UFC 115 and the 10 Pay-Per-Views That Were Better Than Expected
With UFC 115 fast approaching it seems many people have looked at the fighters in Vancouver and judged it to be a pretty weak card for a debut show in a new territory for MMA's top promotion.
However as my recent article "UFC 115: Appearance's Can Be Deceiving" detailed, the Vancouver card is actually littered with potentially exciting and explosive match ups. Remember, it only takes a second for an event to have "jaws wide open" moment and become etched in history.
So with that in mind lets take a look at the Top 10 Pay Per Views that exceeded expectations and were actually better than people thought they would be.
10) UFC 88 - Atlanta
Don Hyun Kim vs Matt Brown
Martin Kampmann vs Nate Marquardt
Dan Henderson vs Rousimar Palhares
Rich Franklin vs Matt Hamill
Chuck Liddell vs Rashad Evans
UFC 88 had a very marketable main event and great fighters on the card but lacked real star power throughout.
However the show proved that even though some of the top fighters may be boring personalities they can still deliver great fights.
Evans knocked out Chuck Liddell with one of the best KO's ever in UFC history to earn a future title shot. Rich Franklin taught the young pretender Matt Hamill a few lessons and won by a brutal body kick.
The rest of the main card featured two top middle weight clashes and Don Hyun Kim continuing his win streak that is still standing today.
9) UFC 55 - Connecticut
Joe Riggs vs Chris Lytle
Renato Sobral vs Chael Sonnen
Forrest Griffin vs Elvis Sinosic
Brandon Lee Hinkle vs Sean Gannon
Andrei Arlovski vs Paul Buentello
UFC 55 came from the Mohegan Sun resort and occurred right around the time that the re-birth of UFC popularity was beginning.
Joe Riggs won his return to the UFC at Welterweight with a win over Chris Lytle. Babalu won his second UFC fight before submitting current No.1 contender in the Middleweight division Chael Sonnen.
The card also featured the original Ultimate Fighter Forrest Griffin being victorious and Hinkle won with a KO finish over Gannon.
But it was the main event that was better then expected despite its short length. Arlovski KO'd the "Headhunter" Buentello to become the new Heavyweight Champion. Most people didn't see it but it was a great stoppage by Big John Macarthy and a great PPV card.
8) UFC 76 - Anaheim
Thiago Tavares vs Tyson Griffin
Lyoto Machida vs Kazuhiro Nakamura
Diego Sanchez vs Jon Fitch
Mauricio Rua vs Forrest Griffin
Keith Jardine vs Chuck Liddell
UFC 76 makes this list primarily due to the two headlining fights.
Forrest Griffin's win over Shogun Rua was a pivotal moment in the Ultimate Fighter winner's career and a great moment in UFC history. The win confirmed Griffin as a legitimate fighter and gave him a title shot against Rampage that he would go onto win.
In the Main Event, Keith Jardine won the biggest fight of his career by taking a split decision win over Chuck Liddell. To this day it is the undoubted high point of Jardine's career. For Liddell it was a continuation of a bad run in form that has seen him go 1-4 in his last five fights to date.
Other fights included a rising but unknown (at the time) Lyoto Machida and a Welterweight clash between a prime Diego Sanchez and a rising Jon Fitch.
7) UFC 70 - Manchester
Cheick Kongo vs Assuerio Silva
Lyoto Machida vs David Heath
Michael Bisping vs Elvis Sinosic
Andrei Arlovski vs Fabricio Werdum
Mirko Cro Cop vs Gabriel Gonzaga
This was the first time the UFC had held a card in the UK in over five years and it was a great return for the promotion.
The Ultimate Fighter Season Three winner, Michael Bisping made a triumphant return to his homeland and defeated Sinosic in a fight of the night performance. Lyoto Mahcida had only his second fight in the UFC.
Kongo and Silva fought to a close majority decision win for Kongo and Werdum lost his UFC debut.
But the night will be forever remembered for one of the all time best KO's in UFC history. Gonzaga defeated Cro Cop with his own trademark head kick, earning the Brazilian a future title shot at Randy Couture. The win was devastating and a huge upset.
6) UFC 54 - Las Vegas
Georges St-Pierre vs Frank Trigg
Diego Sanchez vs Brian Gassaway
Randy Couture vs Mike van Arsdale
Tim Sylvia vs Tra Telligam
Chuck Liddell vs Jeremy Horn
Expectations were high for UFC 54 with the then face of UFC, Chuck Liddell, defending his Light-Heavyweight title. Even so, it was the all round solid nature of the event that means it makes this list.
James Irvin delivered a highlight reel flying knee KO to Terry Martin on the under card.
GSP defeated a then top contender Frank Trigg to announce his name to the Welterweight Divisions elite. Tim Sylvia had rare KO win and Randy Couture was also victorious on the card.
The night was rounded off by Liddell defending his title for the first time with an impressive win over Horn.
5) UFC 108 - Las Vegas
Junior dos Santos vs Gilbert Yvel
Jim Miller vs Duane Ludwig
Joe Lauzon vs Sam Stout
Paul Daley vs Dustin Hazelett
Rashad Evans vs Thiago Silva
This was without question a surprising gem of a card.
