22. Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II (UFC 52)
Result: Hughes wins via Submission (rear-naked choke) in 4:05 of Round 1
It seems appropriate to start off with what UFC’s Dana White calls “one of his favorite fights of all time.” The Welterweight Championship fight that was loaded with bad blood, it was a fight that put on a show. With an aggressive face off at weigh in’s to kick it off, the fierce rematch was full of up’s and downs.
A groin shot by Trigg’s that went unnoticed by the referee (which Trigg knowingly took advantage of), a deep rear naked choke by Trigg that Hughes managed to escape, and a take down from Hughes that took Trigg all the way across the octagon. It’s no wonder Dana has such a strong opinion on this bout. With a strong ground and pound full of nasty elbows leading to a rear naked choke from Hughes, the Welterweight belt was secured.
21. Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (UFC 104)
Result: Machida wins via unanimous decision
The UFC and the world of mixed martial arts in general has gone through many transitions as the game has continuously evolved. Muay Thai, Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu have all had times to shine within the UFC. Karate, however, seemed like a martial art that would never propel a fighter to an elite level of MMA. ‘The Dragon’s’ championship run was proof that this wasn’t the case.
It was a highly active fight from both combatants, close enough that the decision victory for Lyoto was considered controversial. Still, it proved that traditional martial arts still had value, which is worth a watch in and of itself.
20. Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz II (UFC 66)
Result: Liddell wins via TKO (punches) in 3:59 of Round 3
Another grudge match, and an old school favorite for those who have been fans of the UFC for a long time. Both fighters are considered legends within the sport, as they brought in a tremendous amount of exposure to the UFC and MMA in general. Considered one of the greatest rivalries in history, the rematch between these two lived up to everything the fans wanted to see.
Liddell was able to secure the victory in the third round, via a brutal ground and pound TKO, asserting himself as the best fighter in the light heavyweight division.
19. Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor (UFC 194)
Result: McGregor wins via KO (punch) in :13 of Round 1
While it is tempting to place this higher up the list, it’s tough to get overly hyped over a 13 second beat down. The incredibly quick fight isn’t what makes it so great, rather the events that occurred because of the results. Jose Aldo, a fighter who had been wiping his division clean for years, being knocked out so handily was the upset that shook the world. It gave Conor McGregor, who has done wonders for the sport since, all of the exposure he needed to begin his very quick ascent to international fame. It was also some of the most entertaining pre fight trash talk ever.
18. Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks (UFC 167)
Result: St-Pierre wins via split decision
Karate based striking, mixed in with some of the best MMA wrestling in history, GSP dominated the welterweight division for nearly a decade. Though, Johnny Hendricks proved that he wasn’t a fighter to be underestimated.
Hendricks’ tremendous wrestling background made for an interesting match-up, as Georges wasn’t able to use his typical tactics against ‘Big Rig’. The fight was mainly left standing, with St-Pierre fighting intelligently as to not get caught by Johny’s heavy hands. It could have gone either way, but the judges sided with the champ, much to Hendricks’ dismay.
Image Source: UFC.com
17. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard II (UFC 125)
Result: Edgar retained via split draw
One of the more controversial endings in UFC history, the rematch between bitter lightweight rivals ended in a split draw. At the time of the fight, Maynard was Edgar’s lone blemish on his 14-1 record. The rematch was three years in the making, with both fighters on top of the lightweight division.
Maynard blitzed Edgar quickly, but Frankie – the reigning champ – was able to battle back from an early scare. Edgar flashed his signature grit fighting back, but Maynard wouldn’t go away either, making for a highly-contested scrap.
Image Source: ESPN.com
16. Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson (UFC 82)
Result: Silva wins via Submission (rear-naked choke) in 4:50 of Round 2
No list of great MMA fights could be complete without these two titans of the sport. The then UFC middleweight champion (Anderson) faced off against the now-defunct Pride champion (Henderson) in a title-unification match. Fans had clamored for years for this mega-fight, and were not disappointed.
