Before UFC 109: Seven Fights That Happened Past Their Prime
At UFC 109, a battle of legends will take place between two true pioneers of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
For the first time in the 17-year history of the organization, two current UFC Hall-of-Famers will collide inside the Octagon.
While Randy Couture and Mark Coleman have both accomplished extraordinary feats in their respective MMA careers, fans can’t help but feel a bit cheated that it took over a decade for this fight to come together.
The pair was originally scheduled to meet at UFC 17, back in 1998, but a Couture injury forced the cancellation of the bout.
Had that fight taken place, Couture would have been defending his heavyweight belt against Coleman who defeated Dan Severn to become the first UFC heavyweight champion.
Fast forward 11 years: a 47-year-old Couture taking on a 45-year-old Coleman isn’t exactly being viewed as a “must-see” headliner.
The argument can be made that both Couture and Coleman have the athletic ability and competitive drive to continue to perform at a high-level, but fans aren’t expecting the same pace from the fighters that they possessed in their prime.
Does this mean you shouldn’t shell out 50 bucks to order the event on Pay-Per-View?
Absolutely not – In fact, you might be surprised with the outcome of the matchup as it may turn out to exceed your expectations.
Just because a fight is taking place past its prime doesn’t mean it’s not going to translate into the thriller you dreamt of when you thought of the bout years ago.
Let’s take a look at seven UFC fights that would have been seismic if they happened sooner; some of them went down in history books as unforgettable wars, while others turned out to be just average or below that in their outcome.
Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson: UFC 93
Before getting his face smashed in from the vicious knees of Anderson Silva, Franklin was the undisputed champion of the UFC’s middleweight division.
During the Franklin-era, fans fantasized of a battle between "Ace" and PRIDE champion Henderson to determine which organization's title holder was truly the best in the world.
They would eventually spar in the Octagon, in the UFC’s first trip to Dublin, Ireland, but in a non-title affair.
With Franklin losing his title in devastating fashion to the aforementioned Silva three years prior and Henderson failing to capture UFC gold in his bouts against Silva and Quinton Jackson, the attraction surrounding this fight has lost much of its lure.
Nevertheless, the fight was still glorified as a dream matchup and turned out to be a closely contested bout with Henderson earning the victory via judge’s decision.
Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua: UFC 97
From 2004-2006, UFC fans considered Liddell to be the baddest man on the planet.
With seven consecutive knockout victories under his belt, “The Iceman” seemed destined to fulfill his legacy as the king of the light-heavyweight division.
But while Liddell dominated inside the Octagon, another light-heavyweight wrecking machine was steam-rolling through the opposition in PRIDE.
“Shogun” Rua was ranked No. 1 in the weight-class, and with decisive victories over “Rampage” Jackson, Ricardo Arona, and Alistair Overeem, it was easy to see why.Still, UFC fans weren’t convinced that Rua would stand a chance against their beloved Liddell.
If the fight would have taken place in 2006, it would have been promoted as a battle between the two best light-heavyweights in the world, but in 2009 both competitors were coming off uninspiring performances and battling to stay relevant in the division.
It was “Shogun” who would make the comeback, knocking Liddell out in the first round and surprisingly earning a title shot in the process.
Matt Serra vs. Matt Hughes: UFC 98
These two former welterweight champions have been at each other's throats for years ever since the taping of season four of The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback.
However, the trash talking wouldn’t explode until after Serra shocked the world with his UFC 69 knockout over St. Pierre. Hughes called Serra’s victory a fluke win and said that despite winning the title, Serra isn’t a top five ranked welterweight.
The brash New Yorker didn’t take kindly to these words and fired back with insults of his own. The matchup was set to take place at UFC 79 after Serra and Hughes coached opposite each other on TUF season six.
Every week on Spike TV fans grew more and more anxious to see the two Matt’s throw down, but then the news broke that Serra had to pull out due to a back injury, and fans were highly disappointed.
Two years later, Serra and Hughes fought at UFC 98. At that point, fans were just glad the feud would finally find some closure. Serra rocked Hughes early on but the powerful farm boy came back to edge out the decision victory in the end.
Randy Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: UFC 102
Back when “The Natural” had UFC Heavyweight gold around his waist, MMA fans dreamt of matchups pitting Couture against PRIDE heavyweights Fedor Emelianenko and “Minotauro” Nogueira.
In fact, for a very long time, the thought of a Couture vs. Emelianenko bout would have fans wetting their pants in anticipation. Couture had fought some of the very best in both the UFC’s heavyweight and light-heavyweight division, but he had yet to challenge himself against the two best non-UFC heavyweights.
When Zuffa bought the assets of PRIDE, they were unable to sign the Russian heavyweight, but they were able to scoop up Nogueria’s contract and secure a deal with the legendary Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt to fight for the UFC.
