2000 UFC Fights: Here Are the 25 Most Entertaining Ever
When Yuri Alcantara squared off against Hacran Dias at UFC 147, it was more than just a featherweight fight on a lackluster card. It had the distinction of being the 2,000th fight in the UFC's storied history.
Through 2,000 fights, the organization has had some incredible moments. A tiny Brazilian wearing pajamas would show the world that Brazilian jiu-jitsu was the future of fighting. A former UFC lightweight from Long Island would win a reality show and go on to defeat the greatest welterweight champion in history. The UFC itself would purchase and import talents from their two biggest competitors and much more.
And then there are the fights themselves. Some fights were simply atrocious, while others left fans on the edge of their seats. Of the 2,000 fights, we have seen ultra-violent knockouts, super-slick submissions and barn-burning slugfests that could have only been written in Hollywood.
Here is a look at the 25 most entertaining fights in UFC history.
Authors Note: Just for fun, I threw in a bonus for you. See if you can guess which one made the cut at the last minute.
Forrest Griffin vs Rampage Jackson
Rampage Jackson was a legend of PRIDE who would unify the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship with the PRIDE Middleweight championship in a title defense against Dan Henderson. After defeating Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson, who was left to present a challenge for the ominous champion? None other than Forrest Griffin.
Griffin earned his shot at the belt by submitting the highly regarded PRIDE superstar Mauricio Shogun Rua in a fight where Griffin was widely expected to be a sacrificial lamb.
The battle was closely contested, with Rampage hurting Griffin badly with power punches in the first round, and nearly finishing. Griffin would regain composure and do damage to Jackson's knee with a series of kicks that slowed the champion. Griffin narrowly avoided a nasty powerbomb and would continue to be aggressive until the final bell.
The award for 2008's Fight of the Year would go to both men, but the belt would go home with Griffin. This would mark the first time that a fighter made his UFC debut through The Ultimate Fighter and would go on to win a UFC championship.
Royce Gracie vs Kimo Leopoldo
Heading into UFC 3, Royce Gracie was widely expected to once again walk through the competition. His series of slick submissions helped to start his career at 6-0 with a pair of tournament championships to his credit. In the beginning of the UFC, Royce was untouchable.
That is, until he met Kimo Leopoldo.
You can think of this battle as an abridged version of Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen. Leopoldo would use his takedowns and ground-and-pound to batter the much-smaller Gracie.
With the help of some essential hair pulling that is not commonly found in jiu-jitsu, Gracie was able to keep the monster at bay long enough to find a fight-saving armbar.
The damage was done, however, as Gracie was exhausted and dehydrated from the battle, and therefore forced to withdraw from the tournament.
Chris Leben vs Yoshihiro Akiyama
There was a lot of pre-fight excitement leading up to this battle. Originally scheduled to be Akiyama vs Wanderlei Silva, the fight was changed with less than two weeks left after Wandy pulled out due to an injury.
When Chris Leben agreed to take the fight on less than a fortnight, he was viewed as a courageous fighter who was trying to be a team player. So when Akiyama hinted that he planned to drop out of the fight due to Leben being an unworthy opponent, fans were instantly up in arms.
In the end, we saw Leben and Akiyama throw bombs at one another, with the Japanese fighter getting the best of the exchanges and likely heading towards a decision win. With both men clearly exhausted and Leben stuck on his back, The Crippler summoned the strength to throw a Hail Mary and lock in a triangle choke.
The battle won Fight of the Night on an incredibly stacked UFC 116 card.
Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard II
This fight will go down in history as the moment that Frankie Edgar proved that he has more heart than any fighter in MMA history.
In the opening minute of the fight, Maynard landed heavy strikes to Edgar's chin that floored the champion. "The Bully" would hunt for a finish that simply didn't come, although the fight started with a dominant round that could have been scored 10-7 without anyone crying foul.
A brilliant display of courage followed as Edgar would rally to win three of the remaining rounds and earn some highlight-worthy moments of his own.
When Edgar and Maynard met at the ironically titled UFC: Resolution, their battle was only just beginning. After five rounds of incredible back and forth action, the fight was scored a split draw. They would go on to meet again at UFC 132, where Edgar scored the TKO victory to put an end to this rivalry.
