UFC 136: Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia II and the 5 Most Exciting Fights of 2011

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2011

UFC 136: Nam Phan vs. Leonard Garcia II and the 5 Most Exciting Fights of 2011

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    Dana White has been telling anyone who’ll listen that people just love fighting. He’s been saying this for years, saying it every time a member of a media outlet questions his claim that MMA will become the biggest sport in the world and the UFC will be leading the charge.

    2011 has been the biggest year in the history of the company, and a lot of that has had to do with a host of exciting fights that have been put off. They’re the types of fights that make you think White might be onto something.

    On Saturday night in Houston, a featherweight barnburner between Nam Phan and Leonard Garcia stole the show, with Phan’s technique and quickness winning the day over Garcia’s go-for-broke styling. It became an instant classic, and has people already clamouring for a third meeting between the two.

    Let’s take a look at a few more of the best this year has seen.

Martin Kampmann vs. Diego Sanchez, UFC Live 3

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    An absolute bloodbath, Martin Kampmann and  Sanchez essentially stood in front of one another for three rounds and hurled leather until the timekeeper mercifully told them to stop. The two men went back and forth, shot for shot, all over the octagon in an incredible display of technical prowess from Kampmann, and impressive heart from Sanchez

    At the end of the fight, Sanchez was beaten and bloodied with large cuts under his eyes and an inability to speak without gore running from his mouth, while Kampmann was more battered and bruised for his part.

    Sanchez took home a pretty questionable decision, but both men were made a little happier by Dana White dropping and extra $100K each on the table for showing the world how exciting MMA can be.

Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry, UFC Live 4

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    When Nate Marquardt wasn’t cleared to compete at UFC Live 4, the company had to shuffle the card to maintain it’s marketability. Shifting strikers Pat Barry and Cheick Kongo to the main event may have hurt the star power, but it definitely didn’t hurt the potential for excitement

    Barry rocked Kongo and chased him across the cage to finish. Kongo attempted to defend himself from the onslaught, only to eat more shots and spin wildly across the cage in an effort to make space. Barry continued the hunt, and in an instant it was over.

    In favour of Kongo.

    The Frenchman, on wobbly legs, planted his back foot and threw a huge shot that came all the way from Dream Street right to Barry’s chin. Barry buckled, and a follow-up punch put him on the canvas for good.

    The whole thing only took 2:39.

Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader, UFC 132

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    Exciting for a different reason, Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader gave people reason to believe that the old school isn’t quite ready to leave the octagon just yet.

    Everyone in the world was writing Ortiz off, saying he was done and he didn’t have a hope against a hungry young lion like Bader.

    Bader was as high as an 8-1 favourite with some oddsmakers, and Dana White said that if Ortiz lost he’d have to look for work elsewhere.

    When the two men entered the cage, Ortiz looked desperate and hungry. He closed the gap on Bader after laying a few feeler jabs out there, coming with big power and catching Bader on the chin. Bader went instinctual, shooting for a double, but Ortiz was ready and latched on a tight guillotine.

    The tap came soon after, and the world saw the patented Ortiz gravedigger celebration for the first time in five years, as The Huntington Beach Bad Boy proved he was still relevant at 205 lbs.

Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick, UFC 129

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    On a night filled with massive KOs, insane submissions, and generally great fights, one of the best fighters in the world took on a hometown underdog in front of the Toronto faithful. What resulted was one of the craziest scraps of the year.

    Jose Aldo went into UFC 129 sick and coming off the worst weight cut of his life, but he jumped out to an early lead by thrashing Ontario’s Mark Hominick with leg kicks and punches right down the middle. He dropped Hominick a few times, and people were concerned that he’d just be too much for the Canadian.

    However Aldo began to fade, and Hominick willed his way back into the fight. The exchanges began to increase his confidence, and he began to touch Aldo up with combinations. It all culminated in the fifth round, where Hominick pasted Aldo for five straight minutes, pounding the champion mercilessly.

    Aldo retained his title, and Hominick became a cult hero for his efforts. They also each earned $129,000 for fight of the night on the biggest show in UFC history.

Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard II, UFC 125

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    While their UFC 136 headliner was an exciting affair, the second meeting on New Year’s Day will always go down as the apex of their trilogy.

    It’s no secret that the first round was the biggest beating in MMA history, as Edgar was repeatedly smashed by Maynard to the tune of a 10-8 round. Many said if there was a case for 10-7 to exist, that was it. It was that bad.

    However for the rest of the fight Edgar touched a fading Maynard up with excellent boxing, throwing in the occasional takedown and submission attempt on his way to pulling even over the remaining four rounds and forcing a split draw.

    For a fight between two guys that people long claimed to be dull and boring, they sure didn’t look that way at UFC 125.