MMA Junkie’s ‘Fight of the Month’ for October: A featherweight grudge is settled

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best fights from October 2019: Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s “Fight of the Month” award for October.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting on your choice.

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The Nominees

Lorenz Larkin def. Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 229

If you wrote off Lorenz Larkin (21-7 MMA, 3-2 BMMA) after he dropped his first two fights in Bellator, he showed you jumped off the bandwagon too soon when he defeated Andrey Koreshkov (22-4 MMA, 13-4 BMMA) to extend his winning streak to three fights.

Larkin had a grueling, tight battle with former Bellator welterweight champion Koreshkov in a back-and-forth battle which could have gone either way. In the end, Larkin got the better end of two out of three 29-28 scores to take the split decision as he elevated himself into title contention.

Brad Riddell def. James Mullarkey at UFC 243

If you didn’t know the names Brad Riddell (7-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and Jamie Mullarkey (12-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC), you certainly did after they threw down in one spectacular brawl over the course of 15 minutes in the lightweight division.

Riddell, a teammate of Israel Adesanya who was making his UFC debut, and Mullarkey, a New South Wales native also making his debut on the big stage, put on a tremendous show. Riddell got the best of things by a wide margin, as he earned a unanimous decision on scores of 29-27, 30-26, and 30-26.

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Aung La N Sang def. Brandon Vera at ONE Championship 100: Century – Part 2

Brandon Vera’s (16-8) career-long dream of being a two-division World champion was put on hold once again as he fell short of a second ONE Championship title against Aung La N Sang (26-10).

The heavyweight titleholder Vera dropped down to light heavyweight to fight N Sang, but lost a thrilling contest. Toe-to-toe, the two men exchanged shot after shot on the feet, including a few spinning elbows, before Vera finally could stand no more. Vera took damage and covered up, then N Sang followed with a barrage of punches for the TKO to defend the gold.

Yair Rodriguez def. Jeremy Stephens at UFC on ESPN 6

Yair Rodriguez (12-2 MMA, 8-1 UFC) got the last laugh over Jeremy Stephens (28-17 MMA, 15-16 UFC) when he emerged victorious from their grudge match, which certainly lived up to the hype.

After their initial meeting ended in a quick no contest due to an eye poke, Rodriguez proved superior to Stephens when they actually got to fight. He looked sharp for the majority of three rounds, taking a unanimous decision in the “Fight of the Night.”

Demian Maia def. Ben Askren at UFC on ESPN+ 20

Demian Maia (28-9 MMA, 22-9 UFC) added to his stature as one of the winningest fighters in UFC history when he defeated Ben Askren (19-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) in a matchup of grapplers which lived up to expectations.

Often criticized for a lack of excitement in their bouts, Maia and Askren got “Fight of the Night.” It was a back-and-forth affair in the welterweight division, but in the end Maia found an opening to lock in a rear-naked choke in the third round.

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The Winner: Yair Rodriguez vs. Jeremy Stephens

The second time around, Rodriguez vs. Stephens was almost everything everyone thought it would be.

Unfortunately for Stephens, and for that matter the fans, their bout at UFC on ESPN 6 in Boston was a co-headliner, and not the main event that was planned for last month in Mexico City, which meant three rounds instead of five.

Stephens had turned the fight in his favor in the final round of their sensational featherweight matchup, but not before Rodriguez (12-2 MMA, 7-1 UFC) won the firsts two, which was enough for Rodriguez to get the nod. The judges’ scores at TD Garden were 29-28 across the board for “El Pantera.”

The opening round was well-contested, as the two figured out their pacing and range. Stephens looked to land his trademark big bombs, while Rodriguez led his offense with kicks in order to avoid his opponents’ heavy hands.

The second round, meanwhile, was a wild affair, as Rodriguez swarmed Stephens, dropped him, and then spent roughly half the round raining down strikes on Stephens. Referee Kevin MacDonald smartly let the fight continue, as Stephens never stopped trying to improve his position. By round’s end, Stephens was the one dishing out the offense.

The third round was nearly all Stephens, as he kept looking for the finish. But he never got it, and Rodriguez’s work in the first half of the fight held the day.

“I was kind of compromised because I was down most of the round, but I never felt in danger,” Rodriguez said of the final round. “I just stayed as safe as possible and win the fight.”

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