When it comes to dramatic stories leading up to seat-clinching anticipation and in-your-face action, there just about isn’t any sport other than mixed martial arts that delivers consistently. Professional boxing has evolved into a points game, and fans are looking for something to get their blood pumping again. Here is our list of the best MMA fights of all time.
10. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen
UFC 117 – Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA – 8/07/2010
The hype leading up to this fight is unrivaled by many others. After beating a few tough opponents, Sonnen went to the press, publicly defaming Anderson Silva in just about every way possible. After months of asking for the bout, UFC President Dana White finally agreed and it was set. Silva was the obvious favorite, however, to the surprise of everyone watching, Sonnen came out and dominated the UFC Middleweight champ for 4 rounds, landing 324 strikes to Silva’s 64. In the final round, with less than two minutes left, The Champ made his stunning comeback and caught Sonnen in a triangle/armbar combo submission for a last-minute win.
9. Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva
UFC 79 – Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, NV – 12/29/2007
Leading up to this fight in 2007, “The Iceman” and “The Axe Murderer,” respectively, were two of the most revered fighters in the 205 lb. weight class. Both had defended titles, Liddell in the UFC and Silva in Pride, and even though neither held a title when they met, it was still one of the most important moments in the history of the sport. Both fighters let the punches fly without regard to their own well being. In the end, Liddell got the best of the third round, which sealed his decision victory.
8. Josh Barnett vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Pride Final Conflict – Saitama Super Arean, Saitama, Japan – 9/10/2006
Two famed heavyweights, one ring, and an absolute clinical performance. That’s what took place back in 2006 during this fight – an absolute clinic of striking, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and countermeasures to all three. After watching this fight, there is no doubt why, at one point in time, both Barnett and Nogueira held heavyweight titles in the UFC and Pride, respectively.
7. Don Frye vs. Ken Shamrock
Pride 19: Bad Blood – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama Japan – 2/24/2002
These two guys absolutely hated each other. In fact, in the pre-fight ceremonies, Frye threw water in Shamrock’s face, leading to the two nearly coming to blows and wrestling around before being pulled apart. The tension could be felt, and came to life in the fight. Frye beat Shamrock senseless before getting caught in multiple bone-bending leg and ankle submissions, but the end result was a decision in Frye’s favor. This decision is still questioned by many Shamrock fans today. If you take a look at this fight, you will see the difference in the rules of MMA today and those of the sport a decade ago.
6. Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn II
UFC 63 – Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, CA – 9/23/2006
After BJ Penn shocked the MMA world with his dominant win over the then champion Matt Hughes two years earlier, this rematch was welcomed by many. The anticipation was high and the trash talking soon began. Hughes, however, ensured that this fight went in a much different direction than the last. In an epic battle, Penn could not seem breakthrough Hughes’ defense, and Hughes wound up beating Penn by TKO in a fight remained in his favor for the bulk.
5. Fedor Emeliankenko vs. Mirko Filipovic
Pride: Final Conflict 2005 – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan – 8/28/2005
At the time, Fedor was considered to be the best heavyweight in the world, having beaten just about every other significant heavyweight fighter. The only fighter that stood in his way was Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Cro Cop showed his arsenal of deadly head kicks, and Fedor proved that he wasn’t scared of them. The two fighters blasted one another with blows until the final bell, when Emeliankenko was declared winner in a unanimous decision.
4. Royce Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo
UFC 3 – Grady Cole Center, Charlotte, NC – 9/09/1994
If you want to travel back to a time in the sport of MMA when the rules were vague and there were no weight classes, this fight is the one with which you should start. The legend, Royce Gracie, established himself by submitting three opponents in less than five minutes on a rampage through an earlier eight-man tournament. Kimo Leopoldo was 240 lb. brawler who was given no credit. However, Leopoldo showed the world that he wasn’t afraid of Gracie, and proved to be just about as much as Gracie could handle. Images of Gracie clinching Leopoldo’s ponytail in order to immobilize his head while punching him in the face are among the most prominent when thinking of this fight. In the end, Gracie’s desire and his opponent’s exhaustion led to an arm bar submission that ended a classic underdog story.
3. Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida
UFC Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale – The Pearl at the Palms, Las Vegas, NV- 6/20/2009
When you talk about 155 lb. fighters, high adrenaline and speed come to mind. There is likely no more high-adrenaline fighter than Clay Guida. Over the years, Guida has been in some absolute battles, and this fight against Diego Sanchez would prove to be one of the most historic battles in the history of the sport. After an all-out first round and into the second, both opponents were streaked with blood. Both had given 150%, yet, the chaos continued. Back and forth the fight went, with an eventual split decision that really could have gone either way.
2. Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II
UFC 52 – MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV – 4/16/2005
Having been beaten previously, Trigg came into the rematch with something to prove, and it showed. In the first round, an inadvertent strike to the groin by Trigg led to a chain of events that would forever concrete this fight in history. Hughes was waiting on the referee to call the strike, however, he was unaware of what had happened. Trigg pounced and made Hughes pay, eventually ending up behind Hughes with a tight rear naked choke. The Champ, however, persevered and ended up with Trigg in a match-ending rear naked choke of his own.
1. Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar
UFC Ultimate Fighter Finale – Cox Pavillion, Las Vegas, NV – 4/09/2005
This fight quickly became the standard against which other fights are judged. Two young, new fighters in the ring, fighting for absolute dominance, and a shot a fulfilling their dreams. This fight sums up the sport of MMA and what it should be about. Both fighters showed tremendous heart, and fought, with blood flying, until the final seconds. Both fighters, in turn, were awarded contacts to fight in the UFC.