Yesterday April 9th, was the 15-year anniversary of the most important fight in UFC/MMA History. It got me wanting to compile my 5 most important fights in the history of the company. It took me a long time to come to what i think are the 5 most important. Now what makes a fight more significant than another? Well, in terms of history of course, certain fights have had a bigger impact on the sport and company creating an ultimate long term effect that didn’t seem possible even before the fight started. That’s why this is the best sport on earth, anything can happen at any given moment, and these moments that some of these fighters have provided us have been and can be so so important for the sport. I’ll list my most important from 1-5 and explain why it deserves to be here. Again, this was pretty hard, the first couple were easy for me but after narrowing it down i ultimately came up with these 5 after watching them through and comparing the ripple effects they each had.
- Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar (Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale)-Light Heavyweight
WHAT A WAR. There is no UFC where it is today in its current form without this classic war. The fight is credited with saving the company as Griffin and Bonnar went to war in The Ultimate Fighter 1 finale in 2005. The fight was supposed to be for a UFC contract, but Dana White was so impressed with both fighters that he gave each a six-fight deal, 6 figure deal. Imagine that. Griffin won the fight by unanimous decision after getting rocked in the second round. The doctors considered stopping the fight but allowed him to continue. This was also the first time the UFC put on a live free television event thanks to Spike. The crowd was going nuts. It was finally proven on April 9th, 2005 that the UFC and Dana White was here to stay. It laid all of the groundwork for the future success of the company, television deals, top fighters joining, etc. Griffin would go on to become one of the most beloved figures in UFC history. My favorite part besides the fight itself was Dana White and Lorenzo Feritta celebrating like they just hit the jackpot. Because they did. Everyone in the MMA world did. Dana credits this fight as being the driving force behind the future success of the UFC, often stating that it was due to the fight that Spike TV offered them a second season of the Ultimate Fighter. This fight showed the true heart of not only UFC fighters but of all who participate and appreciate MMA.
2. Ronda Rousey vs Liz Carmouche (UFC 157-Women’s Bantamweight Championship)
This was the first ever women’s fight in the UFC. Ronda Rousey, a pioneer of the sport, and one of the greatest women’s athletes in history came in as the Strikeforce champion in February 2013. Honestly the craziest part of this is just 2 years prior to this Dana White said we will never see women fight in UFC. Little did we know that one woman (Rousey) would become the sport’s biggest star just four years later. In 2012, White signed the Strikeforce champion to a UFC contract and created the women’s bantamweight title. In 2013, White made Rousey the main event for UFC 157 against Liz Carmouche – the first ever women’s fight in the UFC, headlining a PPV. Rousey did not disappoint, scoring her signature arm bar submission in the first round, her seventh consecutive victory via arm bar, all in the first round and all in less than 4 and a half minutes. Mind Blowing. Not only would Rousey go on to become a huge star in the sport but just look at how far we have come from women’s MMA. Now Ronda is no longer the GOAT, the sport unfortutnely surpassed her and she was dethroned as a result, but women main event PPV’s, and there have been so many success stories because of this first fight paving the road.
3. Georges St Pierre vs BJ Penn II (UFC 94-Welterweight Championship)
It was the first time two UFC champions squared off against one another, with St-Pierre’s welterweight title hanging in the balance. This fight was everything when it happened.
It was a meeting of two of the absolute best fighters on the planet, colliding at the peak of their careers, coming off their most impressive performances to date.
The anticipation for this fight was off the charts. The first time ever 2 world champions faced each other. It was historic. A true dream fight. GSP won this fight in a 4th round stoppage. To this day, it might be the best fight ever put together by the UFC. Others have been more impressive once the Octagon door was closed and locked and the action commenced, but in terms of where the participants were at in their careers, in their athletic capabilities and their overall skill sets, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pairing. (besides Khabib vs Tony) cough cough. This laid the ground work for Dana to put on more of these type of fights, champions going against each other in order to determine the better champion and solidify their legacy. While these types of fights dont happen all the time, they shouldn’t be, it showed that this was possible and helped create more fights like this one.
4. Conor Mcgregor vs Nate Diaz I-(UFC 196)
This is a controversial place for this fight but hear me out. I wanted to combine both of their fights but said fuck it i’ll do this one. McGregor turned himself into a superstar in the fight game quite rapidly. The young Irishman states time and again he will fight anyone, anywhere. So when he was scheduled to take on Rafael dos Anjos for the lightweight crown while holding the featherweight title, it was already surprising enough. But when dos Anjos pulled out with injury and Nate Diaz stepped in. Nate had called out Conor before saying he was “taking everything ive worked for” McGregor agreed to fight at welterweight, a full 25 pounds above his normal weight class, something no UFC fighter had ever done before. Both men built the fight up amazingly and did not disappoint in the Octagon. Conor and Nate went back and forth. McGregor made a mistake, ended up on his back and tapped via guillotine choke by the BJJ Black Belt. Their rematch was an even BETTER fight, 5 rounds of pure war where McGregor got to redeem himself. But, this first fight that Diaz won, showed how incredible these warriors are. Conor wasn’t afraid to put on 25 pounds in 11 days, Nate Diaz wasn’t afraid to fight one of the biggest stars in the sports on 11 days notice. And while everyone laughed at Nate for taking this fight, it turned out to be one of the biggest surprises in UFC history and shot an already popular Nate Diaz into absolute superstardom. It showed that anything and everything can and WILL happen. Hey, “Im not surprised motherfuckers.”
5. Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir II-(UFC 100-Heavyweight Championship)
What a scene. After losing the first bout with Mir in 2008 in just his second professional fight, Lesnar continued to ascend through the ranks. He won the heavyweight title two fights later by knocking out legend Randy Couture. Then, at UFC 100, he faced the only man to whom he had lost at the time. The main event at the company’s biggest event to date brought us a transcendent star. Lesnar exercised the demons, trapping Mir on the ground and dropping vicious punches and elbows to score the second-round TKO. Brock Lesnar, a WWE superstar and national champion wrestler, turned into the Heavyweight champion of world and avenged his loss to Frank Mir. This was the biggest and most successful PPV to date up until recent years with McGregor. This was of epic proportions. It made Lesnar an absolute worldwide superstar. UFC 100 featured the best fight card the promotion had ever put together, But the main attraction was the rematch between Lesnar and Mir and it exceeded expectations, with Lesnar gaining a measure of revenge by viciously finishing Mir in the second round in one of the most iconic events of all-time.
Well thats my top 5 most important fights in company history. It wasn’t easy to do this. Notable fights that missed the cut include, Mcgregor vs Diaz II, Mcgregor vs Khabib, Royce Gracie vs Ken Shamrock, Rousey vs Holm, Lidell vs Couture III, and many many more. All of these fights have had an integral part and influence on where the company is today and the success its had. Like i said about the first fight, these fights showed the true heart of not only UFC fighters but of all who participate and appreciate MMA. This is a sport and athletes that should be elevated and celebrated. Not torn down by negativity. I for one will never do that. I hope to have more of these types of lists in the future.
Stay safe folks, Mac out.