Oh, what a bad omen UFC 151 turned out to be for the month of September.

Meant to kick off the month on Sept. 1, the event was canceled just eight days earlier. Since then, the event death toll has gone up, and all within a span of 30 days.

After UFC 151’s shocking cancellation due to Dan Henderson’s knee injury, Strikeforce would follow suit with lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez suffering a shoulder injury that forced him out of his scheduled title defense versus Pat Healy. And with Melendez out, Strikeforce’s television partner, Showtime, lost all interest in airing the event, therefore leading to another cancellation.

And if injuries and finicky cable networks weren’t enough, acts of nature were there to play their part. Inclement weather led to the postponement of Titan FC’s September show, which had been set to take place at an outdoor venue and air live on AXS TV. While nowhere near as earth-shattering as the loss of UFC 151 or even as significant as the scrapping of the Strikeforce show, Titan’s postponed offering further limited the significant action to take place in the cage this month.

Yet, the UFC still managed to host two events, Bellator kicked off its seventh season and AXS TV delivered a lineup that included Legacy FC, BAMMA and XFC events. And a number of fighters left their mark through actions inside the cage. Here are the ten who moved the needle on the Gauge the most in the month of September.

1. Jon Jones

There’s still a bitter feeling from many fans and people within the MMA industry towards Jon Jones. He’s become the champion people love to hate. But there’s still no denying his abilities inside the Octagon. Jones’ UFC 152 opponent, Vitor Belfort, was already dubbed the loser before the opening bell even rang, but he did test Jones with an armbar that did damage the phenom’s limb. However, Jones overcame adversity and went on to defeat Belfort despite the injury. It was another impressive showing, even more so considering that all eyes were on Jones and he had to deal with almost universal criticism.

2. Demetrious Johnson

If you didn’t like that fight, don’t ever buy a UFC event again. That was the sentiment from UFC President Dana White following the negative crowd reaction towards the UFC flyweight championship fight between Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152. The two diminutive fighters fought a full five rounds in an entertaining affair, but for some fans, the fight was apparently just too technical to enjoy. Johnson displayed amazing footwork and lightning fast reactions in becoming the first-ever UFC 125-pound champion. Johnson has now fought three wars to take the throne of top flyweight in the world, and he’s shown the world what the 125ers are all about.

3. Cub Swanson

If there’s a featherweight with real momentum right now, it has to be Cub Swanson. After posting back-to-back Zuffa victories for only the second time in his career, Swanson went one step further at UFC 152—he strung together three consecutive wins for the first time in his Zuffa tenure. Furthermore, Swanson’s streak boasts two “Knockout of the Night” honors and wins over increasingly tough opposition in George Roop, Ross Pearson and Charles Oliveira. Swanson has moved one step closer to finally realizing his potential and might be only one or two more big wins away from contender status.

4. Michael Bisping

What’s one thing Michael Bisping has that fellow UFC middleweight contender Chris Weidman lacks? Star power. Bisping is an established name in the UFC and is a significant draw. That, and his UFC 152 victory over Brian Stann, might put him at the front of the line for a shot at UFC’s middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva. The Brit has been outspoken about everyone and everything in the middleweight division recently, but it’s his ability to back up his talk by continually winning inside the cage that has put him in a prominent position among UFC’s 185ers. The fight with Stann wasn’t officially a No. 1 contender bout, but it’s hard to argue with Bisping’s attractiveness in terms of pay-per-view draws in a match-up with “The Spider.”

5. Stefan Struve

The “Skyscraper” has worked his way up from a mid-level heavyweight known more for beating up the lower level competition inside the Octagon while suffering highlight-reel knockout losses to the best fighters he faced—guys like Travis Browne, Roy Nelson and current heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. However, after his win over Stipe Miocic at UFC on Fuel TV 5, the Dutch fighter now has four straight wins. Even more significant is the fact that those victories have come against increasingly difficult competition featuring four men known for their striking. Struve has shown that he can stand toe to toe with men who many previously would have expected to knock him out. At just 24 years old, Struve is still entering his prime, and he’s also working his way up the contender’s ladder.

6. Matt Wiman

Matt Wiman has long been dismissed as just another Ultimate Fighter also-ran, but the Colorado native has compiled an impressive 5-1 record over his last six outings. And the most recent victory, coming on the main card of UFC on Fuel TV 5, put an exclamation mark on his recent success and his return to action after nearly a year away. Wiman fought Paul Sass in Sass’ world and rather than get submitted, it was Wiman doing the submitting. He ended Sass’ night with an armbar that earned “Submission of the Night” honors. The win puts Wiman back in the 155-pound mix, but he’ll need to follow it up with a win against another borderline contender in his next outing.

7. The Ultimate Fighter casts

There’s not just one, but two editions of the reality series currently underway. While U.S. fans enjoy the sixteenth installment of the American edition of the show, fans in Australia and Britain have their first edition—TUF: Smashes. As has been the case in recent seasons, the biggest buzz about the show is its so-called ratings disappointment. However, it’s still on FX—and the Australian version of FX in the case of Smashes—and that means the show is still getting beamed into the houses of hundreds of thousands of UFC fans each week. Where else could the 32 combined athletes involved in these two series find that kind of exposure?

8. Vinny Magalhaes

Vinny Magalhaes didn’t have such a great run in the UFC in his first go-around. After losing to Ryan Bader in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 8, the BJJ ace lost one more Octagon outing and then received his pink slip. He went on to capture gold under the M-1 Global banner. Ironically, his contract dispute and sale of the M-1 belt on eBay, more so than anything he did in the ring, put him back on the map. What he did in action—and 7-1 mark and capturing the light heavyweight crown—earned him a return invite to the UFC. And Magalhaes delivered at UFC 152, locking in an armbar on Igor Pokrajac in a featured preliminary card bout. An ADCC champion, Magalhaes now presents one of the more dangerous submission games among UFC’s 205ers, and with his recent win, he’ll be sticking around for at least a little while.

9. Rob Sinclair

One of the biggest wins outside of Zuffa came across the pond in England at BAMMA 10, where Rob Sinclair successfully defended his BAMMA lightweight crown against UFC veteran Andre Winner. The win marks Sinclair’s third successful defense since capturing the title, and his eighth victory over his last nine appearances. The only loss? A split decision verdict against current UFC hot prospect Paul Sass. Sinclair’s win came on an AXS TV-televised event, giving him more exposure on this side of the Atlantic and quite likely putting him one step closer to a UFC contract.

10. Gunnar Nelson

UFC on Fuel TV 5 was a night filled with anticipated debuts. From veteran Tom “Kong” Watson to British knockout artist Jimi Manuwa and on to two Ultimate Fighter competitors finally getting their first chance to compete in the Octagon at an official event, the night gave us a glimpse of a number of prospects. But the one who impressed the most was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Gunnar Nelson. Apparently without even raising his heart rate, Nelson disposed of late replacement opponent DaMarques Johnson. The win keeps Nelson undefeated through 11 career outings, but his next appearance will have to come against a more prepared and in-shape opponent.

Photo: Jon Jones (James Law/Heavy MMA)

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