Not Done Yet: Matt Hughes' Defining Moments
There is no doubting the legacy of Matt Hughes and his place in the history of Mixed Martial Arts.
With Hughes recently inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, many people were getting ready to write off the former Welterweight Champion as being on the downward side of his career.
However, the most dominant UFC Welterweight in history is far from done.
Hughes has rattled off three impressive wins since his loss to an overweight Thiago Alves at UFC 85. He rebounded from that by getting the win over longtime rival Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie, and most recently Ricardo Almeida at UFC 117.
None of these opponents are title contenders, but the wins have shown that Hughes can still dominate fighters, and his striking is still improving.
According to Hughes, the future will see him take some time off for the remainder of 2010.
In 2011 Hughes will return, still very much a top contender in the Welterweight division and a fighter continuing to add to his legendary legacy.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the defining moments in the career of "The Country Boy."
Check out the mullet!
This, of course, is Hughes in his youth, but the picture represents Matt Hughes' debut in the UFC at the UFC 22 event in Louisiana at the age of 25.
With the mainstream growth of MMA, many young kids are entering the sport in the pursuit of glory, fame, and money.
Back when Hughes started fighting in the UFC, he was considered young, and there were certainly none of the luxuries fighters get nowadays.
UFC 22 was not the greatest event, but it is a defining moment in the career of Matt Hughes.
Hughes KO Slams Carlos Newton
UFC 34 witnessed Matt Hughes defeating Carlos Newton to capture the UFC Welterweight Title for the very first time.
Hughes entered the fight on an impressive six-fight win streak, but he had not fought in the UFC since UFC 29 nearly a year and a half before.
At the time Newton was considered one of the top fighters in the sport and was fresh off a big win over Pat Miletich to capture the division title.
Midway through the second round, Newton would catch Hughes in a triangle. However, the Iowa native decided to pick up the champion and carry him to the cage. From there one of the most memorable moments in the UFC would unfold.
Newton would continue to apply the submission until eventually Hughes would drop and slam Newton to the floor, knocking out the Canadian. As devastating and shocking as this finish was, the real surprise was revealed later when Hughes confirmed that he had passed out at some point due to the submission being applied by Newton.
This was a defining moment for Hughes, as it announced him to the world in a big way, and it would begin his first run as UFC Welterweight Champion.
Hughes Drops the Title to BJ Penn
UFC 46 would see Matt Hughes drop his belt to BJ Penn after defending it a record five times.
They say for a fighter to be a true champion, he must face adversity and rebound from it.
After Hughes lost his first title, he would rebound with a vengeance and go on to recapture the title be defeating Georges St. Pierre.
Hughes would go on to defend his title twice, with two other victories that were non-title fights included in the four-fight run.
Changing of the Guard at UFC 65
Despite the Spanish feed (ha ha), it is easy to see that UFC 65 showed how the sport of MMA has evolved and continues to do so.
The fight was a real passing of the torch, as Georges St. Pierre dominated Hughes to capture the UFC Welterweight Title.
This was the first time that Hughes had been beaten in such a way, and it really was the first time that his dominance over the 170-lb. division was heavily put under question.
Hughes would face GSP again at UFC 79 for an Interim Title, but he would again taste defeat.
Hughes remains at 1-2 against the Canadian, who is the only fighter he has a losing record against.
A Memorable KO
This has to be one of the lowest points of Hughes' career.
Hughes was knocked out by a flying knee from Thiago Alves at UFC 85. Many viewed this moment as the death knell of Matt Hughes as a viable Welterweight contender.
However, the loss can now be put in perspective, as Alves has gone on to be one of the best Welterweights in the world.
Also, when he faced Hughes the Brazilian missed weight and likely entered the fight in the 190-lb. region.
Credit Hughes for even taking the fight.
It is the nature of this loss that many view as the reason why they thought Hughes was done, but the UFC Hall of Famer continues to prove them wrong.
Victory Over a Bitter Rival
At UFC 98, two bitter rivals finally got to fight inside the octagon to settle their differences.
Despite a lack of a championship, this was easily one of the biggest fights of Hughes' career.
Hughes and Matt Serra developed a dislike for each other during filming of The Ultimate Fighter, where they were both coaches. Unable to fight after the show as scheduled due to injury to Serra, the tension boiled over between the two fighters.
After nearly a year of verbal sparring, the two met at UFC 98.
In a very close fight, Hughes would do enough to get the victory by decision and the bragging rights. This has to rank high among his biggest career wins.
In recent time Hughes has rebounded from a slight slump to go on a three-fight win streak.
Some have dubbed him the "Gracie killer" with recent wins over Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie to add to his previous win over Royce Gracie back at UFC 60.
For now Hughes looks set to take the rest of 2010 off.
A big fight in early 2011 looks likely, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility to think that Hughes is only two wins away from another title shot.
Whatever happens, Matt Hughes has had a legendary career in MMA, but there just may be a few more pages to add to his book before he is done.