Anatomy of a Trilogy

Derek BolenderSenior Analyst INovember 23, 2008

In society a trilogy is typically synonymous with a landmark series of movies or books such as Lord of the Rings or The Godfather.  In the sports arena trilogies also appear from time to time.


In mixed martial arts (MMA), specifically, it’s the rematch that is fairly commonplace.  An MMA trilogy, on the other hand, is extremely rare. 


December 27, 2008 will mark the date the next trilogy will be fulfilled when former PRIDE middleweight champion Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva and former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson do battle on the main card at UFC 92. 


This particular trilogy is over five years in the making.  November 9, 2003 marked the first matchup between these two fighters under the PRIDE FC banner at the Final Conflict 2003 event.  The second matchup was just under a year later on October 31 at PRIDE 28 High Octane.  Both fights resulted in highlight reel knockout victories by Silva over Jackson. 


The third installment will be the first between these two warriors inside the octagon in the UFC.  Regardless of who is victorious, both fans and media alike will be treated to yet another epic showdown between two of the best the sport has to offer. 


There are a number of factors and circumstances required for a trilogy to evolve from it’s infancy to a final chapter.


The most important element is whether or not there is demand in the marketplace for the fights to continue to take place.  Can it be successfully marketed time and time again?  Also, is a third fight required to prove which fighter is truly superior? 


Odds are that both fighters have already established themselves within the sport.  They are likely seasoned veterans with instant name recognition, who either have a comparable talent level or contrasting styles that will continually lead to exciting fights.


There are other factors involved including timing and contractual stipulations.  Many fighters today are moving to various weight classes and even from one MMA organization to the next so there is a bit of luck involved as well. 


If everything falls into place and the perfect storm comes to fruition then a trilogy can be completed. 


Over the past few years there have been a few prominent trilogies, some I’d like to eventually see completed if possible, and some that there is frankly no need to finish. 




Greatest Trilogies of All-Time

1)  Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture  

This is arguably the greatest trilogy ever that pitted two of the most popular MMA fighters on the planet against one another.

It was certainly the most talked about, most hyped, and the most profitable trilogy ever. 


Couture won the first meeting at UFC 43 with a third round knockout to win the interim UFC light heavyweight championship and become the first man ever to earn a belt in two separate weight classes.  It was also the first time in Liddell’s career he had been stopped via knockout. 


A rematch was a must and the second meeting resulted in a first round TKO victory by Liddell to capture his first ever UFC light heavyweight championship.  With the score now one to one a third matchup was needed.  The rubber match at UFC 57 went almost exactly like the second matchup.  Liddell recorded a TKO victory to defend his belt subsequently sending Couture limping back to the heavyweight division where he has fought ever since.          


2) Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Hughes

3) Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski



Trilogies That Need Completion:


1) Shinya Aoki vs. Joachim Hansen

This trilogy between two of the best lightweight fighters on the planet must be completed above all others.  These two have extremely contrasting styles and you never know how their fights are going to play out.  Hansen has some of the best striking in the world in the lightweight division and is a monster on his feet while Aoki is one of the best submission grapplers in the world.    


During the first matchup at PRIDE Shockwave 2006 Hansen slipped early going for a kick, wound up on his back, got back up as quick as possible, and then was immediately taken down by Aoki and controlled on the ground for the remainder of the fight.


Hansen avoided both an arm bar attempt and a triangle choke, however, Aoki was able to transition to a gogoplata that he locked in and subsequently forced Hansen to tap out. 


The rematch was during the finals of the recent 2008 DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix tournament in Japan.  This matchup was supposed to be Eddie Alvarez vs. Shinya Aoki, however, Alvarez was forced by officials to stop fighting in the tournament.  He had sustained a deep cut earlier during his fight with Tatsuya Kawajiri, which is likely the fight of the year so far in all of MMA.  Hansen, who was defeated by Alvarez earlier in the tournament, filled in and took full advantage of the opportunity while Alvarez watched from the sidelines. 


The championship fight began as Aoki pulled rubber guard immediately, however, this time around Hansen was able to posture up on numerous occasions and eventually got back to his feet.  From there the southpaw was able to repeatedly land huge shots to the face of Aoki until he was no longer able to defend himself.  Hansen won the championship, hoisted the trophy, and evened the series at one a piece. 


2) Wanderlei Silva vs. Dan Henderson

3) Josh Barnett vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira



Trilogies That Should Never Happen:


1) Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin

Two championship fights have taken place between these two and two brutal knockout victories have ensued at the hands of the great Brazilian striker Anderson Silva.


The first came at UFC 64.  Franklin was the longtime UFC middleweight champion and Silva was the relative unknown with only one UFC victory under his belt.  What Silva did that night was put on a Muay Thai clinic by punishing Franklin’s mid-section and face with knees from the plumb clinch until the referee was forced to stop the fight.  It was Franklin’s first loss in his career at 185 pounds and a sign of great things to come for Silva.    


It was much of the same at UFC 77 in Franklin’s hometown of Cincinnati, OH.  Silva again showed his dynamic skill set by using a combination of punches, knees, and kicks that eventually dropped Franklin to his knees late in the first round before he was saved by the bell.  Silva pounced on the still dazed and confused Franklin early in the second round with knee after knee in the clinch and the referee is forced to call off the fight once again.  It is clear to everyone which of these two fighters is superior.  There is no debate and no need for a third matchup. 

2) Quinton Jackson vs. Chuck Liddell

3) Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra



Derek Bolender covers mixed martial arts exclusively for  Send a question, comment, or suggestion to