Pete Sell vs Scott Smith
Who would have guessed the kind of star-power that would come out of The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback? Aside from the well-known fighters like Matt Serra, Chris Lytle and Patrick Cote, the show saw the career revivals of Pete "Drago" Sell and Scott Smith.
When the show concluded, Sell and Smith had both fallen to the man who would ultimately win the middleweight bracket: Travis Lutter. The two had an affinity for standup battles and neither man knows how to back down from a challenge.
The contest was a display of two athletes who legitimately enjoy kicking ass and taking licks in return. Throughout the battle, the pugilists would stop to high-five or hug each other after an action-packed exchange.
If the fight wasn't exciting enough, the finish was truly spectacular. Drago would finish Smith with a body punch, but somehow Smith saved enough strength to let go of one final strike. As Sell ran in to land his killshot, Smith threw a straight right that separated his opponent from his senses.
As soon as Drago hit the canvas, Smith fell into a heap of agony as the winner.
Jason MacDonald vs Demian Maia
I implore any fight fan to find a better grappling battle in mixed martial arts than Jason MacDonald vs Demian Maia at UFC 87. What started out looking like a quick submission win for Maia to add to his collection turned into a three-round war of attrition.
Not only would MacDonald illustrate his excellent jiu-jitsu skills, but he would turn the tides and threaten with submissions of his own throughout the contest.
This fight is criminally underrated, as it happened to take place on a stacked card that featured both Brock Lesnar vs Heath Herring and a title match between Georges St. Pierre and Jon Fitch. If you have not had the pleasure to watch this battle, it is well worth the price of the DVD (less than $4 on Amazon.com as of publication time).
Randy Couture vs Big Nog
When UFC 102 rolled around, the main event featured the unofficial losers bracket of a four-man Heavyweight title tournament. Despite losing their belts along the way, Randy Couture and Antonio Nogueira battled as if there was much more than a win bonus on the line.
It all appeared to be over when Minotauro knocked The Natural to the canvas and locked in a D'arce choke, although it is a testament to Couture's fortitude that he was able to escape and then rally back to deliver some damage of his own.
Legends collided and it was an action-packed battle for the ages. Dana White cited this fight as an example of why main event fights should be five rounds.
Frank Shamrock vs Tito Ortiz
Entering UFC 22, rising star Tito Ortiz held a professional record of 4-1 and had already avenged his sole career loss. The UFC had high hopes for the young Ortiz, but there were concerns that he may have been pushed too far too fast when he was tossed into the cage with defending champion Frank Shamrock.
Shamrock was the initial UFC light-heavyweight champion and was looking for his fourth consecutive defense of the belt. To the surprise of many, after three completed rounds, Tito found his way ahead on the scorecards and appeared to be en route to defeating the MMA pioneer.
Shamrock would find a way to overcome the adversity, as he stopped Ortiz with strikes with only seconds left in the fourth round. Tito put up a good fight, but it wasn’t enough to stop Shamrock from leaving the UFC and abandoning his championship—citing “lack of competition” as his reason for departure.
Randy Couture vs Chuck Liddell II
The Ultimate Fighter was a major milestone for the UFC. At the end of the inaugural season, coaches Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture rematched with the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship on the line.
In their first fight, Couture shocked many when he finished The Iceman with strikes. With Liddell's standup prowess being his defining quality, "The Natural" had proven once again that his wrestling isn't the only dangerous aspect of his game.
The second time around went differently, as Chuck was able to throw a strike while backpedaling, and it connected hard. Following a pair of strikes on the ground, the fight was stopped and Liddell would begin his iconic championship reign.
When the rematch took place, there would be many new fans who had just started tuning in to the sport. In fact, the previous PPV record of 150,000 buys was shattered by this event, as UFC 52 pulled in 280,000 buys.
Matt Hughes vs BJ Penn II
BJ Penn put some question marks on the UFC welterweight division when he submitted champion Matt Hughes in the first round of their UFC 46 contest, and then left the organization due to a contract dispute.
In 2006, Dana White announced that the dispute with Penn had been resolved, and that he was a contender for Matt Hughes and his re-acquired championship. The two would meet at UFC 63 in a hotly anticipated contest.
Penn would control the first two rounds, and trapped Hughes in a dangerous submission late in the second round. Were it not for the bell, it appeared that The Prodigy would once again emerge victorious.