At the time “The Natural” was the reigning heavyweight champ and was going through a heated contract dispute with Dana White and the Fertittas. Couture turned down a fight with Nogueira because he had his heart set on a clash with “The Last Emperor”.
Considering Emelianenko already defeated “Minotauro” on two separate occasions, Couture didn’t think a fight with Nogueira would be beneficial to him.
Finally, Couture patched things up with UFC and returned to the octagon in 2008. After losing his title to behemoth Brock Lesnar, “The Natural” finally met Nogueira at UFC 102 in his hometown of Portland, Oregon.
The two legends fought their hearts out for fifteen minutes putting on not only one of the best fights of the year but one of the greatest main events in UFC history.
Not bad for two “past their prime” warriors, huh?
On that night Nogueira took the unanimous decision victory, but both fighters left the Octagon with their heads held high knowing they just satisfied millions of fans worldwide.
Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz: UFC 47
Ortiz and Liddell have known each other since the launch of their careers and have had quite a sordid relationship.
They started out as good friends and training partners but turned into bitter enemies seemingly overnight. When Ortiz was the reigning UFC light-heavyweight champion, “The Iceman” was knocking fighters out left from right and working his way into title contention.
Anytime that Ortiz was asked about a potential fight with Liddell, he would always be quick to say that he would never fight his friend. Liddell countered by claiming that he and Ortiz weren’t even close friends; in fact, they weren’t even allies at all, and he would love to fight him.
Still, Ortiz argued Liddell was a very close buddy of his and refused to compete against him. This resulted in a ton of back-and-forth trash talking and Ortiz was viewed as a coward who was unwilling to defend his strap against the true No. 1 contender.
Whether or not that was in fact true is still being disputed by fans, but the two finally met at UFC 47 in a non-title affair. Ortiz had lost his title to Randy Couture, while Liddell was coming off of a stunning defeat at the hands of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in PRIDE.
Despite their losses, the bout was still highly anticipated and certainly didn’t disappoint: Liddell knocked Ortiz out in the second round and followed up with six consecutive victories to cement his legacy as one of the greatest light-heavyweights of all time.
Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock: UFC 40
After “The Huntington Beach-Bad Boy” defeated Guy Mezger at UFC 19, Ortiz turned over to Mezger’s corner and flipped off Shamrock, and his entire Lion’s Den fight camp, resulting in the birth of the most heated rivalry in UFC history.
Shamrock leaped onto the cage and started screaming and pointing his finger at Ortiz, demanding that the Team Punishment leader put an end to his disrespectful antics.
Often times in this sport, there are rivalries between fighters who don’t really dislike each other but are just merely hyping their eventual battle. This was not one of those feuds, as Shamrock and Ortiz genuinely hated each other to the point where anytime they came near one another they almost came to blows.
Three years following their initial confrontation, the two finally met at UFC 40 for the light heavyweight championship. Ortiz was victorious in a one-sided beating, but their feud was far from squashed.
The two would fight two more times with the result being exactly the same each bout.
Ortiz clearly was a few levels ahead of the UFC Hall-of-Famer but Shamrock, to this day, will claim otherwise despite getting dominated on three separate occasions by “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy”.
Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva: UFC 79
When “The Iceman” was slashing through the UFC’s light-heavyweight division in 2004, “The Axe-Murderer” was wrecking opponents with reckless intentions in the Japan-based PRIDE Fighting Championships.
Fight fans begged and pleaded for the UFC and PRIDE to come together and set up a mega-fight between the two striking machines. The UFC even sent Liddell out to Japan to compete in PRIDE’s 2003 middleweight Grand Prix hoping for a Liddell-Silva meeting in the finals.
Unfortunately, “Rampage” Jackson foiled those plans with a second round TKO victory over Liddell in the semi-finals of the tournament. Three years later at UFC 61: Bitter Rivals, UFC President Dana White announced that Liddell and Silva would fight at a UFC event in November so long as Liddell defeated Renato “Babalu” Sobral at UFC 62, which he did.
Silva and Liddell then had an intense stare-down inside the Octagon, which had fans on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the bout. Sadly, the fight did not happen when advertised, as PRIDE was unwilling to send “The Axe-Murderer” to compete in the UFC.
Finally, after the death of PRIDE, Zuffa purchased the assets of the organization and at last was able to finalize the bout at UFC 79 near the end of 2007.
Despite taking years to come about, Silva and Liddell put on a three-round war, with Liddell earning the unanimous decision win at the end of the final frame.
The greatness of this bout was proclaimed by millions of loyal UFC fans when they voted it into second place on the UFC's Ultimate 100 greatest fights countdown.
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