The 12 Most Memorable Moments in Light Heavyweight History
The light heavyweight division has produced several of the greatest moments in MMA history.
From Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's breathtaking slam of Ricardo Arona to Lyoto Machida's dazzling front kick that sent legend Randy Couture into retirement, the 205-pound class has provided excitement ever since it was introduced as the middleweight division in the early stages of the sport.
Much quicker than heavyweights, and more powerful than MMA's smaller fighters, the competitors in the light heavyweight division were built for entertainment, so it should come as no surprise that narrowing the list of memorable moments in the division's history was no easy task.
Unfortunately, Frank Shamrock's underappreciated reign as champion, Jackson's title-merging win against former Pride champion Dan Henderson, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua's impressive performances against then-undefeated Machida and several other incredible performances are absent from this elite list of memorable light heavyweight moments.
With that being said, let's take a look at the 12 occurances that did make the cut for leaving the longest- lasting impressions in the history of the 205-pound division.
12. Tito Ortiz-Ken Shamrock Rivalry
Although blood between the two fighters began boiling much earlier, Ortiz and Shamrock first met at UFC 40, where Ortiz was victorious. The win gave Ortiz the record for most consecutive title defenses in the light heavyweight division—a record previously held by Shamrock's adopted brother, Frank.
A few years later, after "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" finally lost his title at the hands of Chuck Liddell, Ortiz and Shamrock renewed their rivalry by coaching against one another on The Ultimate Fighter 3. Through what became arguably the most heated rivalry in MMA history, Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock helped grow the sport by garnering boatloads of mainstream media attention.
When the fighters finally met again inside the Octagon, Ortiz once again proved to be the better fighter, as he finished Shamrock with elbows in slightly more than one minute. Though it appeared clear that Ortiz was superior to Shamrock, the UFC decided to set up a third meeting between the combatants as a result of a somewhat quick stoppage.
Once again, Ortiz rose above Shamrock in the third and final fight between the pair of MMA legends, closing the book on one of the most memorable and lopsided rivalries in the history of the sport.
11. Forrest Griffin vs. Mauricio Rua
Coming into his UFC debut a winner of 12 of his past 13 fights, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua was expected to make an immediate run at the 205-pound title.
Conversely, Rua was stunned in his UFC debut in which Forrest Griffin secured a submission in the final minute of the third round to secure a title shot.
Griffin proceeded to earn the belt in a fight against Quinton Jackson that narrowly missed this list due to its controversial decision.
10. Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida
At only 24 years old, Jon Jones has already accomplished so much in MMA. It was his win over Lyoto Machida, though, that stands out as the young superstar's brightest moment.
Defending his title for the second time after quickly rising to the top of the light heavyweight division without many obstacles, Jones was truly tested for the first time against the unique attack of Machida.
Despite arguably losing the first round, Jones showed he was capable of overcoming adversity by securing a dramatic submission late in the second round.
While it wasn't a flawless performance, Jones' win over Machida showed that he had all the makings of a future legend of the sport.
9. Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin
Running short on competition in the middleweight division, 185-pound champion Anderson Silva took an intriguing light heavyweight bout against former champion Forrest Griffin.
Though Griffin was expected to test Silva's skills against a larger opponent, the former winner of The Ultimate Fighter employed an aggressive style that played right into the Brazilian's hands.
After an utterly dominant performance against a former champion in a division above his, Silva emerged in the as of many as the greatest fighter in MMA history.
8. Wanderlei Silva-Quinton Jackson Rivalry
A simple provocation of Pride champion Wanderlei Silva following his win over Kevin Randleman at Pride 25 led Quinton "Rampage" Jackson into one of the most exciting rivalries in MMA history.
Jackson didn't get his shot at Silva by simply calling out the titleholder, though. Instead, Jackson had to fight his way to the finals of the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, where he ended up suffering a knockout loss in Silva's brutal clinch.
Despite the setback, Jackson wasted little time in earning a shot at Silva's belt. After knocking out Ricardo Arona with an unbelievable slam, "Rampage" was awarded a place in a Pride championship bout.
Once again, though, Silva disposed of Jackson with knees from the clinch. After two losses in as many fights against Silva, it appeared Jackson's chances of ever tasting victory against the Brazilian had disappeared.
