Top 10 MMA Fights That Almost Happened, Plus One
The business of making fights cannot be as easy as one thinks. It’s more than just a simple matter of that which is most basic: logistics and timing.
It’s also about imagining a fight so totally that the matchmaker can see real drama in the destruction, and then make a fight that delivers on the promise of his imagination.
In other words, it’s about the business of predicting those fights that will yield the greatest fireworks show, time and time again.
But as anyone who has followed the sport for even a short amount of time knows, many is the fight that was not made, no matter how great it promised to be.
So here is a list of the fights that could have been. Let your imagination wander…
Tito Ortiz vs. Kevin Randleman
During Randleman’s time in the UFC, he was a true monster. After the heavyweight title was taken from him by Randy Couture, Randleman decided to move down to light heavyweight, which was the domain of reigning champion Tito Ortiz.
Randleman, and many others, looked forward to the time when he would face Ortiz for the title.
Then, Chuck Liddell knocked him flat and ended his march up the ladder.
Randleman would soon leave the UFC to fight in PRIDE, but the hostilities between him and Ortiz would continue to linger for years.
Many still speculate who would have won a fight between Randleman and Ortiz.
If I had to pick, I would go with Randleman. He was not intimidated by Ortiz in the slightest, and he was every bit as strong and athletic, not to mention he was the better wrestler.
Of course, anything can happen in a fight, but when the styles of both fighters are so close on a fundamental level, it is usually the stronger, more accomplished fighter who wins.
PREDICTION: Randleman via third-round TKO/doctor stoppage .
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture
Here is another fight that would have been a stunner.
After Randy Couture left the UFC for a short period of time, many promoters were keen on making a match up between Couture and P4P king Fedor.
Couture clearly wanted the bout, as he campaigned for it often, and Fedor was all smiles about the notion. Such is the case when two true gentlemen begin to wonder who is the better man between them.
The fight would never come to pass, and Couture would rejoin the UFC fold while Fedor committed to Strikeforce.
Still, it is an intriguing match.
While Randy lacked many of the physical advantages Fedor possessed, such as brutal KO power and an excellent grappling game (especially from the top), Couture is if nothing a master strategist with incredible endurance.
If anyone could have come up with a game plan to defeat Fedor at that given time, it would have been Couture.
PREDICTION: Fedor by TKO late in Round 3.
Tito Ortiz vs. Quinton Rampage Jackson
While not nearly as close to fruition as other fights mentioned, there was still a time when the bout was not only discussed, but a path to possibility was clear to all who cared to look and dream.
Had Ortiz managed to defeat Rashad Evans, a bout to establish the No. 1 contender for the title shot would have included the names Ortiz and Jackson.
Former training partners during Team Punishment’s heyday, both fighters know each other well, and consider each other friends.
With that being said, there was enough distance in the rear-view mirror for both fighters to have taken the fight.
Had they faced off in the cage, it could have been a great fight, but only for as long as it took Jackson to find his range.
PREDICTION: Quinton Rampage Jackson via KO late in Round 2.
Chuck Liddell vs. Dan Henderson
This was one of the fights that had "epic" written all over it.
After Henderson defeated Wanderlei Silva for the PRIDE middleweight title, he spoke openly about his desire to fight either Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight belt, or Chuck Liddell for the UFC light heavyweight strap.
The stars may not have aligned to grant us this fight, but for a while it seemed like a very real possibility, and it set many an imagination alight.
Ground fighting would probably be thrown out the window, given Henderson’s love of stand-up slugfests and Liddell’s excellent takedown defense.
As good as Henderson has proven himself to be on the feet, in the end, Liddell was every bit as dangerous, and in more ways.
PREDICTION: Liddell via unanimous decision after a brutal five-round war.
Josh Barnett vs. Fedor Emelianenko
This was one of those few fights that was signed and sealed, yet fell short of delivery due to pre-fight problems: namely the commissions vs. Josh Barnett.
Fedor vs. Barnett was to be the headlining fight on the third Affliction show, but when that fight had to be cancelled, the show folded like a house of cards, and with it went the company itself.
Yes, it left a bad taste in the mouth of everyone involved, and rightly so. But it also proved true what Dana White has been saying for years: this is not a business for amateurs.
Even in the early days of Zuffa-era UFC, such a cancellation would not have forced them to abandon the whole damn card.
Now, we can only wonder how good the fight would have been.
Barnett brought a rare level of experience, cunning and skill to the match that no one else really could.
Fedor brought the power, the quiet confidence, and the skills of a true killer.
PREDICTION: Fedor via KO in the first or second round.