Hughes held on until the end of the round, and when the third frame opened, it was clear that Penn had committed too much, and had gassed himself out in hopes of finishing. The come-from-behind win was an excellent testament to Hughes conditioning and durability.
Matt Hughes vs GSP II
Matt Hughes had established himself as the most elite welterweight in the history of the sport. After all, he had already defeated Frank Trigg, Georges St. Pierre, Sean Sherk, Royce Gracie and more. Additionally, he had avenged his sole loss since returning to the UFC when he earned a TKO victory over BJ Penn at 63.
When GSP challenged Hughes once again, he made the longtime champion look silly. With a bullying barrage of strikes, "Rush" would capture the welterweight championship after scoring a second round stoppage.
The battle was exciting for many, as it ushered in a new era of the welterweight division. Many predicted that GSP would hold his championship for years to come, although he ironically lost it in his next battle against the unheralded Matt Serra.
Tyson Griffin vs Clay Guida
When Clay Guida met Tyson Griffin at UFC 72, few knew the sort of fireworks that they could expect. In fact, the battle would go on to be named Fight of the Year in 2007
The two warriors slugged it out in a fierce battle that ended up going to the judges scorecards. With such a close contest, it was a responsibility that was certainly not enviable. How could you call either man a loser?
In the end, Griffin would see his hand raised via split decision, but the real winners were the fans.
Although this battle ranked at No. 62 on the UFC's Ultimate 100 list, it makes the top 25 here, as the Zuffa created list was based on fan votes, and therefore more popular stars would receive preferred placement on the list. How else do you think GSP vs Mayhem Miller made the top 75 fights of all time?
Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen
If you don't live under a rock, you've watched the first encounter between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen. The epic battle showed the world that The Spider can be vulnerable.
In fact, it showed us that The Spider can be squished.
Sonnen outstruck Silva at an unreal ratio of 5:1, with Sonnen landing 320 strikes to Silva's 64 through the five round affair. But anything can happen in the UFC, and Silva showed the world why he has been the best middleweight in the world for more than five years.
Halfway through the final stanza, Silva threw up his legs and caught Sonnen in a triangle/armbar combination that led to the late tapout. Many are calling the submission the greatest comeback in MMA history.
The rematch takes place this Saturday at UFC 148. If you don't watch it, you will be part of the minority of the MMA world, as it is the most anticipated fight in the history of the UFC.
Randy Couture vs Tim Sylvia
Randy Couture left the heavyweight division back in 2002 after losing consecutive battles against Josh Barnett and Pedro Rizzo. Dropping down to light-heavyweight seemed like the right career decision, as he would capture gold on three occasions, and pick up victories over Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Vitor Belfort.
So when Couture announced that he would return to the heavyweight division after a five year absence, many felt like it was career suicide. After all, champion Tim Sylvia stood at a towering 6'8" and would outweigh his opponent by 40 pounds.
The Natural would stun Sylvia early with a big right hand in the first round, and would keep the momentum throughout the 25 minute battle.
Couture inspired the world by winning UFC gold at the age of 43.
Jon Kopperhaver vs Jared Rollins
Rollins had the upper hand for much of the first two rounds in this fast-paced contest. Flying knees and knees up against the cage would open up a cut on Koppenhaver, who was bleeding profusely as they entered the third round.
Despite being exhausted and on the bottom, Koppenhaver managed to perform a reverse from guard and end up in the mount. From there, he threw power shots over and over again as a clearly exhausted and battered Rollins was unable to escape. War Machine got the TKO victory, but both men earned the respect of fans in this bloody battle.
After his all-out war with Koppenhaver, Jared Rollins magically disappeared from the sport, just as quickly and quietly as he arrived. He came, he saw and he left his mark on the sport.
In a fan-voted list of the Top 100 Greatest Fights in UFC history, this bout came in at No. 81.
Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin
Brock Lesnar has been a polarizing force in mixed martial arts since the announcement that he would join the UFC roster. With his outspoken nature and post-fight tirade at UFC 100, many fans just wanted to see the former WWE champion get his face pounded in. This fight was an exhilarating ride whether you loved or hated the mighty champion.
At UFC 116, Lesnar met the undefeated powerhouse Shane Carwin in an outstanding showing of heart. Carwin would quickly level Lesnar with fistfuls of dynamite, leaving many to believe that the fight should be called off via TKO.