Anderson’s pace and accuracy proved to be too much for Hendo, with the Spider eventually taking control near the end of the second round. It was a battle that everyone could have hoped for, with Anderson winning via rear naked choke to defend his title.
Image Source: MMAmania.com
15. Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort (UFC 187)
Result: Weidman wins via TKO (punches) in 2:53 of Round 1
In his third defense of the middleweight title, Chris Weidman proved that a wrestler could go up against a fighter with a style like Vitor. Coming off of devastating wins over fellow Brazilians, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida, – calculated, technical strikers – many pondered how Weidman would deal with the overall aggressiveness of Belfort. In the end, Weidman’s confidence level allowed him to land some good shots early, leading to a takedown and the eventual stoppage.
Image Source: Newsday
14. Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga (UFC on Fox 8)
Result: Johnson wins via Submission (armbar) in 3:43 of Round 5
Fighting in his home state of Washington, ‘Mighty Mouse’ was surely pumped up for this title bout. Johnson was just starting to garner more and more praise as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and this performance only further cemented that notion. After winning the title from Joseph Benavidez, and successfully defending against John Dodson, Johnson wanted to put on a show to prove that he can put on an exciting show when need be.
In a memorable clash, Johnson squeaked out the victory with just a minute to spare. A notch on his way to one of the most dominant championship runs in UFC history.
Image Source: Flyweight
13. Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha (TUF 23 Finale)
Result: Jedrzejczyk wins via unanimous decision
A fight that could surely be higher up on this list, the bout between Joanna and Claudia is certainly in the running for the greatest fight in the short history of the UFC’s women division. Though it doesn’t get as much attention or hype as it rightly deserves, Joanna proved that she was not just a champion fighter, but an aggressive warrior worthy of the title. A battle of striking and take downs all around, Joanna’s cardio, pace and endurance – paired with some nasty Muay Thai striking – won her the Straw Weight Championship.
Image Source: Bloody Elbow
12. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen (UFC 148)
Result: Silva wins via TKO (strikes) in 1:55 of Round 2
The highly anticipated rematch between the ‘Spider’ and the ‘American Gangster’ pitted bitter rivals in a heated battle. Bad blood a plenty in this match, with Chael constantly berating Anderson’s home country of Brazil, and besmirching Silva and other Brazilian fighters accomplishments. Chael had dominated their first encounter for the title at UFC 117 for 23 minutes, until Anderson – a BJJ black-belt – threw up a desperation triangle hold to submit Sonnen for one of the most unlikely victories in UFC history. Although Sonnen had taken the loss in their first match, he provided the blueprint to topple the unstoppable Silva by instilling a rabid pace and putting the dynamic striker on his back as often as possible.
Though that first match might have given Chael a bit too much confidence standing with Silva. Sonnen was able to shockingly clip Silva at UFC 117 with his hands on a couple of occasions, which gave him the element of surprise as Chael – an elite level wrestler – was never known for his striking abilities.
In the rematch, Sonnen came out strong instantly scoring a take down, giving viewers and Silva flashbacks to their first bout. Chael dominated the first round and many believed that it would be a near repeat from their first fight, except without the submission this time. But then, Anderson Silva happened.
During the second round, Chael threw an ill-advised spinning back fist which landed him on his back and on the retreat. Silva took full advantage throwing a monstrous knee to Chael’s body and following up with some nasty ground-and-pound which led to a referee stoppage. Anderson had finally got his revenge and made a major statement.
Image Source: Las Vegas Weekly
11. Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit (UFC 154)
Result: St-Pierre wins via unanimous decision
A bloody battle that went the distance, both combatants proved they have diversity, technique, and incredible resilience. From GSP’s uncanny ability to transition seamlessly from striking to wrestling, to Carlos’s unorthodox strikes and slick grappling, this was a battle that couldn’t be anything but in the top ten of the list.
