Rematches: The bedrock of MMA

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Rematches: The bedrock of MMA
(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

UFC 100 is on the horizon and anyone who is remotely interested in MMA, or even wrestling for that matter, is talking about Lesnar vs. Mir. The main event of the biggest UFC show of all time is also home to, arguably,the biggest rematch of all time.

So, it’s Brock Lesnar Vs Frank Mir. The UFC Heavyweight Champion Vs The UFC interim Heavyweight Champion for the right to be called the Undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion.

And yet, a large part of the hype is built around the fact that this is a rematch. Mir won last time out, many feel in controversial fashion and, no doubt, Brock is looking for redemption. It’s a huge selling point.

The list of great rematches in MMA is pretty extensive -

  • Rampage Jackson/Chuck Liddell
  • Georges St-Pierre/BJ Penn
  • Forrest Griffin/Stephan Bonnar
  • Minotauro Nogueira/Fedor Emelianenko
  • BJ Penn/Matt Hughes
  • BJ Penn/Jens Pulver
  • Matt Hughes/Georges St-Pierre
  • Matt Serra/Georges St-Pierre
  • Rich Franklin/Anderson Silva
  • Urijah Faber/ Mike Brown
  • Robbie Lawler/Scott Smith
  • Mark Coleman/Shogun Rua

I could go on for some time but you catch my drift. All of these had something in the first fight that made people want more…and what the people want, the people tend to get.

Clearly the circumstances play a part but, in the grand scheme of things, rematches are an incredibly important part of the business. Rematches provoke rivalries, rivalries bring hostility and hostility creates interest (people watching, buys etc)…and there’s nothing a MMA company wants more than interest.

People want to know if a big win was a fluke, a one-off, or whether someone was just better on the night. People also want to see the big names go at it as often as possible.

The fans want to see their favourites given the opportunity to avenge a loss. The majority want to see a fight with a disputable finish (contentious decision, early stoppage, even split decisions etc) given the chance to make it right.

On the majority of occasions rematches bring a higher level of anticipation - has the loser changed his game, will the winner be complacent, was it a lucky KO, cage different to ring etc, etc - all these factors contribute to a fight people are eager to see.

As I alluded to earlier in this article, rematches provoke rivalries, hostility and interest - all the ingredients for a great feud. And where would the sport be without feuds? Let’s look at a couple of feuds and how important the rematches were in the bigger picture.

Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell - The two biggest names in MMA, more specifically UFC, history had a trilogy for the ages. Couture was coming off the back of 2 defeats at HW and Chuck was cutting through the LHW division like a hot knife through butter, riding a 10 fight win streak going into the bout - apparently there was little question that Randy was set-up to be the fall guy.

However, the supposedly washed-up Couture defied the critics to beat the up and coming "Iceman". Was there ever a choice but to have a rematch??

And when Liddell avenged his defeat in the rematch, claiming the LHW title in the process, and levelled the scores at 1 win each, how could a rubber match be denied??

Of course, it couldn’t and it wasn’t - Liddell settled the conflict with a decisive win to bring an end to the argument.

There’s little debate for how important the feud was for the UFC, and it’s probably second only to the combination of TUF and Bonnar Vs Griffin, in bringing MMA into the mainstream.

The fact Chuck and Randy are probably the most famous and recognisable MMA fighters of all time owes a part to their fight and subsequent rematches.

Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock - Built on the back of Ortiz’s dispute with the Lion’s Den, Ken decided it was his job to teach the cocksure “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” some respect.

In this case, Shamrock wasn’t worthy of a rematch, having been so convincingly despatched but the feud itself carried huge public interest. The fact Tito demolished Ken in the first fight only increased interest for Shamrock to get his revenge.

 

With TUF3 breathing new life into the quarrel, they fittingly had another battle - Ortiz triumphed again but this time by stoppage, which was disputed as being too soon by Shamrock.

A 3rd battle was announced to finally settle the debate and after another crushing defeat for Shamrock the beef was squashed.

Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was another trilogy of huge interest (as well as my personal favourite). Probably the most brutal series of matches between any two competitors, the two had an intense dislike of each other and it showed.

In the first fight the highly touted "Rampage" was stopped after a barrage of knees and a couple of soccer kicks but this wasn’t without controversy. With Jackson in control on the ground, the fight was stood-up due to inactivity (a fact many fans, as well as "Rampage" himself, disagreed with), shortly after the stand-up, Wandy locked in the Muay-Thai clinch and the rest is history. Under the circumstances a rematch was inevitable.

In the 2nd fight, Jackson succumbed to the Muay Thai clinch once again and, in an image famous in MMA circles, was left sprawled between the ropes with blood pouring from his mouth.

That seemed to be the end of it but some 4 years later the UFC ignited the rivalry once more. Even though both previous fights had been fought in Pride and under different rules, the bout was heavily promoted as another rematch.

Old fans eagerly anticipated another war and new fans, which hadn’t seen the Pride fights, questioned whether "Rampage" could stop the man who had brutally destroyed him twice - Jackson KO’d "The Axe Murderer" in the very first round to end the rivalry.

I think it’s pretty clear that rematches create rivalries and rivalries create rematches. Where would MMA be without the interest and new fans these rivalries created?

The list of potential rematches that we could see in the near future is huge, and of course increases all the time, but let me throw out some biggies -

  • Diego Sanchez vs. Kenny Florian
  • Shogun Rua vs. Forrest Griffin
  • Shogun Rua vs. Rampage Jackson
  • Rampage Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin
  • Dan Henderson vs. Anderson Silva
  • Hellboy Hansen vs. Eddie Alvarez
  • Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar

Now try and tell me that list won’t create interest.

Granted that is a lot of big name fighters but a match can be pushed as significant based purely on the fact it is a rematch. Kevin Burns vs. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson was built entirely on the basis their first fight was won controversially by Burns (thumb to the eye).

From a business prospective, rematches are a hell of a lot easier to promote. The previous fight(s) can be pulled apart and analyzed from pillar to post in an attempt to second guess how this fight will turn out.

Will we see the "best version yet" (thanks, Joe Rogan) of a fighter or will the old flaws still be in evidence - all of this adds to the allure a rematch brings over a regular fight.

The interest generated from the rematches is further evidenced in the fact many of the UFC’s highest grossing cards featured heavily promoted rematches...

  • UFC 52 - Liddell/Couture
  • UFC 66 - Liddell/Ortiz
  • UFC 71 - Rampage/Liddell
  • UFC 79 - GSP/Hughes
  • UFC 83 - Serra/GSP
  • UFC 92 - Rampage/Wandy
  • UFC 94 - GSP/Penn.

I think it goes without saying that UFC 100 will fall into the same bracket and the legacy of the rematch will continue.

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