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20 GREATEST FIGHTS IN THE UFC FROM EACH OF THE LAST 20 YEARS (BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY UFC POST!)

Really late but it took a while to do research on the fights and videos. I picked the fights I thought had a great story behind it, not just how much each fighter bled or how how action-packed a fight was – although the entertainment value and lasting impact were my top two categories. Here we go!

2013: Jon “Bones” Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 165)

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Edges out Gilbert Melendez vs Diego Sanchez and Wanderlei Silva vs Brian Stann for the moment it showed the champion’s vulnerability and resilient comeback; this was a very controversial contest but marked what could be the start of the greatest trilogy in MMA history.

2012: Joe Lauzon vs Jamie Varner (UFC on Fox 4)

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Post-fight bonus legend Joe Lauzon outlasted Jamie Varner in a World War III style gritty MMA fight. A lot of fights in the octagon are technical affairs but this was a straight up WAR. Lauzon and Varner may never win a UFC title but this fight ensures they have a place somewhere in UFC legend.

2011: Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard II (UFC 125)

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Gets the nod over Dan Henderson vs Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139 for the revelation of the heart of Frankie “The Answer” Edgar; a big size difference saw Frankie make a gutsy comeback against  then-undefeated Gray Maynard to retain his title.

2010: Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen (UFC 117)

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Undisputed champion, Anderson Silva would get the fight of his life against then-unknown Chael Sonnen. Silva would pull off a miraculous comeback late in the last round, submitting Sonnen after being controlled the whole fight. This match added to the Spider’s legend and gave rise to the “American Gangster” Chael Sonnen.

2009: Diego Sanchez vs Clay Guida (The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale)

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From the start of the bell to last minute, this fight was a complete war! Right off the ring of the bell, Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida engaged in gratuitous but glorious war that saw a razor-thin decision win to crazy Diego “The Dream” Sanchez.

2008: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs Forrest Griffin (UFC 86)

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The peak of Forrest Griffin’s Cinderella run with the UFC. A major underdog to Pride legend, Rampage, Forrest would win a close five-round fight to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. It would mark the first time a The Ultimate Fighter winner would win a UFC championship.

2007: Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva (UFC 79)

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This year marked the year two legendary (but fading away) MMA fighters went in an all-out brawl. Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva brought a combined 37 knockout wins to this fight but it was the guts and heart of both men that shined best in this classic.

2006: Georges St. Pierre vs B.J. Penn I (UFC 58)

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In what would be one of the most controversial fights in UFC history, a resilient GSP would outlast a vicious assault from B.J. Penn to win a title shot against Matt Hughes. In a rematch a few years later, GSP would put doubters to rest by soundly beating the Prodigy.

2005: Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar I (The Ultimate Fighter Finale)

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The fight that put the UFC on the map; not the best fight in technical terms but if you want to see a legitimate contest with two guys beating each other this is the fight for you. As such every UFC fan should have at least seen this fight. Call it a tribute or homage.

2004: Karo Parisyan vs Nick Diaz (UFC 49)

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In a stacked UFC 49 card, young phenoms Karo Parisyan and Nick Diaz stole the show and put on a brilliant display of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Parisyan would come out with a close split decision victory but there were there no real losers in this epic contest.

2003: Randy Couture vs Chuck Liddell I (UFC 43)

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In what would be the first meeting between two UFC legends, Randy Couture would hand Chuck Liddell his first career TKO loss. Couture would also become the first man in UFC history to win two world titles in separate divisions and further establish his stake to one of the company’s greatest fighters.

2002: Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock (UFC 40)

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This fight and PPV marked a turning point for the company as the buyrate was four times larger than any other show. Though a somewhat lopsided affair for Ortiz, the crazy atmosphere and intense rivalry fueled what would’ve been one of the most significant fights in company history.

2001: Carlos Newton vs Matt Hughes I (UFC 34)

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The night Matt Hughes became a UFC legend. The wrestler was a relative unknown coming into this fight and found himself in a grappling war with then-champion and BJJ specialist, Carlos Newton. Mid round 3, Hughes is caught with a triangle choke but just before passing out, slams Newton to win the title in what would stand as one of the most iconic finishes in UFC history.

2000: Tito Ortiz vs Wanderlei Silva (UFC 25: Ultimate Japan 3)

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Go ahead and accuse me of Tito Ortiz bias but Tito Ortiz does what most fans expect in a fight: he WARS. In this particular bout, he takes his brawling talents across the Pacific and meets equally violent Wanderlei Silva in an epic clash for the UFC Light Heavyweight title. Tito would prevail.

