Nick Diaz vs. Anderson Silva and the Best Superfights in MMA History
The notion of making dream MMA matchups come to fruition has long mesmerized fans, and unlike the current direction of boxing, MMA enthusiasts can expect superfights to materialize more regularly in the coming years.
The definition may vary, but the allure of the superfight has always remained the same: It answers a long-debated question by pitting two elite fighters in close weight proximity on a grand stage.
This summer, the UFC wasted little time making its follow-up superfight to Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn III, announcing on July 29 that Nick Diaz will lock horns with Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in January.
Despite the facts that Silva broke his left tibia and fibula in his second straight loss in December and Diaz hasn't won a fight since besting Penn in 2011, both men have stacked resumes and tremendous fan followings. More importantly, at one point in time, Silva vs. Diaz looked like a fight that could never transpire.
But although by most standards they fit the criteria needed for a superfight, will Silva vs. Diaz produce a scrap that's worthy of comparing to the unforgettable clashes on this countdown?
Here are the best superfights in MMA history.
All stats gathered via Fightmetric.com.
Honorable Mentions: Faber vs. Pulver I and St-Pierre vs. Penn II
While both of these fights generated extraordinary hype, they each landed on the honorable mentions list due to the lopsided nature of each bout.
Urijah Faber easily defended his featherweight belt at WEC 34 by outwrestling, outstriking and generally outclassing former UFC lightweight champ Jens Pulver en route to a unanimous decision in June 2008.
So much chatter surrounded the January 2009 rematch between Georges St-Pierre and Penn at UFC 94 that UFC Primetime spawned before the bout. Sadly for Penn fans, St-Pierre dominated the then-lightweight champ to defend his welterweight title for the second straight time.
St-Pierre not only outstruck Penn 310-63, he also landed four takedowns and passed the Hawaiian's guard 10 times.
5. Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson
In some of his best wins, Silva needed a round or two to get in a groove.
Former Pride FC champ Dan Henderson could concur with those sentiments following his middleweight title unification bout with The Spider at UFC 82 in March 2008.
After controlling the action in Round 1, scoring a takedown and landing 41 strikes to Silva's nine, Henderson felt the wrath of a motivated, focused Silva.
Once the horn sounded for Round 2, a confident Silva stormed Henderson with an array of well-timed, accurate strikes. The Spider stuffed a pair of takedowns, landed 65 strikes and ultimately ended up on the back of Hendo with a body triangle locked on his waist.
Silva quickly turned a neck crank into a rear-naked choke, and using just a Gable grip, he forced Henderson to tap out for the first time in his UFC career.
4. Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Despite the fact that the heavyweight belt wasn't up for grabs, few could argue that a bout between legends Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Randy Couture at UFC 102 didn't represent a bona fide superfight.
Couture, one of two former multidivision champs in the UFC, and Nogueira, a former Pride FC heavyweight champ and interim UFC heavyweight champ, put on a brawl that Inside Fights deemed the 2009 Fight of the Year.
Nogueira shut down Couture's notoriously effective Greco-Roman wrestling game, and as a result, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt got the best of the three-time NCAA Division I wrestling All-American en route to a unanimous decision.
Nogueira passed the The Natural's guard four times and nearly submitted him on three occasions. Big Nog also outstruck Couture, 133-65.
3. Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton Jackson II
In the second installment of their violently storied trilogy, Wanderlei Silva once again rendered Quinton "Rampage" Jackson unconscious with knees from the clinch.
Less than a year after defeating Rampage on a TKO with knees at Pride Final Conflict 2003, Silva again wore out Jackson and then went to work with his patented knee strikes.
Silva hurt Jackson three minutes into the slugfest and eventually caught the Memphis, Tenn., native in a muay thai plum. Rampage tried valiantly to punch through the clinch, only to absorb five flush knees—the last of which knocked him out and caused him to fall face-first through the ropes.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter rightfully recognized the bout as Fight of the Year for 2004.
2. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filipovic
Two of the world’s most feared men finally tangled with the heavyweight strap up for grabs at Pride Final Conflict 2005, two years after Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic publicly challenged longtime champ Fedor Emelianenko.
Both fighters entered the bout in their primes, with Emelianenko essentially bringing an undefeated record to the match and Cro Cop riding a seven-fight winning streak.
Filipovic's challenge to Emelianenko, coupled with the Croatian’s brutal head-kick knockout of his younger brother, Alexander Emelianenko, made the fight a downright tantalizing affair.
Unlike many of the overhyped title fights in MMA history, Emelianenko-Cro Cop more than lived up to its billing.
Although Cro Cop broke Emelianenko’s nose in the first round with a stinging jab, the Russian regained his footing, nailing takedowns and scoring with ground-and-pound in the final two rounds to nab a unanimous decision in a memorable seesaw war.
Not surprisingly, Sports Illustrated honored the MMA pioneers for their efforts by naming the bout the Fight of the Decade for the 2000s.
1. Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua I
In one of two non-title fights on this list, Henderson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua engaged in one of the most wildly entertaining, violent bouts in company history in the main event of UFC 139 held in November 2011.
In a light heavyweight title-eliminator bout, former champ Rua narrowly survived chaotic first and third rounds against the seemingly rabid Henderson, a former Pride FC middleweight champ and Strikeforce light heavyweight champ.
Rua displayed inspiring resilience and bounced back in Rounds 4 and 5 to put Henderson on the ropes.
Henderson spent the bulk of the fifth round on his back in a full mount with Shogun raining punches on his face. But like Rua did in the first and third rounds, Henderson impressively conjured up the guts to keep fighting.
The bout ended with Rua still in a full mount trying courageously to finish Henderson on a canvas that looked like a Jackson Pollock painting done in blood.
Although Henderson took a unanimous decision, both men benefited greatly from the battle. The bout was not only tabbed Fight of the Night by the UFC, it was named Fight of the Year by a number of media outlets, including ESPN.