5 Best Non-Title Main Events in UFC History
When the UFC goes without a title fight in a main event you can be sure they call upon some of their most exciting fighters to fill the gaps.
Over the course of UFC history they have given us a treasure trove of memories.
Some happened on PPV and some of these fights were given to fans on a silver platter, live and free on television. 2012 alone has given fans such exciting battles like The Korean Zombie vs. Dustin Poirier, Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall, and Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann.
The non-title events should not be overlooked when a great fight is signed. Sometimes they end up as the best fights, and cards, of the year.
Here are the top five non-title main events in UFC history.
Diego Sanchez vs. Karo Parisyan—UFC Fight Night 6, August 17, 2006
This battle ended up being one of the best fights of 2006.
Sanchez and Parisyan had a great brawl that still can be found on highlight reels today—most notably when Sanchez sent a tooth of Parisyan's flying with a well timed knee.
Sanchez would end up taking a decision victory.
Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva—UFC 99, June 13, 2009
Much like their second battle in 2012 there were not many fans excited about their fight. Many decided to save their money for UFC 100. They missed a great back and forth classic.
Franklin would end up on the winning side with a unanimous decision.
Rashad Evans vs. Rampage Jackson—UFC 114, May 29, 2010
While some may not agree that it was a great fight, I will say they are wrong. What made this fight great was the level of hatred between the two and Evans' technique displayed in the fight.
Rarely has the UFC seen a main event sold strictly on hate. Evans and Rampage supplied that.
The first round takedown from Evans may be one of the most beautiful in history. It was set up perfectly with a combination before switching levels and putting Rampage on his rear. And the fight was not without drama. Rampage nearly stopped Evans in the third.
However, that was not enough and Evans won the bout by unanimous decision.
Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann—UFC Live: Sanchez vs. Kampmann, March 3, 2011
The fight of the night and it earned that title.
Kampmann and Sanchez went toe-to-toe and had a war inside the Octagon.
It was a very close fight that had a contentious decision that Sanchez was on a right side of. A fun fight that aired for free on the Versus network.
Dan Hardy vs. Chris Lytle—UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle, August 14, 2011
Chris Lytle's retirement fight was a great one. It summed up everything great about his career.
Being put in a brawl, his ability to withstand punishment, and capitalized by using his quality submission skills to defeat Hardy.
It was a fantastic fight that sent off Lytle as he should have been.
No. 5: Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida, The Ultimate Fighter Finale, June 20, 2009
What a slugfest this fight was.
One of the best fights of 2009 saw Sanchez and Guida duke it out. Guida was dropped with a massive head kick but survived, rallied, and even took one of the judge's scorecards.
The fight was only Sanchez's second in the division and put his fitness to the test. The ever motoring Guida was a perfect opponent to make sure Sanchez was in peak condition at 155 pounds.
This fight had everything a fight fan could hope for. Wild exchanges, great grappling and nonstop action for 15 minutes. It had everyone calling for two more rounds of action. It was that great.
The Ultimate Fighter: U.S. vs. U.K. was an afterthought after these two warriors closed out the show in spectacular fashion.
Sanchez squeaked by to earn a UFC title shot with a split decision.
No. 4: Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann, UFC Fight Night, April 1, 2009
Carlos Condit may have thought the judges were playing a cruel April Fool's joke on him when Bruce Buffer read the scorecards that gave Martin Kampmann a split decision victory, but he would have to deal with the reality of defeat.
Aside from the contentious decision it was a marvelous fight.
Two of the UFC's elite welterweights dueled in Condit's UFC debut. Three years later and the two welterweights still may be on a collision course.
Kampmann halted Condit's eight-fight win streak, and Condit has yet to lose since that April evening.
Either fighter was deserving of a victory that night. An incredibly close, well contested fight that showcased both men's abilities. One would be hard-pressed to find a better main event fight even now. It was a treat to witness two young stallions battle it out as they chased their title dreams.
No. 3: Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, UFC 102, August 29, 2009
For years mixed martial arts fans had wanted to see this heavyweight battle. It took until 2009 to see it happen, but it was well worth the wait.
The two legends of the sport threw down and sent exchanged right hands in a wild firefight reminiscent of Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama.
Then when it hit the mat we were treated to Nogueira's ground brilliance, and Couture's incredible heart and resolve.
Fifteen minutes past and Nogueira came away with a unanimous decision in Portland. If only this fight had happened years earlier and been 25 minutes for the PRIDE or UFC Heavyweight Championship. What a treat that could have been.
Regardless, this was an amazing fight between two mammoths of MMA.
No. 2: Diego Sanchez vs. Nick Diaz, Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale, November 5, 2005
Coming off of his success on The Ultimate Fighter's inaugural season, Diego Sanchez got the call to headline the second season finale against welterweight tough guy Nick Diaz.
Even today, if you could select two men off of the UFC roster that just love to fight and do not care about much else you would select Diaz and Sanchez. And that is exactly what they did. Fight.
Toe-to-toe they went. And we were even treated to a bit of a chess match on the ground between the two fantastic welterweights.
After 15 minutes had ticked off the clock it was Sanchez who would walk away the victor with a win by unanimous decision. He swept all three rounds, but every round was a brutal war. Sanchez may be the most exciting fighter in UFC history.
Diaz and Sanchez were busted up in one of the best non-title main events in MMA history. All for our enjoyment.
No. 1: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua, UFC 139, November 19, 2011
That pretty much sums up the war between Henderson and Shogun. Wow.
Henderson came away with the unanimous decision victory, but it left many fans arguing who won, if anyone. It could have been a draw. It was that close. Fans were astonished at the action they saw at UFC 139. Two of the most decorated light heavyweights in history fighting to see who was the better man.
Henderson won the early rounds, and Shogun fired back to close out the fight strong. Both men were hurt with huge punches and survived, both men were bruised and bloodied, and both men were winners to the fans.
Titles or not this is the kind of fight that makes careers. For all of the glory these two men received in their careers fans will never forget their fight at UFC 139. They will go down in the history books together.
Forget non-title, that was one of the best fights in mixed martial arts history. Period.