The 10 Most Intense Rematches in UFC History
In most sports, elite athletes face off against each other multiple times as they compete in the same tournaments and for the same trophies every year. But such repeat visits are rare in combat sports and even rarer in MMA.
There are notable exceptions such as the trilogy between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. However, by and large, once a fighter has vanquished one opponent, he moves on to bigger and better foes, rarely looking back.
Sometimes though, rematches are inevitable. Bad decisions, accidents in the cage or the thirst for vengeance mean some fighters are destined to meet more than once.
These rematches always have a greater intensity than the first encounter. Here’s a list of the most intense rematches in UFC history.
10. Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell II
Light heavyweights Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell met three times, and it all started in 2003 at UFC 43.
A 38-year-old Couture was moving down to light heavyweight for the first time to meet rising sensation Liddell in a match few thought the veteran would win. But he stunned the MMA world by finishing "The Iceman" by TKO in Round 3.
Liddell bounced back quickly from that loss and by 2005 was the No. 1 contender again, ready to face newly crowned champion Couture.
This time, the UFC had something special up its sleeve. With the popularity of MMA growing, the promotion organized a reality TV show around the forthcoming match.
The Ultimate Fighter was born.
Liddell and Couture met for the second time at the end of the show in what became one of the best and most important UFC pay-per-view cards. At the time, UFC 52 was the highest-grossing event at the live gate with $2,575,450 in ticket sales. It also earned 280,000 PPV buys, shattering the company's previous record of 150,000 buys at UFC 40.
Liddell was much better prepared in the second meeting and knocked out Couture in Round 1.
9. BJ Penn vs. GSP
In the early 2000s, BJ Penn ran through the UFC’s lightweight division and moved up in weight to capture the welterweight crown against Matt Hughes.
Following that victory, Penn left the promotion in search of better fights. Meanwhile in the UFC, a young Canadian by the name of Georges St-Pierre became a sensation, defeating almost everyone in his path.
The fighter caught the attention of Penn, who was enticed back to the promotion to face GSP in a UFC welterweight title eliminator. The fight was extremely close with Penn losing a close split decision.
With Penn’s desire to be a two-division champion and GSP continuing his ascendancy, a rematch was inevitable.
The two would meet for the second time at UFC 94 in Las Vegas in 2009. This time there were no disputes, no divided opinions and no doubts. The Canadian made it look easy.
GSP won by stoppage in Round 4, breaking Penn’s will in the process and sending him back down to the 150-pound division.
8. GSP vs. Matt Hughes II
It’s not often that you get to see two greats fighting in their prime. The trilogy of fights between Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes was just that rare treat.
In the first bout, up-and-comer GSP, who was fighting for the UFC welterweight championship after only seven fights, admitted to being over-awed by his opponent.
Hughes was already a six-time champion and a formidable opponent. He defeated the inexperienced Canadian by submission in Round 1 at UFC 50 in 2004.
For the rematch two years later, GSP had grown considerably and showed little signs of intimidation as he completely dominated Hughes before finishing him by TKO in Round 2.
St-Pierre’s striking was vastly improved, and he tested Hughes with a barrage of leg kicks, punches, elbows and knees that eventually led to the high kick that put his lights out.
7. BJ Penn vs. Jens Pulver
Only one fighter in the UFC has been anointed "The Prodigy," an epithet that reflects the huge expectations on BJ Penn’s shoulders.
With only three professional fights to his name, all in the UFC, Penn was handed a title shot. But that shot was against Jens Pulver, at the time the best lightweight in the world and a product of Pat Miletich at his gym in Iowa.
The first fight was close, and Penn took the champion five rounds before losing a majority decision.
By the time the rematch rolled around five years later, Pulver was a shadow of his former self and on the verge of terminal decline.
The UFC pitted the two against each other as coaches on the now successful The Ultimate Fighter TV show, and the personal animosity between the two fighters could barely be hidden.
Dropping down to lightweight after a stint as a welterweight that included winning the 170-pound belt, Penn made short work of Pulver, finishing him by rear-naked choke in Round 2.
6. BJ Penn vs. Matt Hughes
In 2004, Matt Hughes was considered the greatest welterweight of all time in the young sport. However, he was embarrassed at UFC 46 by a hungry BJ Penn, who had moved up to 170 pounds for the first time and won the belt by submission in Round 1.
