The Countdown: UFC's Top 10 International Events
UFC 105 will mark the UFC’s ninth appearance in the United Kingdom and its 15th occurrence outside of the United States.
MMA is growing into a global phenomenon with passionate fan-bases all over the world.
The UFC has established itself as the premier organization in the sport and has done an excellent job in branching out internationally.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the top 10 greatest international events in UFC history.
10. UFC 8: San Juan, Puerto Rico
This classic event was dubbed as the “David vs. Goliath” tournament and was headlined by a UFC Superfight championship showdown between Ken Shamrock and Kimo Leopaldo. The focal point of the event featured an old-school eight man tournament that marked the debuts of MMA legends Don Frye and Gary Goodridge.
At the time, the UFC was still marketed as a “No Holds Barred Spectacle” rather than the pure sport it’s perceived as today. The first round of the tournament pitted smaller fighters, such as Frye who weighed in at 195-pounds at the time up against 200-plus pound monsters hence the “David vs. Goliath” title.
Both Frye and Goodridge finished their first and second fight with crushing knockouts that to this day still appear on highlight reels. They met up in the finals and Frye forced Goodridge to submit from strikes to win the UFC 8 tournament.
“The Predator” went on to become one of the biggest fan-favorites among die-hard fans and at 43 years old Frye with his trademarked “Stache” is still competing in local MMA events.
The Superfight bout saw Kimo escape a choke attempt, land a few head-butts (which are no longer legal today) before tapping to a Shamrock leg-lock.
9. UFC 29: Tokyo, Japan
UFC 29 was the UFC’s third and currently last Japanese show and it was important in MMA history because it was the last event promoted under Semaphore Entertainment Group. One month after this show, SEG sold the UFC to Zuffa, for two million dollars and we all know how much the UFC and MMA in general has grown in pop culture since Dana White and the Fertittas took control.
The stacked fight card was kicked off with a 205-pound battle between Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and Jeff “The Snowman” Monson. Liddell defeated Monson by unanimous decision and would eventually go on to become the biggest superstar in MMA history in the coming years and a UFC Hall of Famer.
Eventual UFC champ Matt Hughes was looking to avenge his first professional loss in his rematch against Dennis Hallman but found himself once again on the receiving end of a Hallman arm-bar in just 21 seconds. Hallman was the only fighter other than B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre to submit Hughes in the 11 years that Hughes has been competing.
Then UFC Light-Heavyweight champ, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz made his first of five successful title defenses submitting Yuki Kondo with a tight neck crank in the first round. Much like “The Iceman”, Ortiz would eventually develop into one of the world’s most famous MMA fighters and the most dominant 205-pound champion in UFC history.
8. UFC 38: London, England
“The Brawl at the Hall” marked the UFC’s first ever trip to the United Kingdom and it turned out to be a huge success for the UFC. It was the first event that was promoted with strong television due to the 13-week deal that the UFC signed with Sky Sports in the U.K.
A Welterweight championship match between the champion Matt Hughes and the former champ Carlos Newton served as the headliner for the show. For 13-weeks heading up to the event, Sky Sports aired old fights from the UFC library on primetime television to generate some buzz for the event.
This strategy drew a nearly sold-out crowd of 5,000 fans to London’s Royal Albert Hall and the English fans viewed the competitors as celebrity figures rather than just fighters due to watching them compete on television before the event.
This card is also historical for having one of the biggest upsets at the time with British journeyman Ian “The Machine” Freeman knocking out eventual UFC champion Frank Mir in the first round. Mir was unbeaten at that point and was expected to be one victory away from earning a title shot against Randy Couture.
7. UFC 99: Cologne, Germany
On June 13th, 2009, the UFC made its first ever trip to Cologne, Germany. Despite uneducated German politicians trying their best to shut the event down, the show went on as intended, although minors were banned from attending the event but it’s a small price that had to be paid to put on an exciting fight card for German fight fans.
Former PRIDE Heavyweight sensation, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic made his return to the UFC after consecutive losses to both Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo. Heated rivals Marcus Davis and Dan Hardy fought to a split decision and AKA Heavyweight Cain Velasquez went from prospect to contender with a wrestling clinic over French striker Kongo in the night’s co-main event. But the real action was generated from the main event of the evening between Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva.
Silva and Franklin went to war for three full rounds that had the German fans and the viewers watching at home on the edge of their set throughout the duration of the fight. Franklin out-pointed “The Axe-Murderer” and was awarded the unanimous decision on the judges’ score cards.
6. UFC 80: Newcastle, England
Kicking off the year 2008 was UFC 80: Rapid Fire which featured a Lightweight championship headliner between B.J “The Prodigy” Penn and Joe “Daddy” Stevenson. Originally the bout was slated as an interim title fight but when then-lightweight champion Sean Sherk was stripped of his title after the California State Athletic Commission upheld his suspension for testing positive for steroids, the Penn-Stevenson fight was altered to be for the undisputed championship.
Before the new Lightweight champion was crowned, British fans were treated to a night of exciting finishes with no fights on the main card being left in the hands of the judges.
