. Marquardt hopes to rebound from his February loss to Chael Sonnen. Both men have legit BJJ skills, and Marquardt looks to have the better stand up game. However, Palhares has the ability to end the fight with a heel hook in seconds.
4. EVAN DUNHAM VS.SEAN SHERK
(UFC 119:Sept. 25)
The 28-year-old Dunham has been impressive at every step of his progression, most recently defeating the gritty Tyson Griffin. He puts his 11-0 record on the line against Sherk, the former UFC Lightweight Champion who’s been out of action for nearly 16 months with various injuries. At 37 years old, the once dominant Sherk (33-4-1) has lost two of his last three, and he badly needs a win to prove he can still hang with the young guns.
3. JOE SOTO VS. JOE WARREN
(Bellator 27: Sept. 2)
Contrary to popular belief, not every top featherweight in the world resides in the WEC or Japan. Soto and Warren are two of the best 145 pounders who don’t call either of those places home. The 23-year-old Soto opened eyes in 2009 when he upset highly regarded Wilson Reis and went on to capture the Bellator title. Warren systematically worked his way through a tough tournament field in season two. The result is a style clash between a dynamo and a grinder.
2. RYAN BADER VS.ANTÔNIO R.NOGUEIRA
(UFC 119: Sept. 25)
This brilliantly matched bout works on multiple levels: it’s a classic battle pitting a young upstart vs. a grizzled veteran; it functions as a title contender eliminator; and it plays Bader’s top-level wrestling and striking power against Nogueira’s jiu-jitsu mastery and boxing finesse. The unbeaten Bader (11-0) has progressed rung-by-rung up the light-heavyweight ladder, and a win over Nogueira would break him into the division’s elite. Of course, Little Nog will have something to say about that.
1. JOSE ALDO VS. MANNY GAMBURYAN
(WEC 51:Sept. 30)
One of MMA’s most singular talents, the wiry and flashy Aldo is must see TV regardless of his opponent. This time the WEC Featherweight Champion happens to be facing Gamburyan, who seemed undersized for the UFC’s lightweight division, but is undefeated as a WEC featherweight. Not surprisingly, the brilliant Aldo is a massive favorite to retain his crown, but Gamburyan already shocked the MMA world once by knocking out Mike Brown earlier this year. Another upset seems like a long shot, as the 24-year-old Aldo hasn’t lost in nearly five years.