The Most Anticipated Fights in MMA History

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2013

The Most Anticipated Fights in MMA History

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    When highly anticipated MMA fights finally come to fruition, drones of fans can get downright infatuated with each fight's storyline.

    In some instances, personal feuds can spur mass interest on an extraordinary level. In others, it's just a matter of picking the ideal moment to match up the two best fighters.

    These tilts seldom materialize, but when they do, fans usually have no quarrels dishing out thousands of dollars to fund trips that never come with a guarantee, even in terms of entertainment value.

    Here's a look at the most anticipated dream fights in MMA history.

Honorable Mentions

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    1. UFC 129: Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields

    2. WEC 34: Jens Pulver vs. Urijah Faber

    3. UFC 66: Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell II

    4. UFC 158: Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz

    5. UFC 83: Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre II

    6. UFC 94: Georges St-Pierre vs. B.J. Penn II

    7. UFC 114Quinton Jackson vs. Rashad Evans

    8. Pride Shockwave 2004: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

    9. UFC 65: Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes

    10. Pride Total Elimination 2003: Wanderlei Silva vs. Kazushi Sakuraba III

5. UFC 40: Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock

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    Ken Shamrock used name recognition to start a highly successful war of words before his battle for the light heavyweight championship with Tito Ortiz at UFC 40.

    At 38 years of age, Shamrock didn't have the oddsmakers blessings against the 27-year-old Ortiz, the reigning UFC champ who had already defended his belt four times before facing "The World's Most Dangerous Man."

    But that didn't stop Shamrock from promoting the bout like it was another Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier.

    Shamrock may have gotten TKO'd in the scrap, but he served as a major catalyst in the hype leading up to the fight.

    Ortiz and Shamrock not only got to engage in a live trash-talking session on The Best Damn Sports Show Period before the fight, they also got coveted media attention from ESPN and USA Today, major outlets that had never shown any interest in MMA until then.

4. Pride Final Conflict: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic

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    Two of the world’s best finally met in August 2005, two years after Mirko Filipovic publicly challenged heavyweight kingpin Fedor Emelianenko in Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships.

    Both fighters entered the bout in their primes, with Emelianenko essentially bringing an undefeated record to the match and “Cro Cop” riding an impressive seven-fight winning streak.

    Cro Cop’s public challenge to Emelianenko, coupled with the Croatian’s brutal high-kick knockout of his younger brother, Alexander Emelianenko, made the fight a must-see.

    The bout, like many notable title fights in Pride, more than lived up to its billing.

    Cro Cop broke Emelianenko’s nose in the first round with a stiff jab. “The Last Emperor” bounced back, however, scoring with takedowns and ground-and-pound in the final two stanzas to steal a unanimous decision win in a back-and-forth war.

3. UFC 57: Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture III

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    When Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture locked horns for the third time in the Octagon, the UFC simply didn’t need to pepper in any added hype.

    In essence, the combined credentials of Liddell and Couture and their history of putting on captivating brawls with each other made the light heavyweight title bout mouthwatering for fans and pundits alike.

    Akin to the battle between Emelianenko and Cro Cop, Liddell and Couture each entered UFC 57 in their heydays.

    But unlike the Cro Cop vs. Emelianenko tilt, Liddell and Couture didn’t put on a seesaw type of scrap. Liddell stuffed two of Couture’s three takedown attempts and outstruck “The Natural,” 27-7, including 19-7 in the significant strikes category.

    “The Iceman,” who lost his first encounter with The Natural via TKO, but won the second by KO, ended the trilogy by rendering Couture unconscious with a punch just 1:28 into the second round.

    The final chapter in the Liddell vs. Couture rivalry grossed over 400,000 pay-per-view buys and earned a record amount of money at the gate ($3,382,400) at the time.

2. UFC 100: Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar II

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    The historic UFC 100 generated the company’s most prolific pay-per-view numbers (1.6 million buys) primarily because of the night’s co-main and main events.

    In the big show, Frank Mir squared off with Brock Lesnar in a highly anticipated rematch that pitted a dangerous submission artist against the UFC’s biggest and strongest wrestler for the heavyweight strap.

    Mir capitalized on a small error and locked on a fight-ending kneebar in his first encounter with Lesnar at UFC 81.

    But just over 17 months later, Lesnar, who promoted the fight brilliantly by continually reliving the pain of his first career loss, proved to Mir that he’d improved radically since UFC 81, especially in the realm of submission defense.

    In front of over 10,000 rowdy fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Lesnar handed Mir the beating of a lifetime en route to a second-round TKO win.

1. UFC 148: Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva II

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    Chael Sonnen certainly didn’t need to perpetually demean middleweight champ Anderson Silva in the months leading up to UFC 148. Truth be told, however, Sonnen and Silva couldn’t have generated the gaudy pay-per-view or gate numbers that they produced without the drama produced by “The American Gangster” in the summer of 2012.

    But before the notable verbal tirades from Sonnen, the duo put on an enthralling show at UFC 117. Silva got the last laugh, though, and after getting grounded and pounded for the better part of five rounds, slapped on a Hail Mary triangle armbar that forced Sonnen to tap in the fight’s waning minutes.

    Sonnen hurled insults at the Brazilian’s family and country, prompting uncharacteristic verbal assaults from Silva during pre-fight media sessions that had fans and pundits salivating for the rematch.

    After a dominant first round from Sonnen, Silva turned the tables early in the second round and eventually TKO’d The American Gangster 1:55 into the stanza with a knee to the body and subsequent punches.

    Silva may have delivered a blow to Sonnen’s pride by handing him a demoralizing defeat with the bright lights glaring. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact that Sonnen was a major catalyst in promoting the fight that spawned over 925,000 pay-per-view buys and earned $6,901,655 at the gate.