Georges controlled the fight for the most part due to his wrestling, but Condit had the champ in trouble in the fourth round after a brutal head kick landed on St-Pierre. In the end, GSP won by decision, but it was a signature fight for both parties and solidified their place among the best in the 170lbs division.
Image Source: Ed Mulholland
10. Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson I (UFC 205)
Result: Woodley retains via majority draw
The very first UFC event at Madison Square Garden was a night of fights that fans may never forget. The bout between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson makes it into the top 10 on sheer quality of fight. A fight so close the judges barely knew who to call it for, as Woodley would end up retaining in in a majority draw. From slick striking to impressive wrestling, the match was back and forth all five rounds.
Most impressive may have been ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson’s resilience, surviving multiple barrages from Woodley, notably a deep guillotine choke that Thompson was able to escape. Both fighters were drained by the end of the fight, and it was enough to deserve an immediate rematch that ended up being infinitely times more dull than the first match-up.
Image Source: Yahoo Sports
9. Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate (UFC 168)
Result: Rousey wins via Submission (armbar) in :58 of Round 3
Truly one of the first fights that put both of these ladies on the MMA map, Ronda claimed the Bantamweight Championship in a match dominated entirely by expert level grappling. The match began at a fast pace, as both combatants threw caution to the wind with haymakers aplenty. As the fight wore on though, both fighters settled into their game and the match quickly became a battle of two of the very best grapplers in the history of women’s MMA.
Armbar escapes, hip tosses, and everything you could have asked for from these two woman. Ronda eventually secured the armbar, something she would become known for, and set herself apart early as a unstoppable MMA star.
Image Source: Combat Press
8. Cody Garbrandt vs. Dominick Cruz (UFC 207)
Result: Gabrandt wins via unanimous decision
An entertaining fight that had plenty of trash talk between the two competitors, Cody Garbrandt and Dominic Cruz put on a show for the Las Vegas crowd. . Dominick was heavily favored going into the fight, with a defensive/counter style that brought comparisons to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Fans knew Cody packed massive power in his hands, but most experts didn’t think he’d be able to land anything significant on the elusive Cruz. Cody ‘No Love’ shocked everybody (but himself we would assume) by out-boxing Dominick like nobody ever has before.
Knocking the champ down repeatedly, (and dancing in between blows) Cody gained dominance early on and maintained it steadily through the whole fight. When he was declared the new champion of the division, a teary eyed Cody placed the belt around his declared inspiration, a boy with Leukemia, a moment that won him new fans worldwide.
Image Source: Yahoo Sports
7. Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm (UFC 193)
Result: Holm wins via KO (head kick) in :59 of Round 2
By this point, Ronda Rousey had carried woman’s UFC to widely noticed acclaim. Defending her belt repeatedly from every contender, there was no doubt in anyone’s minds that Ronda was the greatest female fighter in the world. Her success within the UFC landed her movie and TV deals, and she became a mainstream figure of wide renown.
When Holly Holm, a champion kick boxer, stepped into the cage with Ronda, it was expected that Ronda would do the same thing she’d always done. Out Judo, out grapple, submit. Instead, Ronda’s anger led her to believe that she could out box Holly, and she chose to stand and battle it out. When Holly Holm’s landed the head kick that knocked Ronda out, it was declared “The head kick heard across the world” and Holly Holm was declared the new Bantamweight Champion.
Image Source: Los Angeles Times
6. Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson II (UFC 204)
Result: Bisping wins via unanimous decision
In Michael Bisping’s first Middleweight Championship defense, he was to take on the man who had brutally knocked him out in their first fight at UFC 100 back in 2009. A knockout that would haunt Michael throughout his career, fans (his hometown especially) were more than ready to see Michael Bisping get his shot at redemption.
After an already stunning win over Luke Rockhold to gain the belt, the fight world was eager to see if Bisping would be able to remain the champion. The fight was close, and though the belt remained with Bisping, one score difference in the first round seemed controversial enough to leave the fans in doubt. As Dan Henderson’s last fight before retirement, it was a solid way for a legend to go.
