The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has for long now been the most recognizable brand associated with mixed martial arts (MMA), the fastest growing sport in the world. As the UFC reaches its 20th anniversary, it is time to look back and check out 4 of the greatest fights in UFC history that define everything MMA.
Liddell vs. Silva (UFC 79: Nemesis)
Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell is perhaps the greatest anti-hero to ever step into the UFC octagon. Although his rivalry with Tito Ortiz is what fans remember the most, the best fight of his UFC career was against another UFC legend, Wanderlei ‘The Axe Murderer’ Silva. The fight started off slowly, but halfway through the first round all pleasantries were thrown out the window. Liddell threw in some good combinations and finished the round unscathed. Silva came back in the second and the two men got involved in perhaps one of the most violent rounds in UFC history. A spinning back fist from Liddell almost finished it in the third and the judges handed a unanimous decision to the Iceman.
Edgar vs. Maynard II (UFC 125: Resolution)
When it comes to rivalries in the UFC, few can match the intensity of the Edgar-Maynard battles. The two All-Americans faced each other three times in the octagon and produced two of the best fights in UFC history. Despite the amazing comeback win by Edgar in the last fight, it is the second fight of the trilogy that stands out as the best. Challenging for the UFC Lightweight Championship, Maynard dominated the early stages and rocked Edgar with a vicious left hook. However, Frankie Edgar would prove why he was the reigning champion by coming back to out-strike Maynard and slamming him into the octagon floor. In the end, the judges declared the match a draw, but both fighters left the MGM Grand Garden Arena as winners.
Henderson vs. Rua (UFC 139)
Although no title was on the line, this was definitely a fight of the champions. Dan Henderson and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua were both former champions in the UFC, Strikeforce, and Pride. There was never any doubt that this was going to be a good fight. However, the two fighters pushed themselves all the way to produce one of the greatest fights in MMA history. In a constant back and forth, Henderson and Shogun had to rely upon every last bit of their mixed martial arts training to stay in the fight. Although Henderson won the unanimous decision from the judges, both the light heavyweight fighters were praised for their performance and this was once fight where fans would have preferred it ending in a draw rather than a decision.
Griffin vs. Bonnar (The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale)
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) was the brainchild of Dana White and the Fertittas, who saw the reality TV show as a last roll of the dice to save the UFC. With season one coming to an end and no deal in place for season 2, things weren’t exactly going to plan. However, all that changed at the finale of TUF 1. Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar may have been duelling for a UFC contract, but in turn they helped the UFC hit mainstream success and possibly saved MMA as a sport. Non-stop action saw both the fighters end up bloody and bruised at the end of three rounds, with Griffin taking the decision. Even though Bonnar lost, UFC president Dana White offered both fighters UFC contracts and the rest, as they say, is history.
There has been no lack of epic bouts in the UFC’s 20 years. However, these 4 are definitely some of the greatest fights to ever take place in the octagon.