Matt Hughes: Power Ranking the Hall of Famer's 10 Best Fights

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2012

Matt Hughes: Power Ranking the Hall of Famer's 10 Best Fights

0 of 10

    Matt Hughes is one of the fighters that Zuffa LLC built the UFC upon. He was a dominant champion in one of the deepest divisions of the company.

    His wrestling and ground-and-pound was a thrill to watch over the years, and few had an answer for it.

    Through his illustrious career he has amassed an astonishing 45-9 record, including 18 under the UFC banner. Hughes is one of the sport's greats.

    These are the UFC Hall of Famer's 10 best fights inside the Octagon.

No. 10: Vs. Chris Lytle, UFC 68

1 of 10

    UFC 68 emanated from Columbus, Ohio and the card was packed with Midwesterners. It would be Hughes' first fight back since losing his UFC Welterweight Championship to GSP.

    Chris Lytle may have never challenged for a championship in the UFC, but there is no question about his talents.

    Hughes put Lytle on his back and controlled the fight. He kept his spot in the top five in the world at 170 pounds with the performance.

    The judge's scorecards all read 30-27 and Hughes would next find himself challenging for the UFC Interim Welterweight Championship.

No. 9: Vs. Renzo Gracie, UFC 112

2 of 10

    Matt Hughes got the call to battle his second Gracie inside the Octagon, and it would take place in Abu Dhabi at UFC 112.

    Most of Hughes' stoppages came via ground-and-pound, but at UFC 112 he got a rare standing stoppage.

    The former welterweight king battered Renzo Gracie with leg kicks until he could barely stand. It made it easy for Hughes to tee off on his opponent. Eventually, the referee had to save Gracie from the punishment he was taking at the hands of Hughes.

    The victory put him at 2-0 versus Gracies. He was also coming off a win over another Renzo Gracie black belt in Matt Serra, and his next opponent would be another Gracie protege in Ricardo Almeida.

No. 8: Vs. BJ Penn, UFC 63

3 of 10

    Hughes would have the chance to defend his welterweight championship and get revenge on BJ Penn at UFC 63.

    The last time they met was at UFC 46 when Penn shocked the champion and took his title.

    The first round went to Penn. However, it would be a different story in the second round. Penn was visibly gassed and Hughes took full advantage.

    He took Penn down and got in the mounted crucifix. He pummeled Penn until the referee called a stop to the fight and Hughes successfully got revenge and another title defense under his belt.

No. 7: Vs. Georges St. Pierre, UFC 50

4 of 10

    The fight was supposed to be a changing of the guard. The young up-and-comer in GSP would dethrone Hughes.

    That was not the case.

    GSP was doing well in the fight, and was working on a submission finish toward the end of the first round. As he over-committed to the Kimura, Hughes took advantage and went straight for the open armbar.

    Hughes demonstrated how one small mistake can cost you the fight in the blink of an eye.

    The finish came at 4:59 of the first round. The vacant UFC Welterweight Championship would be put around Hughes' waist and GSP would have to wait another two years before taking over the division.

No. 6: Vs. Hayato Sakurai, UFC 36

5 of 10

    Hughes would defend his championship for the first time at UFC 36. Entering as his challenger was one of the top ranked welterweights in the world, Hayato Sakurai.

    "Mach" was thought to be a credible challenger to the title and would give Hughes a lot of problems.

    Hughes answered his doubters with a complete domination of the Japanese welterweight. The fight was called 3:01 in to the fourth frame.

    The fight was not competitive. If The Incredible Hulk had been in the audience he would have been quoted as saying, "Hughes Smash!".

    The title defense was the first of five for Hughes which would be a UFC record, along with Tito Ortiz's defense of the Light Heavyweight Championship, for years until the likes of Anderson Silva.

No. 5: Vs. Joe Riggs, UFC 56

6 of 10

    For those of you who are new to the sport, there was once a time in MMA history where Joe Riggs was considered the future of the welterweight division.

    He had already amassed an excellent record for a 23-year-old (23-5, 1 NC), and the youngster would have an opportunity to take on Hughes for the title after back-to-back victories.

    It was not a great weekend for Riggs.

    First, he came in overweight and the title fight was off. Instead, they would meet in a non-title catch-weight bout.

    Then, Hughes submitted Riggs in the first round with a Kimura. Hughes sent the young pup back to the end of the line. Riggs would never reach those heights again, and Hughes would hold the title for another 364 days.

No. 4: Vs. Ricardo Almeida, UFC 117

7 of 10

    After defeating Almeida's teammates, Matt Serra and Renzo Gracie, the "Big Dog" would step inside to challenge Hughes in Oakland, California.

    Hughes would stop him in the first round.

    Hughes surprised the crowd, and quite possibly himself, by dropping Almeida with a sneaky left hook. Hughes immediately went after the hurt Almeida. He locked on a front head lock and squeezed with all of his arm strength.

    Almeida went out.

    Hughes had won three in a row and looked to be nearing another title fight in the near future. He would get the rubber match with BJ Penn in his next outing and lose, but it was still an impressive three-fight run and those are, to date, his last three victories in the UFC.

No. 3: Vs. Carlos Newton, UFC 38

8 of 10

    Hughes won the UFC Welterweight Championship with a small amount of controversy.

    Newton slapped on a triangle and it appeared that before Hughes slammed him to the mat and knocked him out, he went out. The referee's decision of awarding Hughes the victory stood, and the two would meet again in Hughes' second title defense.

    There would be no controversy this time.

    Newton would once again threaten with submissions, but Hughes was on top of his game for the rematch. Eventually the strength of Hughes was too much.

    Hughes stopped Newton with punches in the fourth round. The accumulation of damage was too much for Newton and Hughes would solidify his spot atop the welterweight world.

No. 2: Vs. Royce Gracie, UFC 60

9 of 10

    In a non-title special attraction bout Royce Gracie would return to the UFC for the first time in 11 years to square off with Hughes.

    To that point, UFC 60 was the biggest card the UFC had ever done.

    Hughes got Gracie to the mat and fans got to the edge of their seats. From side control Hughes went for a Kimura, but Gracie refused to tap. From there Hughes got Gracie's back with hooks in and flattened him out.

    Hughes pounded away until John McCarthy peeled him off. It was a dominant performance against a legend. For anyone that had doubts that the current stars of MMA had passed by the old guard, this was the proof that they had.

No. 1: Vs. Frank Trigg, UFC 52

10 of 10

    The second battle between Hughes and Frank Trigg remains one of the UFC's most exciting finishes.

    A leg kick from Trigg found a home low on Hughes, but referee Mario Yamasaki let the action go on and Hughes was in trouble.

    Trigg was pounding away and then got a rear-naked choke on the champion. He was on the brink of taking the title from Hughes. As his face turned red he was able to get out of the submission attempt and turn the tables.

    Hughes hoisted Trigg up and ran across the cage before dumping him on his back. Hughes went to mount and was looking for a little punishment before the finish. Eventually, the opportunity for the rear-naked choke was too good to pass up and he sunk it in.

    Hughes' ability to overcome the low blow and submission attempt, and then provide the fans with one of the most memorable moments in UFC history is why this performance stands atop the list.