Top 10 Significant UFC Fights

With UFC 100 a week away on July 11, I decided to look back at what got the UFC to this point. Here is my take on what I believe are the 10 most significant fights in UFC history, helping the company become what it is today.

1. Stephan Bonner vs. Forrest Griffin – Ultimate Fighter Finale 1: This fight was not only the most memorable fight to watch, but may also be the fight that really pushed the UFC into the next level of mainstream popularity. Following the debut season of The Ultimate Fighter, a show which UFC President Dana White and co-owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta funded out of their own pocket, the finale took place live on Spike TV, which was airing live fights for the first time in the history of cable television. The UFC knew it needed something big to happen to not only keep a cable television deal, but earn future advertisers, and also prolong its reality show for future seasons. Bonner vs. Griffin delivered just that. The two fought to the very end and both were so even, it was impossible to decide a clear winner for most fans. The fight at one point drew 10 million viewers, which was just what the UFC needed. The back-and-forth, non-stopped action gave the UFC an identity to fans that had never seen it before and got the ball rolling that has allowed the UFC to snowball into what it is today.

2. Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture 2 – UFC 52: Just a weeks after the Griffin-Bonner classic, the UFC followed up with The Ultimate Fighter coaches facing off for the light-heavyweight title. The PPV drew in more fans than ever before due to the success of the reality show and the finale, and the knockout win for Liddell pushed him into being the face of the organization. Liddell’s success would lead to new sponsorship for fighters, making him the first U.S. based millionaire in MMA and begin a new trend for fighters earning money outside the octagon. Liddell would also earn television roles, movie roles, a book deal, and land the cover of ESPN The Magazine during his reign as UFC champion.

3. Royce Gracie runs the table – UFC 1: Obviously UFC 100 couldn’t take place without UFC 1. While the fighting style in the opening PPV is nothing like you will see today, you still have to look at this event and note the historical ramifications. Jiu-jitsu black belt Royce Gracie seemed to be out-sized and out-matched in the eight-man tournament, but the smaller Gracie submitted all of his opponents, using technique and patience as opposed to power and force. Gracie’s success inspired others to train jiu-jitsu and helped create the fighters of today.

4. Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie – UFC 60: As I just explained, Royce Gracie was the first legend, but his fighting style wouldn’t survive in today’s UFC, which focus more on all-around ability as opposed to excelling at one aspect. This much was proven at UFC 60 when then-welterweight champion Matt Hughes quickly disposed of Gracie in the first round, putting a stamp on the elder generation of fighters and ushering in the new generation of amazing and athletic fighters.

5. Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock 1 – UFC 40: Up until this point, the UFC was still searching for an identity in the sports world. Dana White and the Fertitta brothers had recently purchased the UFC and needed a marquee fight to really draw the attention of fans. Shamrock and Ortiz would do just that, as the established names of both fighters presented a “dream fight” to many fans and outside spectators. The two would get plenty of media attention prior to the fight, appearing on Fox Sports Best Damn Sports Show as well as ESPN. The weigh-ins for the fight were aired on television for the first time in UFC history as well. This fight would be the prelude to the big MMA explosion that would come years down the line.

6. Forrest Griffin vs. Quinton Rampage Jackson – UFC 86: This light heavyweight title fight may not stick out as significant to some, but in my opinion, this fight really exemplifies what the UFC has created with its reality show The Ultimate Fighter. At UFC 86, Griffin, the winner of the first season, became the first cast member that has never fought in the UFC prior, to win a UFC championship. Griffin’s win proved that the reality show was developing future UFC stars. It is hard to look at a UFC PPV card these days without seeing it littered with former Ultimate Fighter cast members. Griffin’s legitimized all of the fighters that have been on the show and proven that they were not just reality stars.

7. Rampage Jackson vs. Dan Henderson – UFC 75/ Henderson vs. Anderson Silva – UFC 82: Again, you may wonder why these fights are on the list, but the historical significance is huge. This was the first time that a UFC champion faced a Pride champion to unify the two titles. The argument for years was which organization was better, UFC or the Japan based Pride Fighting. Well, with Pride going under and the UFC purchasing some of the roster, we were finally able to answer some of these questions. The fights themselves may not have lived up to the hype, but crowing a undisputed champion is something for the history books.

8. Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 1 – UFC 47: Again looking to hit a home run, UFC 47 presented the Chuck vs. Tito fight that UFC fans were craving for years. The fight wasn’t for a title, but got the media attention of one. Celebrities like George Clooney and Juliette Lewis attended the live fights, which was the first time the UFC drew fans of that caliber to their live shows. Liddell’s knockout win was the beginning of his career boost, but still not as important as his win over Couture.

9. Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture – UFC 91: In this fight Lesnar won the UFC heavyweight title in just his third UFC fight. The reason I put this fight on the list is because Lesnar has been a huge draw for the UFC. His presence on UFC cards has drive up PPV buys each time he fights. Lesnar jumped to MMA after a career in professional wrestling, and his presence in the UFC brought a whole new fan base from his backing in the WWE. Lesnar has quickly become one of the most popular fighters in the world for that very reason and has started a trend of pro wrestlers looking to get into MMA, which could mean big things for the UFC. Already, Bobby Lashley has made a similar jump and has looked like he could be a future UFC fighter.

10. Lyoto Machida vs. Rashad Evans – UFC 98: The Machida-era started just a little over a month ago as the undefeated fighter beat previously unbeaten Evans by knockout in the second round for the UFC light heavyweight title. Machida is the lone UFC fighter to have a truly karate style approach to fighting. Machida is elusive and defensive in his fighting, but accurate and deadly with his strikes when he throws them. The reason I consider this fight to be so significant is because Machida’s win breathes new life into karate. Already people have started to look more into karate for a form of fighting. Karate is no longer something your kids just do for self defense, it is now becoming an effective fighting technique thanks to Machida. Machida could start a new trend of fighters and be a revolutionary fighter in UFC history.

–Written by TSR MMA contributor Drew Ellis

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts