Mixed Martial Arts is still in its infancy and has a ways to go before it has a storied history like boxing, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, etc. — but there have been some great fights — some that will forever stay in the history of the sport.
This may not be identical to your list, but here are my top 10 fights in MMA history…
10. Diego Sanchez vs Clay Guida | June 20, 2009: I was torn between this fight and the Nick Diaz/Takanori Gomi fight in Pride, but in the end, decided to go with the Sanchez and Guida because of the ferocity both fighters had, while Gomi seemed winded against Diaz near the end of their fight. From the get-go, this fight was equivalent to a tiger taking on a lion. This fight belonged in the Roman gladiator times, with both men rushing each other to exchange. A huge kick by Sanchez to Guida’s head dropped him in the first round, and I thought the fight was over. How Guida recovered is mind boggling, and the fight would go the distance, swaying back and forth with Sanchez earning a split-decision victory.
9. Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson | September 21, 2013: Gustafsson was a huge underdog coming into the fight, with many not giving him a chance to win, and I predicted a Jones knockout. I was way off — not only did Jones earn a hard fought unanimous decision, I thought Gustafsson won; he left Jones bloodied and took Jones down for the first time in his career. When offered an immediate rematch, Jones declined and decided to take on Glover Teixeira instead. The rematch is set for September 2014…
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8. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs Dan Henderson | November 19, 2011: This main event was the Fight of the Year and with the momentum going back and forth between the two legends. Early on, it looked as “Hendo” would have a quick night, knocking “Shogun” down and trying to finish, but Rua would get up and weather the storm. In the later rounds Rua would find his range and catch Henderson with unanswered punches, which went to the judges, and Hendo was named the victor.
7. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs Dan Henderson 2 | March 23, 2014: No, it’s not deja vu. “Shogun” versus “Hendo” 2 was another one for the books. It didn’t go five rounds, but this fight saw Henderson almost finished by Rua several times during the fight, before loading up his “H-Bomb” and putting the Brazilian to sleep with his overhand right that came out of nowhere. Probably one of the most improbable comebacks during a fight in MMA history.
6. Gilbert Melendez vs Diego Sanchez | October 19, 2013: Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are known for fighting with a lot of heart, and these men of latter descent proved that in this fight that was both Fight of the Night and Fight of the Year. The two had trained in years past, but had kept separate camps since, with Melendez in Northern California and Sanchez in New Mexico. The first two rounds, “El Nino” got the better of “The Nightmare,” but both would exchange at the end of the rounds, leaving the crowd on their feet. In the third round, Melendez was caught by the “Nightmare” and Sanchez tried to ground-and-pound the California native. Melendez eventually made it to his feet and the last ten seconds of the fight, both threw haymakers trying to take the other one out with UFC commentator Joe Rogan saying, “That was the greatest fight I have ever seen in my life.” Before the judges decision (unanimous victory for Melendez), Sanchez asked UFC President Dana White for two more rounds in this epic fight.
5. Don Frye vs Ken Shamrock | February 24, 2002: This fight in Pride between two former UFC stars was a bad blood fight between the two veterans who felt disrespected by the other. Both vowed to hurt the other — and in the end that’s exactly what they did. Frye was swinging for the fences, trying to knockout Shamrock, while Ken would take the fight to the ground and try to submit Frye with various leg submissions. Both men would try to submit the other with various leg locks and Frye went on to win a decision. Frye said, “We both left something there that night, that’s for sure. We were never the same, it took some time off both our careers.” One journalist said both men were in so much pain, the next day they had trouble getting on the bus.
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4. Royce Gracie vs Kimo Leopolodo | September 9, 1994: Royce Gracie put Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the map, amazing fans with a martial arts style most hadn’t seen. His father, Helio, may have taught Royce and his brothers the martial art, but it was a young Royce that showed the world BJJ would work against bigger, stronger opponents. At UFC 3, Royce went up against Kimo Leopoldo, who outweighed him by over 80 pounds. Kimo had seen Royce’s previous fights and tried to keep the fight on the feet, but the smaller Gracie was able to get the fight to the ground and force Kimo to tapout by armbar. Royce’s fights would lead to the explosion of Brazilian jiu-jitsu teaching of the martial art worldwide.
3. Nick Diaz vs Robbie Lawler | April 2, 2004: What’s a top ten fight without Nick Diaz? The Stockton, California product wasn’t known entering his fight with “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler — who had been on tear — knocking out six of his first nine opponents. The younger Diaz was a huge underdog, but early in the first round was barking at Lawler and choosing to strike with him. After a first round that went in Diaz’s favor, Lawler tried to comeback with punches of his own in the second, until he was caught by a short hook that put him out. A wild fight that put Diaz and Stockton on the map.
2. Stephan Bonnar vs Forrest Griffin | April 9, 2005: This fight will forever go down as one of pivotal fights in UFC history. The UFC had been losing money and wasn’t profitable as a corporation when it decided to start the television reality show The Ultimate Fighter. In the first TUF Finale, Stephan Bonnar and Forest Griffin would go on to make history, throwing bombs and kicks for three full rounds and making the UFC a household name by immediately boosting its fan base. This was not the most technical fight, but a fight that was toe-to-toe, going down to the wire, with both men earning six-figure UFC contracts. Ironically, both men retired within months of each other in 2012, but both will be etched in UFC history forever.
1. Mark Hunt vs Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva | December 7, 2013: I dubbed this the “Bloody rain down in Bisbane.” It may not have been as popular as “Rumble in the Jungle,” or “Thrilla in Manila,” but this fight had me going from journalist to fan, as I had no idea how these two behemoths were able to go five rounds with blood covering both of their bodies. As heavyweights, it’s a lot harder to keep a fast pace than smaller weight classes, but that didn’t stop these bigger-than-usual heavyweights. At the end of the fifth round, I had no idea who won; I thought it could be a draw and that’s exactly what it was. The sad part is, Silva would test positive for banned substances, which took a bit away from his legacy in the fight, but that didn’t lessen the fight itself. The best fight I’ve ever seen to date. Period.
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