Fortunately for Lesnar, referee Josh Rosenthal saw enough defense to allow the battle to continue.
When the second round began, Carwin suffered an enormous adrenaline dump that left him feeling as if he had been hit with a ton of bricks. The champ was able to capitalize by securing a takedown and arm-triangle choke for a spectacular Submission of the Night performance to cap off one of the best MMA cards in history.
Don Frye vs Mark Coleman
The early days of the UFC are known for their brutality more than anything else. Unfortunately, some of the more technical battles seem sloppy when compared to today's standards. Many submissions that we would call for had yet to be popularized, and would be ignored.
Sometimes, the brutal style of MMA leads to jaw-dropping moments, heated rivalries and exciting battles. Never was this more true than at UFC 10 when UFC 8 winner met debuting fighter Mark Coleman in the tournament final.
Jonathan Snowden summed up the backstory of this fight in an article written for MMA Nation last year.
Mark Coleman didn't really know Don Frye - but Coleman's manager Richard Hamilton certainly did. Hamilton had been Frye's manager as well and some believe that after the two parted ways, Hamilton recruited Coleman to the sport specifically to dismantle the undefeated Frye. He certainly did that. With Hamilton screaming "Kill him! Kill him!" from the corner, Coleman literally broke Frye's face with headbutts, elbows, and punches.
Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz
Although the sequel to this battle would break PPV records, the first fight was the more exciting of the two.
The backstory behind the first fight is historic within itself, as Liddell was the undisputed top contender for Tito Ortiz and his light-heavyweight championship. Ortiz would refuse to fight Liddell, as The Ice Man was a former training partner, and he did not want to fight a friend.
Liddell believed that no such agreement was ever in place, and he wanted his shot at the belt. Tito would leave the organization due to a contract dispute, and Liddell would lose an interim title shot against Randy Couture while waiting for the return of The Huntington Beach Bad Boy.
The highly anticipated battle took more than a year to come to fruition and that helped to keep fans on the edge of their seats before the sound of the first bell.
The first round saw a bit of a feeling out process, which later saw Ortiz taunting Liddell by slapping himself in the head. When the round ended, Ortiz would push referee Big John McCarthy out of his way and into Ortiz. It was as if a fire had been lit under The Ice Man.
When the second frame began, Liddell came out hot and landed a flurry of punches. Ortiz would fall to the ground and The Ice Man would earn his vindication, but not the championship he desired.
Nick Diaz vs Karo Parisyan
Nick Diaz and Karo Parisyan just might be the best fighters to not challenge for the welterweight championship during Matt Hughes' reign of domination.
When the two grapplers met at UFC 49, it was a war of attrition that saw the judoka's takedown skills nullified by the dangerous submission fighting of Diaz. The Stockton native would display his crisp boxing while the Armenian would land flush elbows from guard.
Kimura attempts, sweeps and scrambles ensure that neither man is allowed a second to breathe throughout the contest.
When it was all said and done, the judges couldn't decide who had come out on top, and "The Heat" would be awarded the split decision victory.
Diego Sanchez vs Nick Diaz
Welcome to the Diego Sanchez section of this list.
"The Nightmare" is a fierce competitor who has never been knocked out or submitted. Additionally, he is hyper-aggressive and willing to trade with any fighter alive. That has helped to make Sanchez a fan favorite in both the welterweight and lightweight divisions.
Nick Diaz was an established UFC star in 2005. He held a 4-1 record in the Octagon, and his sole loss came via split decision in a battle with Karo Parisyan. But if you've been reading this list, you already knew that.
The bad boy of Stockton wanted to prove that the UFC is a place for fighters. Not reality TV stars. He took personal offense to the fact that Sanchez was in the main event in his third bout with the UFC, while Diaz had seniority.
What happens when you put two fearless warriors against one another when each man has something to prove? Magic. That's what.
Karo Parisyan vs Diego Sanchez
More Diego Sanchez? Absolutely!
This battle was for contendership to the UFC Welterweight championship. Parisyan had gone 6-1 since joining the UFC, and his only loss during the time was a decision against Georges St. Pierre. His wins were against high caliber fighters Matt Serra, Chris Lytle, Shonie Carter and Nick Diaz.
Additionally, The Nightmare had accumulated a flawless 4-0 record inside the Octagon and was looking to add another highly touted name to his resume.