The event was devastated by injuries and at one time or another had fights such as Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort, and Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin scrapped from the card. Gabriel Gonzaga was also a withdrawal due to injury.
Despite many fans' displeasure and negativity towards the card, UFC 108 actually came through with some great fights.
Junior dos Santos and Paul Daley delivered big KO finishes, Jim Miller delivered a big performance and Sam Stout put in the fight of his career.
All in all it was actually a very entertaining night of fights and a good reminder that MMA events should be about the fights (not the fighters) despite what the PPV numbers suggested.
4) UFC 48 - Paradise, Nevada
Phil Baroni vs Evan Tanner
Matt Hughes vs Renato Verissimo
Tim Sylvia vs Frank Mir
Frank Trigg vs Dennis Hallman
Ken Shamrock vs Kimo Leopoldo
It see seems a lifetime ago that Ken Shamrock was headlining UFC cards.
But the one time "World's Most Dangerous Man" was one of the pioneers of the sport and at UFC 48 he earned his last win to date inside the Octagon by getting the TKO win over Kimo in round one.
Evan Tanner put to rest a feud that had developed between him and Baroni from their first fight at UFC 45 by earning a decision win. Both Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg won to put them on a path to another fight at UFC 52.
However the PPV is remembered and makes this list for Frank Mir submitting Tim Sylvia and breaking his arm in their fight. At the time the fans didn't know what had happened but it showed the growing skills of Herb Dean as an MMA referee.
3) UFC 96 - Columbus
Gray Maynard vs Jim Miller
Matt Hamill vs Mark Munoz
Pete Sell vs Matt Brown
Gabriel Gonzaga vs Shane Carwin
Quinton Jackson vs Keith Jardine
Surprisingly another card headlined by Keith Jardine, but it's fair to say that this card was a lot better then many MMA commentators expected.
UFC 96 came from Columbus, Ohio and turned out to be a highly entertaining night of fights that delivered some of the most memorable moments in recent UFC history.
The under card featured some strong fights highlighted by the most devastating use of leg kicks by Brandon Vera on Mike Patt. Watch it if you haven't seen it!
Gray Maynard continued on his rise up the Lightweight division ladder and Hamill delivered one of the best KO finishes ever by head kicking Munoz to sleep. Shane Carwin delivered a stunning come from behind KO win over Gonzaga to confirm his status as a legitimate Heavyweight.
The night was rounded out be a highly competitive main event fight of Rampage vs Jardine and of course the now infamous post fight stare down between Rashad Evans and Rampage which began one of the most intense rivalries in UFC history.
A memorable card based purely on the number of highlight reel moments to emerge from the night and without doubt a better PPV then expected.
2) UFC 110 - Sydney
Mirko Cro Cop vs Anthony Perosh
Keith Jardine vs Ryan Bader
Joe Stevenson vs George Sotiropolous
Michael Bisping vs Wanderlei Silva
Antonio Nogueira vs Cain Valasquez
UFC 110 was the UFC's first trip down under and hopes were high for it to be a success. The card was another of the early cards in 2010 subject to a lot of change due to injuries, leaving a lot of people questioning how the event would turn out.
They need not have worried. Fans were vastly entertained in Australia with some great fights. Ryan Bader and Sotiropolous put on career high performances as they both won.
Bisping and Wanderlei put on a close three round war and Cain Valasquez added the exclamation mark with the huge win over Nogueria.
After all the early worries with injuries, no titles being defended on the card and a lack of big stars, UFC 110 was actually a great event.
1) UFC 95 - London
Josh Koscheck vs Paulo Thiago
Demian Maia vs Chael Sonnen
Nate Marquardt vs Wilson Gouveia
Dan Hardy vs Rory Markham
Diego Sanchez vs Joe Stevenson
UFC 95 emanated from London and had a number of solid fighters but lacked real star power.
However, it was in the finishes and the nature of the fights that really had fans wishing they had tuned into this one.
The under card featured rising stars Junior dos Santos, Stefan Struve, Evan Dunham and Terry Etim displaying some real quality not yet known to all UFC fans at the time.
The Main Card featured a shock Koscheck KO defeat to Thiago, a Dan Hardy KO finish, Nate Marquardt doing his best street fighter impersonation, another Maia submission win and a solid main event between Sanchez and Stevenson.
With out doubt one of the better UK cards in UFC history.
UFC 115 - Vancouver?
Well it could be.
A headline fight between two former champions and UFC legends who both really need to get back in the win column should deliver a good main event.
Pat Barry vs Mirko Cro Cop has explosive ending written all over it and Paulo Thiago vs Martin Kampmann is a genuine contender eliminator in the Welterweight Division.
Add to that a former WEC Champion in Carlos Condit vs rising star Rory MacDonald and a Heavyweight tilt between Yvel and Rothwell and suddenly the card seems to have a lot of potential.
A solid under card has this author thinking that UFC 115 could well be a new entry on this list after June 12th.