Sherdog’s Top 10: Can’t-Miss Fights of October

Thanh Le has set out in his quest to reclaim what was once his.

The 38-year-old Kentucky native will face Russian upstart Ilya Freymanov for the interim One Championship featherweight title in the ONE on Prime Video 15 main event on Oct. 6 at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. Incumbent champion Kai Tang awaits the winner in a unification bout, either in late 2023 or early 2024.

Le has rattled off 13 victories across his past 15 appearances and owns a 5-1 record under the ONE banner. The taekwondo stylist and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt held the undisputed ONE featherweight crown for nearly two years, having surrendered the title in a five-round unanimous decision defeat to Tang at ONE 160 on Aug. 26. Freymanov, meanwhile, has won five fights in a row, all of them via knockout, technical knockout or submission. He last competed at ONE on Prime Video 11, where he put away Shinechagtga Zoltsetseg with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their June 9 encounter.

The high-stakes Le-Freymanov showdown is but one can’t-miss fight in October. Here are nine more:

Rodolfo Bellato vs. Murtaza Talha Ali
Oct. 3 | Las Vegas

An Ultimate Fighting Championship figures to hang in the balance when these two light heavyweight prospects tangle on Week 9 of Dana White’s Contender Series. Bellato, the reigning Legacy Fighting Alliance champion at 205 pounds, enters the cage on the strength of back-to-back victories. Both of the 27-year-old Team Nogueira product’s losses have come to Vitor Petrino, one of them on DWCS in 2022. On the other side of the equation, the undefeated Ali looks like yet another promising export from the KHK MMA Team in Bahrain. All six of the Brave Combat Federation alum’s victories have resulted in finishes, five of them inside one round.

Joshua Pacio vs. Mansur Malachiev
ONE on Prime Video 15
Oct. 6 | Bangkok, Thailand

Pacio gets back on the proverbial horse after surrendering the ONE strawweight championship and returns to the stage at the prestigious Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. Still just 27 years of age, the Filipino star remains a cornerstone for One Championship, having compiled a 10-4 record across his 14 appearances inside the Chatri Sityodtong-led organization. Pacio’s loss to Jared Brooks at ONE 164 in December closed the book on his four-fight winning streak and sent him back into circulation at 125 pounds. The unbeaten Malachiev figures to provide a stern test. The Eagle Fighting Championship titleholder improved to a perfect 11-0 in his promotional debut on June 9, as he subdued Jeremy Miado with a guillotine choke in the first round of their ONE on Prime Video 11 encounter. Malachiev has submitted his last four opponents.

Joseph Pyfer vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan
UFC Fight Night 229
Oct. 7 | Las Vegas

For those of you who favor fireworks, ask and you shall receive. Pyfer has been something of a revelation since he joined the UFC roster following a second appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2022. The former Ring of Combat champion owns a 2-0 record inside the Octagon, as he has wiped out Alen Amedovski and Gerald Meerschaert with punches in a little more than seven minutes combined. Now, Pyfer draws his first co-headlining assignment against a notoriously heavy-handed dance partner. An Elevation Fight Team rep who has spun his wheels at times in the UFC, Alhassan boasts seven sub-minute finishes on his resume. The 38-year-old judo black belt last competed at UFC Fight Night 217, where he punched out Claudio Ribeiro in the second round of their Jan. 14 clash.

Cristiane Justino vs. Cat Zingano
Bellator 300
Oct. 7 | San Diego

Nearly 18 months have passed since Justino suited up as Bellator MMA women’s featherweight champion. Her return at the age of 38 should draw plenty of attention to a landmark event for the Scott Coker-fronted company. “Cyborg” gets back in the game on the strength of a six-fight winning streak that extends back to her stunning 51-second knockout loss to Amanda Nunes almost five year ago. She has not fought since she took a five-round unanimous decision from Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 279 in April 2022. Zingano, 41, finds herself in the midst of a late-career surge that has seen the former Ring of Fire champion rattle off four consecutive victories. She cemented her place as the No. 1 contender at 145 pounds with a unanimous decision over Leah McCourt at Bellator 293 on March 31.

