It’s been 21 years and more than two thousand fights after the first ever UFC fight between Gerard Gordeau and Teila Tuli was held in Colorado way back in 1993. Since then, the UFC has become a mega business and the sport has become the fastest rising game of this generation.
In those 21 years, the UFC, United Fighting Championship has thrilled its fans with countless exciting bouts, yet among those many contests, there have been epic battles that stood out and molded the sport to what it is today. Here are the Top 5 UFC fights of All-Time:
- Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva (UFC 79)
Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva are two of the greatest middleweights to step inside the Octagon. Liddell was the UFC’s face during his heyday while Silva made his name knocking out opponents in the PRIDE MMA promotion. In 2003, UFC President Dana White took Liddell to Japan in the hopes of pitting his best against theirs. But Liddell would not make it past the semifinals as he lost to Rampage Jackson.
Fast forward to 2007 when Silva finally made his way to the UFC. In his debut during the UFC’s season ender at UFC 79, he finally got to lock horns with The Iceman. The sports best sluggers did what they do best for five hellacious rounds. Liddell tagged Silva with powerful blows but the Axe Murderer took all of them and gave Liddell a dose of his own medicine. After countless memorable flurries, Liddell eked out a decision win after scoring on a few takedowns that spelled the difference. The knockout everyone expected never came, but seeing these two greats stand toe to toe inside the octagon was truly once in a lifetime.
- Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 165)
Jon Jones came to UFC 165 as a heavy favorite after being nearly untouchable in his previous nine bouts. Jones had stopped 8 of 9 opponents and had won six straight title bouts including 5 title defenses. Gustafsson was supposed to be another number in Jones’ win record, but that didn’t happen.
The Swedish Mauler proved that he could take Jones’ best strikes and showed that he was the much better boxer than the champion. He took Jones to the ground on several occasions and landed heavy blows on him. By the third round, Jones knew he was in a real fight. And despite getting blown up and cut in the right eye, he showed his true mettle by going all-out in the final round to retain his belt in the 2013 Fight of The Year. Jones had to be carried out of the Octagon after the fight because of exhaustion but not before winning the toughest bout of his career.
- Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 2 (UFC 125)
As they say in boxing, styles make fights. Well these guys have styles that make epic wars. Edgar and Maynard fought thrice in their careers and it’s safe to say that two of those bouts deserve a spot at the UFC’s 10 greatest bouts. But among the three, their second fight was the best in the trilogy.
After knocking down Edgar thrice in the first round, it seemed that Maynard was on his way to becoming the next UFC champion. But the hard working Edgar once again showed tremendous resiliency by storming his way back to the contest. The final round looked like a scene from the Sylvester Stallone movie ”Rocky” only that aside from boxing, Edgar used his superior wrestling to come up with an impressive comeback and salvage a draw that would enable him to keep his title.
- Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua ( UFC 139)
In 2001, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Dan “Hendo” Henderson battled to a close three round fight at Pride 17 which Henderson would win via split decision. Ten years later, during Henderson’s return to the UFC after a stint with Strikeforce, the two would face each other once again.
This time around, they would fight to one of the best matches in MMA history. The two fight legends would go at each other in practically all aspects of the sport: striking, grappling, wrestling, submission and knees. There was never a dull moment as each was willing to move forward and engage. There were moments when each looked like he was ready to go, but both showed tremendous heart and courage to fight on. Henderson won the bout, but Shogun didn’t come home the loser. Instead, his legacy grew even more.
1. Stephan Bonnar vs Forrest Griffin (TUF 1 Finale)
In 2004, the UFC was sunk in a $30M debt and with only their last $10M left in their bank account, UFC President Dana White gambled with a reality show called The Ultimate Fighter. The gamble would turn out to be a hit as TV viewership averaged 1M per episode. By the time everyone was tuning back to the UFC, the finale made believers out of a nation of doubters.
Stephan Bonnar isn’t one of the UFC’s best fighters. In fact, he’s lost practically all the big bouts he’s been involved in, including this one. But during this special night, Bonnar put on a super human effort against Forrest Griffin. The two fighters punched, kicked, slammed and bloodied each other for three full rounds at the UNLV basketball team’s practice gym. Excited fans stomped their feet as the action never let up. When the fight ended, both bloodied men walked around the Octagon with his hands raised in victory. Anyone could have won that bout, but it was Griffin who got the judges’ nod.
Overall though, it was the sport which won big that night as it ushered the renaissance of the UFC. White calls it the fight that saved the UFC, and because of that alone, it gets our nod for the Top UFC fight of All-Time. Without it, the rest of the great fights wouldn’t have been there in the first place.