Highlights include Marcus Davis scoring an impressive first round knockout over Englishman Jesse Liaudin, Wilson Gouveia earning knockout of the night honors against Jason Lambert, and Fabricio Werdum finishing off Gabriel Gonzaga with a TKO in the second round.
The main event turned out to be one of the bloodiest fights in UFC history with Penn completely dominating Stevenson before finishing him off with a rear naked choke to claim the 155-pound title.
With the victory Penn became the second man in UFC history to claim gold in two separate weight classes, the first being Randy Couture.
5. UFC 83: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Back at UFC 69, Matt Serra knocked out Georges St. Pierre to claim the Welterweight championship in what is still considered to be the biggest upset in UFC history. After dominating both Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes, St. Pierre earned his chance at redemption against Serra in his homeland of Montreal, Quebec Canada.
It was the UFC’s first event in Canada and it was built up as a modern day version of Rocky 4. Serra took the form of Rocky Balboa, the underdog Italian who was never supposed to win the championship where as St. Pierre was compared to the Canadian version of the menacing Ivan Drago. However while Balboa triumphed over Drago in the movie, Serra was not as successful.
St. Pierre completely dominated Serra to re-claim his Welterweight championship. Throughout out the entire event the Montréal crowd went berserk with chants of “GSP! GSP! GSP!” and when their hero stood tall at the end of the fight with the championship around his waist, the Canadian crowd almost tore the roof off with their cheers.
4. UFC 93: Dublin, Ireland
Irish MMA is on the rise and in January 2009, the UFC took advantage of the growing fan-base with a stacked fight card in Dublin, Ireland. The main event featured an anticipated Light-Heavyweight clash between former UFC champ Rich Franklin and former PRIDE champ Dan Henderson. Henderson edged out the decision in a closely contested contest that was action-packed all the way through.
This event marked the first time that the UFC has ever given out two “fight of the night” bonuses. The first FOTN award went to Welterweights Chris Lytle and Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis in their three-round war that saw Davis earning the split decision victory. The crowd thoroughly supported Davis singing an Irish song throughout the entire fight.
The second FOTN for some odd reason went to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Mark Coleman in the night’s co-main event. Both fighters appeared poorly conditioned throughout the duration of the fight and it took Rua three rounds to finish off an exhausted Coleman.
3. UFC 70: Manchester, England
For the first time since UFC 38 in 2002, the UFC had returned to England with an event titled “Nations Collide”. The card was broadcast live on pay-per-view in the United Kingdom and Ireland on Setanta Sports and broadcasted live and free on Spike TV in the States.
Former PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix champion, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović, fought top contender Gabriel Gonzaga in the main event to determine the top contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship held by Randy Couture.
Very few gave Gonzaga a chance in this fight as most predicted “Cro Cop” would score a brutal knockout with his trademarked head kick. Four minutes into the first round, Gonzaga shocks the world knocking Cro Cop out with a devastating head kick in a huge upset that nobody saw coming.
The card also featured England’s own Michael Bisping making his first Octagon appearance in the U.K against Elvis Sinosic, current Light-Heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida battling David Heath and Andrei Arlovski taking on Fabricio Werdum.
2. UFC 95: London, England
It isn’t often where every fight on the televised portion of a UFC card is exciting but such was the case for the UFC’s seventh show in England. UFC 95 was a true display of MMA, from crushing knockouts to slick submissions to all-out wars, it truly had everything a fight fan dreams for.
The first televised fight of the night saw a huge come from behind victory when Paulo Thiago knocked out top ranked Josh Koscheck in his UFC debut, after being used as a punching bag from Koscheck for the majority of the first round. We then witnessed a beautiful display of ground work with Demian Maia’s triangle choke submission victory over Chael Sonnen.
Top ranked Middleweight Nate Marquardt finished Wilson Gouveia off in the third round with a combo that looked like something straight out of Mortal Kombat. “The Outlaw” Dan Hardy proved his power with a stunning first round knockout over Rory Markham and established himself as a Welterweight to watch out for in the 170-pound division.
Closing the event was a super-exciting stand up war between Lightweights Diego Sanchez and Joe Stevenson in the show’s headliner. It was Sanchez’s 155-pound debut and he put on a striking clinic to defeat Stevenson by unanimous decision.
1. UFC 75: London, England
UFC 75 was dubbed “Champion vs. Champion” due to the headliner which featured a title unification bout between UFC champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and PRIDE champion Dan Henderson which would determine the undisputed 205-pound champion of the world.
The event was on Setanta Sports 1 in the United Kingdom and offered on tape delay on Spike TV for free in North America. At the time, UFC 75 had achieved the highest recorded ratings for any mixed martial arts broadcast in North America, drawing a total of 4.7 million viewers and beating out the previous record held by the UFC's Ortiz vs. Shamrock 3: The Final Chapter.
Jackson and Henderson went toe-to-toe for five rounds in an epic bout with “Rampage” earning the unanimous decision and the undisputed championship in the end. However the most exciting fight of the night was contested between fan favorites Marcus Davis and Paul Taylor which earned the FOTN bonus. Also on the card, Michael Bisping defeated his TUF rival Matt Hamill in a controversial decision that most felt Hamill had won.
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