Mark Kerr vs. Mark Coleman
During the days of PRIDE FC, it looked like former training partners Mark Coleman and Mark Kerr could end up facing each other in the semi-finals of the first-ever PRIDE Grand Prix.
For those really interested in this piece of MMA history, they can view the HBO documentary about Mark Kerr, called “The Smashing Machine,” which chronicles Kerr’s life at this point in his career.
Had Kerr won his bout against Kazuyuki Fujita, he would have faced his friend Coleman, with the winner going on to fight in the finals.
But he did not win, and Coleman would go on to the finals, defeating Igor Vovchanchyn and claiming the title of PRIDE Grand Prix champion.
But we still wonder which man would have won the fight.
As far as all-around skill in the world of MMA fighting, the edge probably would have gone to Kerr, who was simply more well-rounded.
But in terms of aggression, Coleman would have had the upper hand.
PREDICTION: Coleman via unanimous decision after a hard-fought and bloody affair.
Rickson Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba
It could have been billed “The Gracie Hunter” vs. “The Ultimate Gracie.”
Back in his prime, Kazushi Sakuraba was one of the best submission fighters in the game, period. He defeated Royler Gracie, Royce Gracie and Renzo Gracie, and was never in danger in any of those bouts.
But everyone in the Gracie family openly acknowledged that Rickson was light years ahead of them when it came to practicing their family-named brand of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
It would have been a mega-fight in Japan, bringing in huge numbers for both the live gate and on PPV.
But if he had, it could have been the most epic ground war to date.
Both men had the submission credentials to submit the other, be it on paper or in-ring experience.
Sadly, the world of theory never met the harsh reality of practical application for these two warriors, and now we will never know.
Still, we can wonder and speculate.
Actual submission experience would have to go to Rickson, where MMA competition savvy and activity would have belonged to Sakuraba.
PREDICTION: with periods of activity being so few and far between for Rickson, the decision goes to the more active Sakuraba after a night filled with dazzling submission attempts, escapes and transitions.
Rich Franklin vs. Tito Ortiz
This is one of those fights that was talked about casually, even by Dana White, but never really came close to fruition.
Say what you will about Rich Franklin, but he is an excellent striker with KO power, well conditioned, dangerous at every turn, and a very good grappler.
Ortiz would have probably been forced to fight this bout on his feet, and that would have been his undoing. In a standing fight, Franklin had all the advantages.
PREDICTION: Franklin via KO in round 3.
Tiki Ghosn vs Mike Van Arsdale
Even sure mismatches can be brought to a boiling point, wetting the appetite of the ardent fight fan.
Such looked to be the case during the season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, when the assistant coaches for Quinton Rampage Jackson (Tiki Ghosn) and Rashad Evans (Mike van Arsdale) began their war of words.
In the end, it was their weight difference that kept the fight from happening.
Mike van Arsdale is a true light heavyweight, and Ghosn wanted him to come down to fight in a catch-weight bout, somewhere between welterweight and middleweight.
Ghosn should be thanking his lucky stars this fight didn’t happen, because even after a draining weight cut, Mike van Arsdale would have simply been too much for him.
How much is too much? The answer is too much power, speed, explosiveness and skill.
PREDICTION: Mike van Arsdale via murder in Round 1.
Tito Ortiz vs. Mark Coleman
Tito Ortiz has picked a lot of fights in his career, and has shown willingness, if not an outright giddy glee, in picking fights with big-name fighters in the twilight of their careers.
He did it with Ken Shamrock, and once that well had gone dry, he tried it with an aged Mark Coleman.
The fight almost was. It was even put on posters. But injuries brought substitutions, and the fight was lost in the minutiae.
If Coleman could have fought Tito anytime between 2000 and 2004, he would have quite simply crushed Ortiz.
But when considering when the match was originally made, all signs point to Ortiz beating Coleman, via youth, endurance, and better timing.
PREDICTION: Ortiz by doctor stoppage in Round 2, via cuts.
Plus One: Nick Diaz vs. Jeff Lacy
We throw this one in, even though it would not have been an MMA fight, but a boxing match.
That is, at least until Nick Diaz lost his cool and tried to take it to the street, breaking every rule in boxing, and possibly a limb of Lacy along the way.
Had Diaz tried his hand in boxing and had the sad misfortune of fighting Lacy, he would have been blown out of the water, pure and simple.
The striking skills of Diaz look good in MMA, but in the world of boxing, the holes in his game would be exploited to such a severe degree that it would look as if Ray Charles could drive a semi-truck through the smallest one.
Thankfully, this fight never took place. But if it had?
PREDICTION: Lacy via brutal KO in Round 2, followed by a riot in the ring.