Written By: AJ Hoffman
With the main event at UFC 139 stirring up the age old question, “Was this the greatest fight of all time?”, we thought it was the perfect time to give our list of favorites. Obviously, this is an opinion piece, and we don’t necessarily expect you to agree with everything here. That said, we are right, and you are probably wrong. Without further ado….
HONORABLE MENTIONS (No Particular Order)
- Diego Sanchez vs. Karo Parisyan- UFC Fight Night 6- August 17, 2006
- Eddie Alvarez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri – Dream- July 21, 2008
- Roger Huerta vs. Leonard Garcia- UFC 69- April 7, 2007
- Forrest Grifin vs. Stephan Bonnar- TUF 1 Finale- April 9, 2005
- Jorge Santiago vs. Kazuo Misaki- Sengoku Rebellion 2009- January 4, 2009
- Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi- Pride 33- February 24, 2007
- Georges St. Pierre vs. BJ Penn- UFC 58- March 4, 2006
- Mark Coleman vs. Don Frye- UFC 10- July 12, 1996
- Oleg Taktarov vs. Tank Abbott- UFC 6- July 14, 1995
- Bas Rutten vs. Masakatsu Funaki- Pancrase Anniversary Show- September 7, 1996
Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva
UFC 79- December 29, 2007
In a fight that most MMA fans had been begging for years earlier, the UFC was finally able to match up two of the greatest light heavyweights of all time, albeit a little past their respective primes. The fight itself was gold though. The two felt each other out for a tense moment before unleashing on each other. Chuck cornering Wand, battering him against the cage. Wand punching his way out and flooring Liddell. Both men brawled like their lives depended on it, and it showed. In the end it was Chuck who got the win (which would prove to be his last), but both men proved why they belong on the Mount Rushmore of 205 pounders.
Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo
UFC 31- May 4, 2001
This was the first main event fought under the new management of the UFC, with Dana White heading up as president. Both guys threw their best shots at each other. Rizzo brutalized Couture with leg kicks, and Couture with his classic clinch work. The fight couldn’t have been any better for the new ownership group, save for the fact that Couture won what many deemed a controversial unanimous decision. The fight couldn’t have been closer, and Rizzo was rewarded for his showing with an immediate rematch. This time Couture dominated and won by TKO in the third. It would have been hard to top the first though, as both men pushed the other to their physical limits.
“Pele” Landi-Jons vs. “Macaco” Patino
BVF 6: Campeonato Brasileiro de Vale Tudo 1- November 1, 1996
This is one of the great wars in the early days of MMA. It was fought under vale tudo rules, essentially meaning there weren’t many rules. These two beat the hell out of each other for fifteen minutes before Macaco was forced to tap to strikes. You will be hard pressed to find more of a brutal match, and the most amazing thing is both fighters had already fought earlier in the night (Macaco twice). The battle warranted a rematch, also won by Pele, but even in defeat the fights were enough to earn Macaco a shot at the UFC welterweight title. Both men went on to fight in Pride against many big named opponents, but no fight has ever recaptured the magic of their battles in Brazil.
Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz
UFC 22- September 24, 1999
Frank Shamrock already had four title defenses, and the matchup with the fast rising Tito Ortiz was the perfect setup for what would turn out to be one of the most important fights in the pre-Zuffa era. Tito had a huge size advantage, and despite dominating every opponent to date, Shamrock was a sizable underdog going into the fight. Ortiz had wrecked Shamrock teammates Jerry Bohlander and Guy Mezger and had a near 30 pound advantage by the time they got into the cage. Shamrock fought through the best Ortiz could give though, and smashed him with elbows and hammer fists, eventually forcing Ortiz to tap out late in the fourth round. There has been talk since then of a rematch, but both fighters have proven difficult to work with throughout their careers.
Fedor Emilianenko vs. Mirko “Cro Cop”
Pride Final Conflict 2005- August 28, 2005
This battle of the titans literally paired the two most feared fighters in the sport against each other in the peak of their careers. Cro Cop had been head kicking his way to the top of the Pride heavyweight ladder, and Fedor had defended his title multiple times as well as winning the 2004 heavyweight grand prix. Cro Cop landed head kicks, and stumbled the champion, but could never put him away. Fedor answered back with big strikes of his own before unleashing his trademark ground and pound. Cro Cop survived the fight, which is more than most of Emelianenko’s opponents could say at the time, but The Last Emperor took the decision win. This was probably the moment that Fedor went from being the best fighter in Pride, to the best fighter in the world.
Matt Huges vs. Frank Trigg
UFC 52- April 16, 2005
One of the best comebacks ever. Trigg landed a vicious shot to the junk that went unnoticed by the ref and had Hughes on the brink of defeat. Hughes persevered and came back to choke out Trigg, just as he did in their first match, and retain his welterweight crown. The fight literally swung from one man to the other and back again, giving you the feeling that you had just seen a 3 round war stuffed into 4 minutes.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton
Pride 3- June 24, 1998
It’s rare you watch 16:00 of fighting without a real significant strike being thrown, and still consider it a great fight. Two of the great grapplers from the early days of MMA, Sakuraba and Newton traded sweeps, submission attempts and dominant positions without ever really getting into a striking battle, almost as if it were a gentleman’s agreement. After avoiding several arm bar efforts, the second knee bar attempt by Sakuraba forced Newton to tap.
Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua
UFC 139- November 19, 2011
The result will be debated forever. Should round 5 have been a 10-8 for Shogun? Regardless of what we think about it, the fact is that this was a brawl for the ages. Henderson hit Rua with everything he had in the first three rounds, and Shogun kept coming for more. The extra rounds gave Rua the opportunity to use his superior cardio, and he proceeded to dominate the last 10 minutes, taking down the Olympic wrestler and mounting him 5 times in the last frame. Both guys had to skip the post fight press conference for a trip to the hospital, and no one knew what the result was until Bruce Buffer announced that Dan Henderson had won the fight. You can’t ask for much more than what these two legends gave at UFC 139.
Tsuyoshi Kohsaka vs. Kimo Leopoldo
UFC 16- March 13, 1998
The greatest fight of the pre-Zuffa era of the UFC, these two literally left it all in the cage. They battled for leglocks for much of the 15 minute war. With neither man able to secure a finish, they resorted to trading hands until the final bell. Both guys ate heavy shots but neither backed down. In the end both guys laid exhausted on the mat, nothing left to give. It was TK that walked away a winner that night. Despite not having the greatest record (26-18-2), it was wars like this that secure Kohsaka’s place amongst the all time greats.
Shogun Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Noguira
Pride Critical Countdown 2005- June 26, 2005
This was in the quarterfinals of the greatest tournament in the history of MMA, the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. Shogun had already famously defeated “Rampage” Jackson in the first round of the tournament via soccer kicks. Little Nog had submitted Dan Henderson via armbar in his first round matchup. Rua was representing Chute Boxe and Nogueira the rival Brazilian Top Team. Neither fighter would give an inch, and Rua would go on to win a unanimous decision after an action packed fight. The amazing thing is that he had to beat Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona in one night, which he did, to become the tournament champion.
Feel free to debate and discuss in the comments below.