Sodiq Yusuff vs. Edson Barboza
UFC Fight Night 230
Oct. 14 | Las Vegas

Top 15 featherweights with a penchant for the dramatic are set to shoulder the mid-October marquee for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Still flying under the radar at 145 pounds, Yusuff has put together eight wins across his past nine outings. The longtime Lloyd Irvin protégé last competed on Oct. 1, when he needed just 30 seconds to dispatch Don Shainis with a guillotine choke at UFC Fight Night 211. It was the fifth first-round finish of Yuseff’s career. American Top Team’s Barboza ranks among the most accomplished fighters never to capture UFC gold. The 37-year-old Brazilian rebounded from back-to-back losses in April, as he cut down Billy Quarantillo with a knee strike in the first round of their UFC on ESPN 44 pairing. Barboza has received 11 post-fight performance bonuses in his 28 appearances inside the Octagon.

Darko Stosic vs. Michal Martinek
KSW 87
Oct 14 | Trinec, Czech Republic

A shot reigning heavyweight champion Philip De Fries could be at stake when KSW touches down at Werk Arena. Stosic, 31, has compiled a 5-2 record since being cut loose by the UFC in 2020, his wins over Michal Kita (twice), Stefan Vojcak, Michal Andryszak and Michal Wlodarek offset by defeats to De Fries and Shamil Gaziev. The Serbian has secured 12 of his 18 professional victories by knockout or technical knockout, nine of them in the first round. Martinek, who started his career 7-0, has alternated wins and losses in each of his past seven appearances. The 33-year-old former Oktagon MMA champion has not fought since he wound up on the wrong side of a split decision against Daniel Omielanczuk at KSW 75 in October.

Pat Miletich vs. Mike Jackson
Caged Aggression 36
Oct. 14 | Davenport, Iowa

Everybody loves to sit back and watch a good train wreck once in a while. Miletich, who turned 55 in March, plans to come out of retirement and serve as the main attraction for the Iowa-based Caged Aggression organization. The onetime UFC welterweight champion has not fought in mixed martial arts since he knocked out Thomas Denny under the Adrenaline MMA banner on Dec. 11, 2008—more than 5,000 days ago. In the headlines more recently for repeated DUI arrests, Miletich was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2014. Jackson, 38, has only four bouts to his credit, all of them having taken place in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He most notably posted a unanimous decision over former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Phil “CM Punk” Brooks at UFC 225, though the result was later changed to a no contest due to a positive test for marijuana.

Islam Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira
UFC 294
Oct. 21 | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Makhachev has been down this road before. The 31-year-old Russian faces his second title defense as undisputed lightweight champion when a rematch with the man he dethroned serves as the main event at Etihad Arena. Makhachev enters the Octagon on a remarkable 12-fight winning streak—the tear includes his October 2022 arm-triangle choke submission of “Do Bronx—that covers more than eight years. He last suited up at UFC 284, where he took a unanimous decision from featherweight titleholder Alexander Volkanovski in their champion-versus-champion superfight on Feb. 11. Oliveira, 33, bounced back from his aforementioned defeat to Makhachev in June, when he buried Beneil Dariush with punches in the first-round of their UFC 289 co-headliner. He now boasts 31 finishes among his 34 career victories.

Danni McCormack vs. Karolina Wojcik
Invicta 54
Oct. 27 | Boston

The hunter becomes the hunted when McCormack defends her Invicta Fighting Championships strawweight crown for the first time at Citizens House of Blues. A late bloomer at age 33, the SBG Ireland rep laid claim to the 115-pound title on March 15, when she outpointed Valesca Machado to a five-round unanimous decision at Invicta 52. McCormack has gone the distance six times in her nine-fight career and carries a 5-1 record in those bouts. Wojcik, 28, defeated Sandra Lavado by decision on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2022 but failed to procure a UFC contract. The Pole has won six her past seven fights, a decision loss to Machado in November her only misstep.Hiroyuki Tetsuka vs Tae Ho Jin
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