The UFC light heavyweight division has been described as the most competitive division in all of mixed martial arts. There have been ten total champions of the division, beginning with Frank Shamrock and rolling its way to the current champion Lyoto Machida.
Machida is set to face Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 104 this coming Sat. in Las Vegas, Nevada. Machida gained the light heavyweight hardware at UFC 98 this past summer, destroying Rashad Evans and keeping his undefeated record intact.
Rua enters the fight a steep underdog (+300 at Sportsbook.com), and many believe him undeserving of this title shot. However, the PRIDE days of “Shogun” still dwell in the minds of mixed martial arts fans and are reason to believe he could put up a fight.
Although this is not one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history, it is a fight featuring the light heavyweight champion and one of the most infamous strikers in PRIDE history.
In honor of the light heavyweight championship headlining this weekend’s card, we look back at some of the biggest names involved in the biggest events in UFC light heavyweight history with the top 10 UFC light heavyweight championship fights.
Note: Fights listed in chronological order.
Tito Ortiz vs. Wanderlei Silva—UFC 25
The Ultimate Fighting Championship travelled to Tokyo, Japan for UFC 25 with a title fight between Wanderlei Silva and Tito Ortiz.
After five rounds in front of the electric Japanese crowd, the two fighters went to the judges; scorecards with Ortiz edging out Silva with a unanimous decision victory.
This win sent “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” on a tear through the light heavyweight division, where he defended his title five times before losing the belt to Randy Couture at UFC 44. It may not have been the most exciting title fight of all-time, but it will forever be marked as the beginning of Ortiz’s lengthy reign as champion.
Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock—UFC 40
Tito Ortiz had lost to Frank Shamrock at UFC 22 and was hoping his luck against the other Shamrock would be a little different. Fortunately for “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” the outcome ended in a title defense for him.
The fight was scheduled for five rounds, but only needed three as Shamrock did not exit his corner for the fourth round. Ortiz had successfully defended his belt due to a corner stoppage.
The two would meet twice more over their careers with Ortiz winning the last two fights of the series, leaving Shamrock empty handed. Also one of the greatest trilogies of all time, the Ortiz vs. Shamrock series was fueled with the hatred they had for one another, leading to an all around great rivalry in mixed martial arts.
Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture—UFC 43
One of the greatest trilogies in mixed martial arts history, UFC 43 featured an interim light heavyweight title fight between Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture.
Couture and Liddell battled for the first two rounds, but “The Natural” was too much for Liddell, finishing “The Iceman” at the midpoint of the third round. This was Couture’s first belt at 205 pounds.
Although Couture won the first fight, Liddell got the last laugh, gaining victories in the last two fights of the trilogy. Liddell would go on to dominate the division more than Couture could as champion, but “The Natural’s” victory over Liddell at UFC 43 will forever be remembered as one of the greatest title fights of the UFC light heavyweight division.
Randy Couture vs. Tito Ortiz—UFC 44
After successfully defending his title five times after winning it over at UFC 25, Tito Ortiz ran into “The Natural” at UFC 44. Randy Couture dominated the entire fight with his superior wrestling and overall game plan, while Ortiz was unable to mount any offense whatsoever.
“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” needed to end the fight to keep his belt and went with a last-ditch effort in the form of a submission. Couture pretended to tap out, mocking the defeated Ortiz.
Couture was awarded the unanimous decision and the UFC light heavyweight belt. Unfortunately, a man nicknamed “The Phenom” stole the belt away from Couture in “The Natural’s” first title defense.
Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture—UFC 57
The score was tied at one a piece. Couture drew first blood with his victory over Liddell at UFC 43, but “The Iceman” was back with a vengeance at UFC 52 where he took the light heavyweight belt with a knockout win.
After several title defenses, Liddell would have to put up his belt against Couture at UFC 57 to settle one of the greatest trilogies in the history of the sport.
Liddell and Couture battled for the rubbermatch and the belt, but Liddell secured the victory in the second round when he knocked out Couture, mirroring the method of victory from the second fight.
Liddell kept the belt, and Couture announced retirement, after the finale of a trilogies for the ages in which Liddell took two out of three.
Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz—UFC 66
Ortiz had been accused of dodging “The Iceman” for some time before the two finally met at UFC 47. Liddell defeated “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” and was looking to do the same when Ortiz stepped up as the number one challenger to his belt.
Liddell needed less than three rounds to repeat the result of the first fight, winning via technical knockout that Ortiz could not call an eye poke.
While Liddell would go on to lose his belt in his very next fight to Quinton Jackson, the victory over Ortiz was one of “The Iceman’s” and the division’s greatest moments.
Chuck Liddell vs. Quinton Jackson—UFC 71
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell defended his belt for the first time at UFC 54 over Jeremy Horn. He then went on to defend it three more times before stepping in against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Jackson was fresh off his destruction of Marvin Eastman at UFC 67 and was looking to continue his “rampage” through the UFC.
Less than two minutes into the first round, the belt had finally been passed after Jackson defeated Liddell via technical knockout. Liddell has yet to recover from this defeat, while Jackson went on to lose the belt to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86.
Dan Henderson vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson—UFC 75
It was the fight to name the undisputed champion at 205 pounds. Dan Henderson brought his Pride Middleweight belt, and “Rampage” brought his UFC light heavyweight belt to finally settle who was best at light heavyweight.
The fight lived up to the hype, going for five hard fought rounds. Twenty-five minutes of war between the two champions. The judges rendered their decisions in favor of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, successfully naming an undisputed champion at the 205 pound mark.
“Rampage’s” belt would soon trade hands, however, as he faced Forrest Griffin in his next fight and went the distance once again. The outcome was ill-favored for Jackson.
Dan Henderson dropped down to the 185 pound middleweight division after that fight and was welcomed by Anderson Silva, the division’s champion. Henderson lost that fight, but continued to make his presence known in the UFC. He is currently a free agent and his future with the UFC may be in question.
Quinton Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin—UFC 86
Fresh off a massive upset victory over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Forrest Griffin entered the octagon set for a five round championship bout with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 86.
Jackson gained the light heavyweight crown after knocking out Chuck Liddell at UFC 71. He had since defended it one time, in a five round war with Dan Henderson.
Griffin utilized hard leg kicks early in the fight that eventual left Jackson with an injured leg that hindered him throughout the rest of the fight. Griffin was able to throw submission attempts and solid offense the champions way. Jackson held his own, however, and the two went to the judges’ scorecards, where Griffin edged out “Rampage” to gain UFC light heavyweight gold.
Lyoto Machida vs. Rashad Evans—UFC 97
UFC 97 featured a title fight with two light heavyweights with undefeated records. Rashad Evans had just won the belt from Forrest Griffin at UFC 92, pushing his record to 13-0-1.
Machida entered the fight at 14-0, having never lost a single round out of the 34 he had previously entered.
After the first round, “The Dragon” had kept his streak alive, easily dominating Evans. Round Two was more of the same as Machida destroyed Evans, knocking him out cold from a flurry of precision punches.
Machida looks to defend his belt with a performance similar to the one he had when gaining the 205 pound hardware.