Image Source: MMA Fighting
5. Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 165)
Result: Jones wins via unanimous decision
The fight that showed the mettle of both competitors involved, Jones/Gustafsson will go down as one of the greatest light heavyweight contests in the sports history. Up until this bout, Jon Jones was a force that looked incapable of even having competitive matches. He blasted through some of the greatest in the divisions history, including former champions Rashad Evans, Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort and Shogun Rua. His resume was piling on with each impressive performance, but experts of the sport had pegged the young Gustafsson as a tough test for the reigning champion.
Gustafsson equalized Jones’ greatest strength, his length as ‘The Mauler’ was an imposing fighter in his own right standing at 6’5″. The fight was back and forth from the get go, and Alexander pushed ‘Bones’ to the limit, putting him in danger like nobody we had seen do before. Expert striking from both, elbows galore, and a true test of both fighter’s stamina. Jon Jones was declared the winner, successfully defending his belt, but Gustafsson pushed him to the absolute limit.
Image Source: Sherdog Fourms
4. Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir (UFC 100)
Result: Lesnar wins via TKO (punches) in 1:48 of Round 2
Two heavyweight titans clashing for the belt in Mandalay Bay had all the ingredients of a main event fight for UFC 100. Brock gained revenge for his only professional loss that night, securing the belt for the second time in his career. Mir had used his elite-level jiu jitsu to secure his first victory against Brock, but Lesnar came into this fight with a much more refined mindset, utilizing his skill set to overwhelm an athletically inferior Mir.
Being that it was UFC 100 – a spectacle in itself – this fight in particular put Lesnar on the MMA map. From his football career, to his sucess in the WWE, Lesnar served as an ambassador for the sport and the organization and brought in a heap of fans that would help grow the brand as a whole.
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3. Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture III (UFC 57)
Result: Liddell wins via KO (punch) in 1:28 of Round 2
No top twenty list would be complete without “The Iceman” and “The Natural”. Two of the greatest to ever compete, Liddell and Couture’s rivalry spanned over three fights and culminated in a rubber match at UFC 57. The crowd was deafening, wildly cheering on both fighters that respectively had large followings.
Both went at it, exchanging strikes throughout the entirety of the match. Chuck would end up winning by knockout, and the fans who remember those days of the UFC fondly will cite this fight often as one of the most enjoyable.
Image Source: LowKick MMA
2. Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald (UFC 189)
Result: Lawler wins via TKO (punches) in 1:00 of Round 5
Declared ‘2015 Fight of the Year’, no one will forget the bloody stare down between these two fighters as the fifth round was about to begin. What started out as a highly technical striking match soon devolved into an outright brawl between the two. Back and forth between the two kept everyone off their seats, as either fighter could have gone down at any given moment.
By the end of the fourth round the two fighters were covered in blood, both each other’s and their own. Robbie Lawler defended his belt that night via TKO, and the fans were gifted a fight no one will soon forget.
Image Source: MMA Fighting
1. Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez (UFC 205)
Result: McGregor wins via TKO (punches) in 3:04 of Round 2
We’ve mentioned previously in this article about Conor’s unprecedented rise in popularity, along with what he has done with the sport. His victory over Jose Aldo was stunning, but not enough to showcase him as a fighter. Eddie Alvarez is an outstanding fighter, having won at every promotion he’s been a part of. Yet he too fell in to the trap of underestimating Conor.
With legendary trash talk before the event, the hype for this fight was at a fever pitch. If Conor won, he would be the first UFC fighter ever to hold belts simultaneously in two separate divisions.
Conor used his legendary accuracy, speed, timing and movement to make a champion fighter look like a novice. McGregor won handily that night and claimed his new belt, gave a legendary post fight speech, then took his two new belts to the edge of the cage. As he sat on the cage with one title over each shoulder, Conor McGregor, who has done wonders for the sport, hoisted each of his prizes into the air. That moment alone was worth making this the number one fight on our list.
Image Source: MMA Mad