The 10 Most Compelling Main Events in UFC History

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IISeptember 18, 2012

The 10 Most Compelling Main Events in UFC History

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    What makes a the main event of a Pay-Per-View so special? Is it big name fighters going toe-to-toe? Is it a championship bout in which one fighter can prove that he is the best on the planet? Maybe even a stylistic matchup that promises to be a gun-slinging affair?

    In any situation, the selection of a main event can make or break any PPV. You need the perfect blend of star-power, potential for action and opponents who are both relevant and cared about.

    A well planned main event will light up the message boards with commentary, predictions and more regarding every aspect of the hotly anticipated affair.

    Here is a look at the 10 most compelling main events in UFC history.

    Editor's Note: Any fight that was a main event during the tournament-friendly days of the UFC was not considered. The reason for this is that the main event was not determined until some point within the card, and therefore not promotable.

Honorable Mention:

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    Anderson Silva vs Forrest Griffin

    One of the most compelling bookings in MMA history, this fight was actually not a main event. Instead, it was the co-main event at UFC 101, while BJ Penn defended his UFC lightweight championship against Kenny Florian.

    Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva

    This dream match is still considered to be one of the best fights that the sport has ever seen. Both men were considered the best light heavyweights alive for an extended period of time, and this bout nearly took place sooner than UFC 79. However, both men lost their belts and eventually fought in a co-main event in support of GSP vs Matt Hughes III.

    Frank Mir vs Big Nog

    With the UFC Heavyweight championship on the line and a full season of The Ultimate Fighter helping to hype up this clash of jiu-jitsu titans, Mir vs Nog was a hotly anticipated contest. It was relegated to co-main event status in favor of Forrest Griffin vs Rashad Evans for the light heavyweight title at UFC 92.

Rampage Jackson vs Chuck Liddell

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    There are many fights through the career of Chuck Liddell that could have made this list.

    Either of his rematches with Randy Couture, or either bout with Tito Ortiz come to mind. However, there were none as compelling as the UFC 71 main event.

    In May of 2007, Rampage Jackson was one of only three men to ever defeat The Iceman—and he was the only loss that Liddell had yet to avenge. 

    If victorious, Liddell would undoubtedly go down in history as the greatest light heavyweight of all time, having avenged all of his career losses; and in doing so tie Tito Ortiz for most defenses of the UFC light heavyweight championship.

Matt Hughes vs BJ Penn II

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    BJ Penn challenged Matt Hughes for the UFC welterweight championship back at UFC 46. Considering that The Prodigy twice failed to capture the UFC lightweight championship, Hughes was widely expected to come out on top of the 2004 contest. 

    When Penn choked out Hughes in the first-round, he shocked the world not only once but twice, as he chose to walk away from his newly earned championship in order to look for the biggest challenges on the planet.

    Hughes had recaptured the belt during Penn's absence, and when the Hawaiian star returned to the Octagon, a rematch was inevitable. Penn and Hughes would meet again in the main event of UFC 63.

    This fight is also notable, as Georges St-Pierre made his famous "not impressed" speech during the post-fight interview.

B.J. Penn vs Georges St-Pierre II

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    Rarely in mixed martial arts will we ever get to see reigning champions of different weight classes lock horns in the cage. At UFC 94, the best fighters in the history of the lightweight and welterweight divisions met at 170 pounds. 

    Normally, you'd assume that the larger fighter would take a battle of this nature, however, Penn is a rare breed of fighter who had no trouble competing in any division.

    In addition, Penn put a hurtin' on GSP in their first encounter, but ultimately lost a decision. Who would take the rematch?

    Making this fight even more intriguing, the UFC utilized a new promotional device in the form of a behind-the-scenes program called UFC Primetime.

Forrest Griffin vs Rashad Evans

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    Pulling in an astounding one million buys, the stock of The Ultimate Fighter was never higher than after UFC 92.

    TUF 2 winner Rashad Evans had gone to a draw with Tito Ortiz, defeated Michael Bisping via decision and then knocked out former champion Chuck Liddell in a shocking upset. 

    Meanwhile the original TUF winner, Forrest Griffin, had won consecutive bouts against Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson to win the UFC light heavyweight championship.

    So when the two were pitted against one another, with gold on the line, fans tuned in in droves.