The loss lit a fire in Hughes, and he followed that loss with five straight wins—defeating the likes of Georges St-Pierre, Frank Trigg and legend Royce Gracie all in the first round.
By their second meeting, thirsty for vengeance, Hughes proved his superior wrestling credentials and made his opponent suffer for three rounds before finishing him off in Round 3.
5. Tito Ortiz V Chuck Liddell
The bad blood that grew between former friends and teammates Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell was one of the most important feuds for the UFC, helping to turn the struggling promotion into a multimillion dollar juggernaut.
Ortiz had been a multiple time light heavyweight champion who’d avoided facing “The Iceman” for years until a combination of greed, desire and a war of words pushed them to a must-see fight at UFC 47 in 2004.
Liddell ended that fight in Round 2, taking the 205-pound crown in the process. When the rematch happened in 2006, it was the biggest fight in UFC history at the time, surpassing the one million mark of PPV buys for the first time.
Ortiz lasted longer in this fight but still met his end via TKO in Round 3.
4. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
Source: Las Vegas Sun
Frankie Edgar had only lost once in his entire MMA career by the time he took the lightweight crown from legend BJ Penn at UFC 112 in 2010.
After sealing his title with a defense against the same man a few months later, Edgar was ready to avenge his loss against No. 1 contender Gray Maynard.
Their rematch was fought to a brutal draw over five rounds at UFC 125 in January 2011 and was widely regarded as the fight of the year.
In the first round Maynard floored the champion twice before Edgar was saved by the bell. But Edgar came right back into the fight, put Maynard on his back in turn and eventually earned a draw.
The pair would meet once more in an equally thrilling decider in October 2011, but this time Edgar finished it by KO in Round 4.
3. Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz
The feud between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock has been well documented in the annals of MMA and resulted in three of the biggest matches in the UFC’s history.
They all ended in the same result—a TKO win for Ortiz.
In the first match, Shamrock was able to survive a three-round beating before being finished in Round 3.
The pair would meet again in a rematch four years later at UFC 61, with Shamrock struggling to revive a flagging career.
The massive interest and the huge PPV buys couldn’t make up for Shamrock’s lack of ability in the cage. He was finished by elbows in little over a minute of Round 1.
A similar fate befell him in his next fight against Ortiz a few months later, which led to his dismissal from the UFC and exile into obscurity.
2. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen
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Few men have the ability to hype a fight like Chael Sonnen.
His barrage of insults against one of the most respected and dangerous men in the UFC, Anderson Silva, set new benchmarks for trash talking in the run up to his first fight against the middleweight champion.
At UFC 117 in August 2010, he backed up his words by coming closer to taking the belt from Silva than anyone ever had, only to be submitted in the final moments of the final round.
After a failed drug test and subsequent suspension, Sonnen was on the verge of being forgotten.
However, the interest he’d created in the first fight as well as the near humiliation of the champion made a rematch inevitable.
It all came to a head at UFC 148 in July this year when the pair met in Las Vegas. Sonnen had not let up one bit in his attacks on Silva, and the calm resolve of the champion reached a breaking point.
Silva could barely contain his rage during press conferences and almost scuppered the match with a shoulder strike on Sonnen’s chin during the weigh-in.
When they finally met in the cage, the first round seemed to be a repeat of their previous match—Sonnen on top, Silva trying to dodge his blows.
But in the second round, the Brazilian came out with a fire rarely seen in him and finished Sonnen by TKO.
1. Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar
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Brock Lesnar is regarded as one of the most important fighters in the UFC. A star in the WWE, he was instrumental in bringing over a vast swathe of fans to the promotion.
After a single victory against a virtual unknown in an obscure promotion, he was given the chance to meet former heavyweight champion Frank Mir in the UFC.
Lesnar started off well, but his inexperience showed as Mir tapped him out with a kneebar in the Round 1.
By the time of the second match, Lesnar had won the heavyweight title from Randy Couture and become one of the promotion’s biggest draws.
In December 2008 at UFC 92, Mir won the interim heavyweight title from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira after an injury had forced Lesnar to vacate the title.
The two met in the following year in a title unification bout at the historic UFC 100 event in Las Vegas.
Like an animal off a leash, Lesnar wasted no time in planting Mir to the mat and began pounding him with brutal hammer fists. In the second round, the referee saw enough of the one-sided beating and stopped the fight.
Lesnar won by TKO.