However, Jackson earned revenge more than four years after his second fight with Silva by recording a knockout at UFC 92. While the highlight-reel knockout was impressive, Jackson never achieved the same level of success as Silva did due to inconsistency and an apparent lack of focus.
7. Chuck Liddell-Randy Couture Trilogy
In a span of less than three years, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture fought against one another in three light heavyweight title fights. Though no bad blood existed between the fighters, their trilogy became one of the great rivalries in UFC history.
The first bout between Liddell and Couture placed an interim light heavyweight title on the line, as then-champion Tito Ortiz was unable to compete at UFC 43. Though he was considered the favorite, Liddell was defeated by Couture, who moved forward to dethrone Ortiz and become an undisputed champion.
After competing in the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, Liddell returned to the UFC and earned a rematch against Couture. This time, Liddell made the most of the opportunity and knocked Couture out just two minutes into the bout.
Less than one year after losing his title, Couture was back in the cage with Liddell. However, the result remained the same, as Liddell picked up his second straight title defense by knocking out "The Natural" once again.
6. Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz II
Although the result was much the same as their first encounter, Chuck Liddell's second knockout of Tito Ortiz was a much more significant and memorable moment than the first.
With his second win over Ortiz, Liddell picked up his fourth straight title defense and decisively surpassed Ortiz's career accomplishments to become the greatest light heavyweight of all time in the eyes of many.
Liddell and Ortiz were scheduled to meet for a third time and even coached against one another on The Ultimate Fighter 11, but an injury forced Ortiz off of the reality series and out of the third bout against Liddell.
5. Quinton Jackson vs. Chuck Liddell II
After beating Tito Ortiz at UFC 66, Chuck Liddell moved within one title defense of tying Ortiz for the record for most consecutive defenses of the light heavyweight title. However, Liddell would need to avenge a loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in order to accomplish that feat.
Liddell's first loss to Jackson occurred at the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, where "Rampage" finished "The Iceman" to advance to the tournament final.
In the rematch, Jackson ended Liddell's reign with a counter-right hook. From that point forward, Liddell never regained his form, losing four of his next five fights before walking away from the sport.
4. Randy Couture vs. Tito Ortiz
After an unsuccessful attempt at reclaiming the heavyweight title, Randy Couture opted to drop down to the light heavyweight division for an immediate title shot against Chuck Liddell.
Though the title shot seemed somewhat undeserved, Couture successfully defeated Liddell to win the interim title and dethroned Tito Ortiz to end the long-reigning champion's record string of consecutive title defenses.
Possibly even more memorable than his win over Ortiz was the literal spanking Couture gave "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" once the outcome of the fight was essentially determined.
3. Dan Henderson vs. Wanderlei Silva II
In his Pride debut, Dan Henderson suffered the first loss of his MMA career in a unanimous decision against Wanderlei Silva. At that point, few would have thought Henderson would make history six years later by knocking out that same opponent.
However, one year after winning the 183-pound title with a decision victory over Murilo Bustamante, Henderson recorded a monumental knockout against Silva. With the win, Henderson dethroned Silva as 205-pound champion and became the first simultaneous two-division champion in a major MMA organization.
While Henderson's accomplishment was impressive enough, his win over the Brazilian also ended Silva's five-year reign as Pride middleweight champion.
2. Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua
In the end, regardless of the significance of the contest, the most memorable moments are born out of the most epic of fights.
Though there wasn't a title on the line in Dan Henderson's fight with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139, the excitement that bout generated made the matchup unforgettable.
For five rounds, which ended in a victory for the American, Henderson and Rua dumped everything they had in their gas tanks in an effort to earn victory and a potential title shot. The result was arguably the greatest fight in MMA history.
1. Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar
Though it may not have been as great of a fight as the one Dan Henderson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua competed in, and regardless of the fact that it included two fighters who were nowhere near competing for a title at the time, the final bout of the original season of The Ultimate Fighter became the most memorable moment in light heavyweight history.
In April 2005, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar battled it out for a UFC contract. Though Griffin emerged the winner, Bonnar was also awarded a six-figure deal with the UFC due to the incredible and historic performance that both fighters produced.
The fight sparked incredible growth for the sport. In fact, MMA might not be anywhere near where it is today had it not been for the bout between Griffin and Bonnar.
Sean Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, Follow Sean Smith on Twitter