When I think of great trilogies in any combative sport, for me there has to be several ingredients that come together to create an epic story where the fighters, acting as co-authors, give us all they can and it’s simply not enough for a single sitting.
Thus, because it was so good the first time, we need more.
A great trilogy needs action (and back-and-forth action is the best), some doubt as to who is going to win each bout (and the more doubt, the better), drama as a result of serious conflict, and above all, there needs to be a reason why two fighters would need to meet a second time, let alone a third.
Some notable trilogies that didn’t make this list based on this criteria are Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock, Wanderlei Silva vs. Kazushi Sakuraba, Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort, and so on.
It’s not that those trilogies weren’t good; it’s that I didn’t think they were great.
Ortiz ran all over Shamrock in their first bout and from there it just got worse, and we got a trilogy lacking any real drama, doubt as to who would win, and no clear reasons why they should fight two times, let alone three.
Well, there was money, of course; can’t forget about that.
The same could be said about Silva vs. Sakuraba (to some extent), and as far as Couture vs. Belfort, the only reason why we got a third fight is because Couture didn’t slip that punch as well as he thought in the second bout.
Of course, not all great trilogies meet every standard, but they meet most of them, and for the purpose of this list, the majority rules.