The first round of this fight featured judo throws, reversals, ground-and-pound and some crisp striking. The action was back and forth and always in your face.
This fight has a memorable moment when Sanchez threw a clinch knee that knocked a tooth from Karo's mouth and sent it flying through the air.
Sanchez would win via unanimous decision and this war would go on to win Fight of the Year award for 2006.
Diego Sanchez vs Clay Guida
It's proper that this article gets posted on the fourth of July, because Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida provided us with more than enough fireworks to light up the sky.
Capping off a night of incredible fights, Sanchez and Guida knew that they had to do something special if they were out outperform Fight of the Night candidates Chris Lytle vs Kevin Burns and Joe Stevenson vs Nate Diaz, which had already taken place earlier in the evening.
The first minute of this battle showed two warriors who were willing to throw bombs from the pocket at 100 m.p.h. with no regard for their own safety. Their mentality appeared to be "Hit me if you can, but I'm gonna hit you harder!"
This fight won Fight of the Year in 2009.
Dan Henderson vs Shogun Rua
I wish that the UFC hosted the entire fight for me to share with you, but this video includes some highlights from the battle. I'm sure that you'd rather watch highlights than look at a photo of Shogun and Dan Henderson with their fists ever-so-close to each other's chins.
The fight of the year in 2011 was an epic five-round journey that started with Rua on the verge of defeat and ended with Shogun breathing deeply in hopes of finishing a mounted Hendo as an exhausted pair of legends left it all in the cage.
Henderson left Strikeforce as the reigning light-heavyweight champion, and a test against Rua was exactly what he needed to show the world that he could compete with the best fights in the division. Meanwhile, Rua had just rebounded from a title loss by quickly dispatching of former champion Forrest Griffin at UFC 134 in Brazil.
In the end, Henderson would be awarded a narrow decision victory in a battle that many believe could have been a draw. The win and performance guaranteed Hendo a crack at UFC Light-Heavyweight champion Jon Jones, and the two will meet at UFC 151 on September 1, 2012.
Matt Hughes vs Frank Trigg II
When Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg did battle the first time, the champion was able to get the better of his opponent in a thrilling battle and secure a rear naked choke in the first round. The second time around, the result was the same, but the action was unforgettable to say the least.
The battle worked it's way to the ground after a striking exchange gave us an errant low blow that went unnoticed by the referee. It looked as if Hughes reign over the Welterweight division would come to an end, as Trigg latched onto a deep rear naked choke that should have signaled the end.
Somehow, Hughes would summon the strength of ten men to escape the choke before hoisting Trigg onto his shoulder. In one of the most memorable images in UFC history, Hughes ran across the cage and slammed his opponent into the far side. Not long after, the tides turned on Trigg, as Hughes would be the one to secure the RNC for the tapout win.
Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva
Originally scheduled to take place in November of 2006 as a battle between the champions of PRIDE and the UFC, Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva would not meet until 13 months later at UFC 79.
What once could have been the battle between reigning champions became a fight between two former champions who were both coming off of back-to-back losses. Although the glitz and glamour behind this match was lost, there was a lot of pride on the line.
Power punches were thrown around more frequently than [insert witty joke here] and neither man was willing to back down. The Ice Man scored big in the second round by opening up a cut on Silva, but the PRIDE star would win the round. After 15 minutes of action, the battle went to decision in favor of Liddell.
In one of the first battles that Dana White would publicly wish had been five rounds, Liddell pulled out a decision against The Axe Murderer in 2007's Fight of the Year. This fight also ranked No. 2 on the UFC's Top 100 Fights countdown.
Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar
Undoubtedly the most important fight in UFC history, Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar is the reason that the sport we love has become the fastest-growing sport in history.
After a season of entertaining battles on The Ultimate Fighter, fans were treated to a free card on Spike TV that was mostly watched by fans who were excited about a free fight from the legendary Ken Shamrock as he battled Rich Franklin in the main event.
Fans who tuned in early were treated to a spectacular battle of will between finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar. Both men left in all in the Octagon for a full 15 minutes of war.
The fight was ranked as the greatest fight of all time from fans, and due to it's place in our minds, will likely keep that title for all time due to it's fast-paced action, and the long-lasting impact it had on the sport as a whole.
Watch the entire fight from start to finish above.