Randy Couture vs Tim Sylvia

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    Randy Couture was the first man to win championship gold in two weight classes.

    Originally a UFC heavyweight, Couture would successfully defend the belt on two occasions. However, the size disadvantage against fighters like Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez was too much for The Natural, who eventually dropped to light heavyweight.

    Couture had a successful campaign at light heavyweight, defeating both Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz in iconic bouts.

    When Captain America retired from the sport in 2006, few could have predicted that he would return less than two years later and jump back up to heavyweight in hopes of challenging Tim Sylvia.

    This victory made Couture a living legend, as Sylvia stands 6'8" and pushed the upper limits of the 265 pound division. 

Georges St-Pierre vs Jake Shields

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    In a world where all of the best welterweights have fallen at the hands of Georges St-Pierre, finding a notable challenger who is worthy of stepping into the Octagon with the 170-pound kingpin is a challenge.

    Enter Jake Shields. 

    With a 15-fight winning streak and wins over Dan Henderson, Yushin Okami, Martin Kampmann and more, Shields represented the biggest test of Rush's career.

    UFC 129 would become the largest live gate in UFC history, and the event did more than 800,000 buys from fans who needed to see the bout live.

Dan Henderson vs Rampage Jackson

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    American fans weren't as familiar with PRIDE as Dana White and Co. would have preferred back in 2007. Would the fans who recently fell in love with the sport be willing to spend their hard earned dollars on a title fight featuring a man who had only competed on American soil once in the past nine years?

    We will never know the answer to that question, as White was brilliant enough to put UFC 75 on SPIKE TV.

    Dan Henderson vs Rampage Jackson was a champion vs champion battle that would unify titles—and fans didn't have to pay a cent for it.

    Smart booking led to the highest North American rating in mixed martial arts at the time; the event averaging 4.7 million viewers and 5.6 million tuning in for the main event.

    When your event has more viewers than any of it's predecessors, you can definitely call that compelling booking.

Brock Lesnar vs Randy Couture

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    At this point, you've probably realized that Randy Couture has had more comebacks than Madonna. So when Captain America walked away from his UFC contract with the heavyweight championship still strapped around his waist, few were surprised by his inevitable return.

    Couture worked out his contractual issues and came back amid the rise of Brock Lesnar. With the WWE star holding a 1-1 UFC record, there were many who doubted him. However, his legion of fans migrating from the sports-entertainment side of things cheered him with undying aplomb.

    When Couture obliterated Tim Sylvia, fans knew in their hearts that The Natural could defeat any giant put in front of him.

    Was Lesnar the real thing or would Couture be the one to send him back to pro wrestling?

    We all know what happened, but the hot debate leading up to the UFC 91 contest was unparalleled.

Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir II

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    When Randy Couture returned to the UFC after his absence, little did he know that he would kick off an unofficial four-man tournament for the UFC heavyweight championship.

    When Frank Mir knocked out Big Nog to win the interim belt, and Lesnar finished off Couture, the tournament final would also be a rematch from UFC 81.

    Mir upset Lesnar in his UFC debut, despite Lesnar starting off the bout in full control. With the two each successful in capturing heavyweight gold, this rematch was the biggest fight that Dana White could book.

    At UFC 100, the rematch headlined the highest selling PPV in MMA history, as 1.6 million buys came in for the event.

Matt Hughes vs Royce Gracie

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    When Matt Hughes defended his welterweight championship against Joe Riggs, he improved to 17-1 in his most recent bouts, and solidified his position as the best welterweight on the planet.

    Hughes was undoubtedly one of the most popular fighters on the roster, behind only Chuck Liddell and his star-power was only climbing.

    Who could challenge Hughes after he had already defeated Georges St-Pierre, Sean Sherk, Carlos Newton and Frank Trigg? The best stars in the UFC had fallen at his feet and there was no one left to best.

    Except for the original UFC all-star: Royce Gracie.

    Gracie was 11-0-1 in the UFC and his legacy was unmatched by anyone in the sport. The only loss in his career came after a 90 minute contest that left him too exhausted to continue. 

    Who would win the battle between the greatest of all time and the man who had no intention of loosening his iron grasp on the division?

    That debate raged on, and the most compelling main event in UFC history was made.