October isn’t historically one of the months you think of when going through the list of massive moments that have taken place inside the Octagon.
International Fight Week at the start of July certainly stands out, and in recent years, the annual November trek to Madison Square Garden in New York City has produced some memorable results and highlights, with May and December having their fair share of historic moments mixed in there, as well.
But as we ready for the massive UFC 280 pay-per-view in Abu Dhabi towards the end of the month, we thought we would put together a list of some of the biggest fights and highlight reel moments that have transpired in October inside the Octagon.
Anderson Silva def. Rich Franklin (UFC 64)
There was no way to know for sure at the time what Silva’s ascent to the top of the middleweight division would mean, but, in the moment, this performance felt significant.
People forget just how good Franklin was, how impressive he’d looked in winning and successfully defending the middleweight title prior to this fight. “Ace” was 22-1 with one no contest, having collected a highlight reel finish of Nate Quarry in his first title defense and bested David Loiseau in his second.
Franklin was on an eight-fight winning streak, and yet after mauling Chris Leben in his promotional debut less than four months earlier, Silva waltzed into the Octagon and did the same to the reigning middleweight champion.
The fight lasted a tick under three minutes, with “The Spider” felling Franklin with a knee in the clinch to claim the UFC title. He would hold on to the belt for the next six-plus years, successfully defending it 10 times while winning a record 16 consecutive fights.
Carlos Condit def. Dan Hardy (UFC 120)
If you ever wonder why analysts, coaches, and fighters talk about fighting as a “game of inches” where a fraction of a second is all it takes to determine the outcome of a fight, look no further than this welterweight battle in London.
Condit, the former WEC champion, was on his way towards the top of the division. Hardy was returning to action for the first time since his championship clash with Georges St-Pierre, and doing so with a home field advantage, no less.
After spending much of the opening round trading sparse shots and looking for opportunities and openings, the dueling contenders waded into the pocket, planted their feet, and unfurled simultaneous left hooks…and Condit’s found the target just a split second quicker.
As Condit’s shot lands and sends Hardy crashing to the canvas, you can see “The Natural Born Killer” teeter backwards a little, as “The Outlaw” had landed, as well; he was just a little slower to get there and had just a little less on it.
The victory put Condit on a three-fight winning streak and continued his rise up the rankings, which ultimately resulted in an interim title win over Nick Diaz and a title unification bout with GSP at UFC 154.
Frankie Edgar def. Gray Maynard (UFC 136)
The UFC 125 clash between these two with the lightweight title hanging in the balance might be the most chaotic championship fight in UFC history — an absolute slobberknocker that saw Edgar nearly finished in the first, return fresh as a daisy in the second, and end in a draw, prompting the need for a rematch later in the year.
While it wasn’t quite as wild as their meeting on January 1, this October clash in Houston was pretty damn terrific, too.
Maynard once again came out firing, putting Edgar on the deck and looking early like he was poised to snatch the title from “The Answer.” But just as he did in their first fight of the year, Edgar regrouped and rallied, showing a damn-near superhuman ability to take the best “The Bully” had to offer and give it right back.
With a little over a minute remaining in the fourth round, a scramble ensued, and Edgar planted an uppercut on Maynard’s chin that staggered him, and the champion never let up. He chased him backwards, continuing to throw and land clean shots, dropping Maynard with a right hand. As the challenger fell to the floor, Edgar swarmed, unloading a string of rapid-fire left hands that prompted the stoppage.
This rivalry didn’t have the heat and trash talk that have been prominent in so many of the biggest feuds in UFC history, but Edgar and Maynard’s two fights in 2011 are right up there amongst the best pair of battles between two rivals to ever grace the Octagon.
Gilbert Melendez def. Diego Sanchez (UFC 166)
Melendez busted up Sanchez midway through the opening round, but the indefatigable former Ultimate Fighter winner never stopped coming forward, hurting the former Strikeforce titleholder with a kick to the body before the two bit down on the gumshields and traded blows through to the horn.
They spent the second round trading blows, Melendez landing the better blows throughout, but Sanchez continuing to have his moments and dealing with everything coming his way, all while blood streamed down the side of his face from a nasty gash that replaced his left eyebrow. Sanchez seemed just a step behind throughout, beaten to the punch in the majority of the exchanges, forced to eat shots in order to land his own.
Yet Sanchez refused to relent, continuing to press the action and pull Melendez into the kind of frantic, grimy brawl he needed in order to potentially reverse the course of the fight.
Over the final half of the third round, these two fighters showed the tenacity, passion, and fury long associated with Latino fighters, with Sanchez dropping Melendez and hunting for a finish before they spent the final 10 seconds swinging on each other like two kids mashing buttons on their favorite fighting game.
Just a wildly entertaining battle between a pair of gutsy, hard-nosed veterans that put on one helluva show in Houston.
Jose Aldo def. Chad Mendes (UFC 179)
The first time Aldo and Mendes met resulted in a highlight reel moment, as the champion landed a devastating knee right before the horn to signal the end of the first round, and then sprinted into the stands in Rio, celebrating his victory in the crowd.
The featherweight standouts would spend the next two-plus years continuing to dominate the division — Aldo successfully defending his title with wins over Frankie Edgar, Chan Sung Jung, and Ricardo Lamas, while Mendes posted victories over Cody McKenzie, Yaotzin Meza, Darren Elkins, Clay Guida, and Nik Lentz, resulting in the two meeting for a second time at UFC 179.
While the first meeting didn’t even last a full round, the sequel went the distance, with Mendes giving Aldo the toughest fight he’d faced as featherweight champion, but still coming up short. Not only did the bout earn Fight of the Night honors, but it was voted Fight of the Year by a number of outlets as well, and rightfully so.
