After the whirlwind of UFC events in late August and early September – three fight cards over eight days featuring 35 matches in total – the company settles into a relatively uneventful month.
UFC 165 on September 21, featuring light heavyweight champion Jon Jones against Alexander Gustafsson, is the only major event of note left on the September MMA calendar.
But don't get too comfy. The speedometer will go from zero to 70 soon enough. The rest of the year features enough goings-on in the mixed martial arts world to satisfy even the most rabid fan.
With that in mind, here's an Octagon's worth of storylines to guide you from here through the remainder of the year:
1. Shooting for a record: Jones – the fighter most consider the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter now that Anderson Silva has finally stumbled – has long considered himself a goal-oriented fighter.The latest benchmark in his sights is the record for most successful light heavyweight title defences.
Jones is currently tied with Tito Ortiz, champion from 2000-03, with five successful title defences. A victory over the 15-1 Gustafsson at UFC 165 in Toronto gives Jones the mark.
2. UFC ratings on FOX Sports 1: The UFC is an anchor brand on FOX Sports 1, the latter company's attempt to rival ESPN with a new all-sports cable network. To date, the UFC's ratings on the network are a matter of whether you wish to look at the glass as half empty or half full. A pessimist can note that the numbers for the premiere of "The Ultimate Fighter 18" on September 4 did a disappointing average of 762,000 viewers.
The optimist's view that the UFC is doing exactly what it is supposed to do: It holds the top four most-viewed ratings on the fledgling network through the weekend and is scoring big in all the targeted advertising demos which make the UFC such an attractive television property.
While there are several UFC Fight Night cards scheduled for the fall season, of most note is the progression of "The Ultimate Fighter" ratings over the course of the fall. Wednesday's opening episode with Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate was critically acclaimed. Will the audience grow as people get used to the new format and time slot?
3. Bellator's first pay-per-view: Bellator took its share of lumps by announcing a matchup between past-their-primes former UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Tito Ortiz for their first pay-per-view. But they've bolstered their offering, which will be held on November 2 at the Long Beach Arena, with a solid main card underneath the Battle of the Aged.
The company's best pound-for-pound fighter, lightweight champ Michael Chandler, defends his belt against Eddie Alvarez in a rematch of the best fight in company history in 2011. Featherweight champ Pat Curran meets Daniel Straus, and "King Mo" Lawal looks to avenge an upset loss to Emmanuel Newton. Will the main-card enhancements be enough to get viewers to plunk down money in a saturated marketplace?
4. Cain and Junior meet again: In the post-Fedor Emelianenko heavyweight era, there's Cain Velasquez, there's Junior dos Santos, and then there's everyone else. In their first fight in 2011, Dos Santos clipped Velasquez with his first big punch and famously finished him in just 64 seconds.
In the UFC 155 rematch, Velasquez clobbered dos Santos for 25 minutes, regaining the title and handing him his first UFC loss in 10 fights. The duo meet again at UFC 166 on October 19, with Velasquez's title on the line. Unlike most trilogies, though, depending on how this Houston fight plays out, there's no guarantee this will be the last meeting between the best fighters in the heavyweight division.
5. Twentieth anniversary card features welterweights: Royce Gracie has said he weighed 178 the night of UFC 1 on November 12, 1993 in Denver (back then, things weren't handled quite as precise as they are now). That means, had he undergone modern-era weight cutting, he would have likely been a welterweight. Which makes it appropriate that a welterweight-filled card is on tap for UFC 167 on November 16 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
In the main event, the longest-reigning current UFC champ, Georges St-Pierre, defends his title against one of his most dangerous foes in Johny Hendricks. Rory MacDonald can state his case for a title shot when he meets the man who has all but sealed Comeback Fighter of the Year, Robbie Lawler; and Josh Koscheck meets Tyron Woodley in a battle of a veteran against an up-and-comer. Now if only one of these guys shows up wearing one boxing glove, the UFC 1 throwback will be complete.
6. Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson: The debate over commission-sanctioned use of testosterone replacement therapy has been a hot-button issue in recent months. Rarely have all the ingredients tied together like the scheduled light heavyweight fight between Belfort and Henderson in Brazil on November 9. While several fighters have used TRT, Belfort has borne the brunt of TRT-related criticism.
This is partially because Belfort has a previous steroid suspension on his record, and partially because of the perception Belfort is being shielded by fighting in Brazil rather than commission states like Nevada, which might not grant a TRT exemption to a fighter who has already been caught using steroids – a charge the UFC vehemently denies. Henderson, for his part, is also a TRT user. The capper to all this?
Belfort's positive steroid test came after a loss to Henderson in a 2006 PRIDE event in Las Vegas. This prompted Henderson to recently quip to MMAFighting.com: "I beat him the first time when he was on steroids, so I suppose [TRT] won't make a difference."
7. UFC on FOX 9: The UFC hits network television again on Dec 14 for UFC on FOX 9. The card has yet to be announced, but the location – Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif. – has opened the floodgates for speculation. From an MMA perspective, this arena is The House Urijah Faber Built.
And Faber is in line for another big fight – whether that's a "superfight" with Frankie Edgar, which Faber has lobbied for, or a consequential bantamweight fight against Michael "Mayday" McDonald, who lives down the road in Modesto. And while we're talking fighters with local ties: Sacramento isn't far from Stockton, the infamous home of the Diaz boys, Nick and Nate, neither of whom have a fight lined up at the moment.
8. The Rematch: Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva. UFC 168, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, December 28. If I need to explain why this one's big, then this is probably the first MMA story you've ever clicked on.