The biggest night in UFC history will culminate with one of the biggest heavyweight fights in UFC history. Either Brock Lesnar or Frank Mir will emerge as the undisputed champion of the world, while also eliminating the pesky interim title worn around the waist of Mir.
There have been many epic fights throughout the history of the UFC heavyweight division, and, with UFC 100 quickly approaching, we set out to determine the top 10 title fights in the division’s rich and volatile history.
For the record, there have been a total of 26 title fights with Lesnar vs. Mir being number 27.
A chronological walk down memory lane for the UFC heavyweight division is sure to bring back thoughts on the historical bouts, the fighters, and the crazy road this thrilling division has taken.
10. UFC 12: Mark Coleman vs. Dan Severen
You cannot put together a list of the top heavyweight title fights in UFC history without including the one that started it all, UFC 12.
Mark Coleman defeated Dan Severn by submission (choke) to become the first UFC Heavyweight Champion. Both Coleman and Severn would go on to become UFC hall of famers, cementing their places in the history of the division and the organization.
While Coleman would lose his title to Maurice Smith at UFC 14, he will forever be remembered as the first UFC Heavyweight champion.
9. UFC Japan: Randy Couture vs. Maurice Smith
Not only was this the first UFC event to take place outside of the United States, it was the first of 14 title fights for the legend Randy Couture. Couture took the belt away from Smith, who had previously taken it away from Mark Coleman at UFC 14.
Couture would go on to vacate the belt, but would make his return to action at UFC 28 nearly three years later.
8. UFC 28: Randy Couture vs. Kevin Randleman
Randy Couture received an automatic title shot against Kevin Randleman upon his return to the UFC, and he made the most of the opportunity. By winning via third round technical knockout to become the first fighter and UFC Heavyweight Champion a second time, Couture’s reign had developed its foundation.
Couture defended his belt twice against Pedro Rizzo before losing the belt to Josh Barnett at UFC 36.
7. UFC 39: Randy Couture vs. Ricco Rodriguez
With Josh Barnett being stripped of the title as a result of a positive steroid test, Randy Couture and Ricco Rodriquez were given the chance for heavyweight glory. While Couture was getting the better of Rodriguez throughout the battle, he lost the war as Rodriguez finished the fight via elbow strikes in the fifth round.
The loss was Couture’s second in a row and reason enough to drop down to the 205 pound division where he would later become champion.
6. UFC 48: Frank Mir vs. Tim Sylvia
The MMA world was introduced to Frank Mir in dramatic fashion when his arm bar caused multiple fractures to the forearm of Tim Sylvia, claiming the vacant title in the process. Frank Mir was later seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and unable to defend his title.
His return to prominence in the division was postponed until UFC 81, when he gave Brock Lesnar both his first fight and first loss in the octagon along with a perfect reason to schedule a grudge match.
5. UFC 61: Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski
From UFC 51 to UFC 61, two fighters reigned atop the heavyweight division. Andrei Arlovski beat Tim Sylvia for the interim title at UFC 51.
However, Sylvia won the second fight and the rubber match, ending a historical series between two heavyweight greats. While the final of the three bouts wasn’t the most exciting fight, it did trigger the end of an era in the heavyweight division and was the final hurrah for Arlovski.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
4. UFC 68: Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia.
Once again, Randy Couture would make his return to the UFC.
However, this tenure provided more theater than ever when Couture dropped the 6’8" Sylvia with a big right hand just eight seconds into the fight. Couture would go on to win a unanimous decision and once again sit atop the heavyweight mountain.
3. UFC 81: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Tim Sylvia
For Nogueira, this would be one of the most defining moments in his MMA career, while it would signal the end of Sylvia’s time with the UFC. Nogueira would win this bout via submission (guillotine choke) in round three after getting rocked by Syliva early on.
While Nogueira was extremely close to being finished for the first time in his career, his jujitsu came to the rescue as he managed to gain one of the greatest victories of his illustrious career.
2. UFC 91: Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar
How many times can one man return?
Couture had last fought when he defended his belt against Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74. “The Natural” once again left over a dispute only to return for one of the most marketable fights in UFC history. Couture once played the underdog despite Lesnar only having three professional fights.
That fact was irrelevant as Lesnar was able to T(KO) the storied champion during the second round through a vicious display of the ground and pound the division is becoming ever more familiar with.
1.UFC 92: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Frank Mir
One of the biggest fight cards in UFC history featured Frank Mir, a fallen champion, returning to the top of the division, while another champion, Nogueira, looked geared to head toward the end of his storied career.
It was later revealed that Nogueira was recovering from a staph infection, but the damage was already done. Through his victory, Mir now has yet another chance to defeat Brock Lesnar, this time for the UFC heavyweight belt.
Nogueira will finally face fellow mixed martial artist and UFC legend in Randy “The Natural” Couture.
The UFC Heavyweight division has been called home to some of the sports’ finest. Whether it is the legend that is Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, or the modern day elite heavyweights, such as Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, the UFC heavyweight division is always sure to give action and excitement.
The 10 fights above sum up exactly what this illustrious and celebrated division has offered to the UFC and to the world of mixed martial arts through its existence.
Something that is sure to continue for many years to come.