Aldo’s place in the UFC Hall of Fame is assured, but Mendes deserves credit for the outstanding career he forged between his successful run in the WEC and through this second battle with “The King of Rio.” He was one of the very best featherweights on the planet that five-year stretch; it’s just too bad he was stuck behind one of the best to ever do it.
Daniel Cormier def. Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 192)
I’ve been fortunate to be in attendance for some pretty incredible championship moments and memorable fights, but this might be the closest battle I’ve ever witnessed from press row.
Time tends to dull our memories of how competitive, how close fights were in the moment because the two parties part ways, keep fighting, and the results they earn cloud of recollections and remembrances. Gustafson feels like the poster child for that phenomenon because as of right now, he’s riding a four-fight losing streak and is best remembered for the times he fell short, including this one.
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But on this sweaty night in Houston, “The Mauler” was one round on one scorecard away from being the UFC light heavyweight champion, and you could certainly make a reasonable argument that he did enough to win the fight.
When Cormier himself tells you that this was the toughest fight of his career, the bout where he got hit and hurt the most, that tells you something. Gustafsson gave him everything he could handle that evening, and “DC” managed to edge him out, barely, in an absolute instant classic.
As someone that was there, listening to the crowd roar with every big exchange, every exhilarating moment, and witnessing these two men push through exhaustion and fatigue to battle tooth-and-nail for 25 minutes, let me tell you: this was one of the best fights I’ve ever seen, and you should probably go watch it again right now.
Demetrious Johnson def. Ray Borg (UFC 216)
There is a case to be made that Demetrious Johnson was the most dominant champion in UFC history during the course of his reign over the flyweight division.
Not only did “Mighty Mouse” establish a new record for consecutive successful title defenses before dropping the belt (by split decision) to Henry Cejudo (whom he’d previously beaten), but he often did so without much issue and with plenty of style points.
His final successful title defense and UFC victory are perfect examples of his excellence, as Johnson wrapped up his 11th straight title defense by launching Ray Borg into the air from a back waist lock, catching the challenger in an armbar before he hit the canvas.
You read that correctly: he suplexed another grown man into the air, and while he was hurtling toward the mat, Johnson snatched up his stray left arm, trapping it in a fight-ending submission.
I’ve watched this highlight 468 times and it still never gets old to me. This is right up there with “The Showtime Kick” as the most creative, original, incredible attacks I’ve seen inside the cage.
Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Conor McGregor (UFC 229)
Take away the pre- and post-fight commotion, and the fight itself was fascinating, as Nurmagomedov silenced any critics that questioned whether he was truly deserving of standing atop the lightweight division after having won the vacant title earlier in the year against Al Iaquinta.
From start-to-finish, Nurmagomedov dominated. He out-wrestled McGregor as expected, putting him on the deck early in the first and keeping him there, stinging the returning Irishman with a big right hand early in the second before transitioning back into his wrestling attack. McGregor pressured on the feet at the outset of every round, but without fail, Nurmagomedov would find a way to initiate a grappling exchange or a clinch situation, neutralizing the former champion’s offense.
The grappling sequence that closed out the fight was textbook Khabib, as he tripped McGregor to the canvas, controlled his body and stayed one step ahead each time the challenger looked to escape, and then latched onto a nasty neck crank to draw out the tap.
This was one of the most highly anticipated fights in UFC history and Nurmagomedov turned it into a showcase of his considerable talents.
Israel Adesanya def. Robert Whittaker (UFC 243)
Adesanya made his UFC debut on February 11, 2018, earning a second-round stoppage win over Rob Wilkinson.
He won four additional fights in the next 364 days and followed that up with an outstanding effort in the deciding fifth round of his interim title fight with Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236, setting up a title unification bout with Robert Whittaker at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia on October 6, 2019.
Adesanya’s rise had been so impressive that it felt like there was no other way this fight was going to end than with him hoisting the middleweight title aloft, but how he made it happen is part of what made it so special.
Right before the buzzer at the end of the first round, Adesanya landed a right hand that put Whittaker on the deck. If there were any time remaining, the fight would have been done; that’s how clearly hurt Whittaker was in that instance.
Whittaker came out pressuring and chasing opportunities in the second, and while he found some success early, Adesanya ultimately made him pay. As “The Reaper” rushed in, Adesanya leaned back out of range and countered, stinging him on multiple occasions, and when they set their feet and traded late in the round, Adesanya’s quickness to the target proved to be the difference.
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A left hand found Whittaker’s jaw and sent him tumbling backwards to the canvas, and referee Marc Goddard was quick to step in when the coffin nails started coming.
Less than two years after making his promotional debut, Adesanya claimed the middleweight throne, and he’s yet to relinquish it.
Joaquin Buckley def. Impa Kasanganay (UFC Fight Night: Moraes vs. Sandhagen)
This is the best highlight of the last couple years — a kick straight out of fight film choreography that almost no one would try to throw, yet alone land the way Buckley did.
Standing across from one another in the center of the Octagon — Buckley in a southpaw stance, Kasanganay fighting in a conventional stance — Buckley threw out a left kick that went towards Kasanganay’s shoulder, which the Dana White’s Contender Series alum grabbed and caught as it sailed by his chest.
Before he could let it go and reset, Buckley pivoted on his planted right foot and then jumped into a kick, thrusting his right foot directly into Kasanganay’s face, landing flush.
Even watching it at full speed it looks like slow-motion because of the delayed reaction to the impact. It takes a second to register what happened, and while Kasanganay was out as soon as the shot landed, he remained upright for a beat before dropping backwards to the canvas.
Not only did this rightfully win Knockout of the Year, but it’s also the clubhouse leader in the Knockout of the Decade race, and topping it is going to be pretty damn difficult.