1999: Frank Shamrock vs Tito Ortiz (UFC 22)

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One of the greatest comebacks in UFC history; defending Light Heavyweight Champion, Frank Shamrock gets manhandled by the bigger Tito Ortiz for most of the fight then mounts an improbable comeback and TKO’s Ortiz just seconds before the end of round 4. It would be Frank’s last fight with the UFC. It would also be his best.

1998: Dan Henderson vs Carlos Newton (UFC 17)

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The first appearance of future champions Dan Henderson and Carlos Newton would be a memorable one as the two would engage in an all-out brawl with Hendo claiming victory by decision.

1997: Randy Couture vs Vitor Belfort (UFC 15)

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One of the first “superfights” in the UFC, “The Natural” Randy Couture would upset then-undefeated Brazilian terror, Vitor Belfort. Couture would use his strong wrestling to nullify Belfort and finish him with strikes.  This also marked the first UFC with its current limitations on permissible striking areas.

1996: Mark Coleman vs Don Frye (UFC 10)

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Not the most exciting bout by today’s standards but at that time it showcased two powerhouse heavyweights. Mark Coleman would make the most of his UFC debut, beating fan favourite Don Frye with vicious ground and pound and wrestling to win. Bruce Buffer also made his debut at this event.

1995: Oleg Taktarov vs Marco Ruas (Ultimate Ultimate 1995)

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A classic not a lot of fans know about but should watch! UFC 7 champion and Vale Tudo phenom Marco Ruas would be taken to war by the Russian guy from Predators Sambo and Judo expert, Oleg Taktarov. Taktarov would win an entertaining scrap that might’ve yielded different results with today’s judging.

1994: Royce Gracie vs Dan Severn (UFC 6)

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In what is my “Really Boring Fight That Ended Really Awesome” fight, Royce Gracie shows the world that size doesn’t matter after he chokes out Dan Severn, who was a good three weight classes above him. This match is another reminder why BJJ is so widely studied and how even the smaller man can win.

1993: UFC 1

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Quite obvious. Pay your respects!

14 EXPECTATIONS FOR THE MMA WORLD IN 2014

14. UFC and MMA in general will “struggle” with TV ratings and PPV buys continue to decline or holding steady

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The loss of the two biggest stars in the MMA world in Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva coupled with injuries to other stars (Cain Velasquez, Anthony Pettis) and the increasing number of UFC events could mean even more oversaturation of MMA.   

13. All current UFC Champions will retain their titles in 2014

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Ronda Rousey is indomitable. Jon “Bones” Jones will reign supreme. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson only keeps getting better. And Chris Weidman is only going to build on his back-to-back mauling of Anderson Silva. I don’t see any current UFC champions dropping their belts in 2014.

12. Jessica Penne and Michelle Waterson wage war in a rematch for the Invicta Atomweight Title with Penne regaining the title in what will be the best women’s fight outside the UFC

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The Penne and Waterson title fight early in 2013 was an underrated classic. When the two meet again in the inevitable rematch, they’ll put on another classic that will have talking heads look to recognized female atomweights for the UFC.

11. Ben Askren dominates One FC going undefeated in 2014 and finishing all opponents and strengthens his status as the “Best Fighter outside the UFC”

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He almost contemplated retirement after briefly being unemployed but the wrestling star is back. Askren will take advantage of the relatively unknown division and dominate every opponent he faces until One FC can sign a higher-level talent.

10. B.J. Penn finally retires after suffering his fifth loss in seven games and third consecutive loss to Frankie Edgar

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B.J. Penn will make an emphatic return to the UFC scene on The Ultimate Fighter 19 and he’ll make more noise inside the octagon against Frankie “The Truth” Edgar. But it won’t be enough as he’ll lose a close decision to which he will then announce his retirement to the applause and admiration of millions.

9. UFC continues aggressive international expansion focusing on Asia: Mainland China and Southeast Asia particularly

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With the UFC’s debut in Singapore, the rest of Asia may soon follow. Events in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Mainland China may happen. Outside Asia, Mexico’s a strong possibility.

8. Tecia Torres wins the The Ultimate Fighter 20 and the UFC’s Inaugural Women’s Strawweight Title narrowly defeating Barb Honchak in the Finals

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Carla Esparza and Joanne Calderwood seem like popular choices to win TUF 20 but I think it’s the “Tiny Tornado” Tecia Torres who’ll be winning it all despite being the smallest fighter making for one of the better underdog stories this year.

7. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson becomes the UFC’s main breakout star

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Mighty Mouse was the only UFC champion to go 3-0 in 2013 and punctuated it with a huge knockout as an answer to critics of his stopping power. He’s looked better as he keeps fighting and the world will put the flyweights on the grid for good.

6. Michael Chandler recaptures Bellator Lightweight Title from Eddie Alvarez in conclusion to trilogy and main event to Bellator’s first PPV

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Chandler and Alvarez will go at it for the third time and will put on another amazing fight. Chandler will outlast his rival in a close decision to reclaim the belt as they headline Bellator’s first PPV.

5. GSP, Brock Lesnar and Nick Diaz do NOT return to the UFC or MMA

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They will make more buzz than most active fighters in 2014 thanks to social media and endless “rumour” talks but none of GSP, Brock Lesnar or Nick Diaz will be making a comeback to the octagon for this year.

4. No “Superfights”

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Talk of a Jose Aldo vs Anthony Pettis fight or the Anderson Silva vs Roy Jones fight will flood the Internet but neither will actually transpire. Aldo and Pettis have to defend their titles and are injury prone. Silva will return to action but against a fellow mixed martial artist, not a boxer.

3. Ronda Rousey defends belt three times in 2014 and talks of retirement resurface

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Rousey’s toughest test in 2014 is Sara McMann but after she overcomes her she’ll continue to dominate the division while having a part-time gig in Hollywood. The dreaded “R” word will come up again as many could say she doesn’t have anything left to prove.

2. Anderson Silva returns with a vengeance; finishes non-title opponent in emphatic fashion

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Anderson Silva will make his comeback of the year in the form of a huge knockout or submission. News of his demise would be greatly exaggerated as Spider will prove he’s still a force to be reckoned with.

1. Jon “Bones” Jones becomes the UFC’s P4P King and PPV King

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With GSP gone and Anderson Silva done for most of the year, it’ll be Jon “Bones” Jones who’ll headline the most top-selling UFC PPVs especially if and when that rematch with Alex Gustafsson transpires. He’ll also solidify his spot as the UFC’s #1 P4P king.

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Light Heavyweight Championship: Jon Jones (C) vs Alexander Gustafsson (#1)

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I’m wholly aware the UFC likes to angle on The Mauler’s size “advantage” over Jon Jones yet doesn’t mention how his 76 inch reach is still dwarfed by Bones supernatural 84 inch reach advantage. Only 7 footer Stefan Struve from the Heavyweight division ties Jon Jones’s reach. Everyone else has shorter reach. But this won’t even be a focal point in the fight between both these two goliaths.

Gustafsson, while being a worthy contender, has bullied his way into a title shot by using his size over his smaller opponents. His last fight against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua saw him practically manhandle the former Light Heavyweight Champion. He’s done the same to Thiago Silva and has either knocked out or submitted all the rest with one glaring exception: Phil Davis, who used his superior grappling and wrestling to give the big Swede his only career loss. But it’s a loss that is a foreshadowing to his fight with Bones.

Gustafsson has improved his overall game but Jon Jones is the faster, longer, bigger and superior version of Phil Davis. Jones is a fighter on his own level – he is virtually undefeated (only loss came via DQ) and has never looked close to being in danger of losing. Seemingly, the only new “weapon” Gustafsson brings that Jones hasn’t met yet is his size and the fact he wasn’t a former light heavyweight champion or title contender but a hot young prospect just as hungry if not hungrier than the champ.

While I dream of an upset of colossal proportions, I can’t picture a scenario outside of Gustafsson catching Jones with a punch to put him out that would favour him. Bones just has him beat on every level – striking, grappling, wrestling and athleticism. This fight will go as far as Jones wants it to and it won’t reach the championship rounds.

Conclusion: Jones via round 2 submission

Interim Bantamweight Championship: Renan Barao (IC) vs Eddie Wineland (#4)

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I feel the need to promote Eddie Wineland. He is truly the “workman’s fighter” as he suggested paving a humble but solid MMA career that has seen him beat the likes of Brad Pickett, George Roop and Scott Jorgensen. Wineland’s a tough nut and hasn’t been knocked out in 29 fights (his single TKO loss was due to injury). He’ll bring the fight to Barao and go for the knockout.

Barao on the other hand is just on another level and I feel he’s on a class of his own  similar to Jones in the light heavyweight division. Barao has also never lost since dropping his first professional MMA fight way back in 2005. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert (who also trains with Featherweight Champ, Jose Aldo) has won almost half his fights via submission (14) and the decisions he won were barely close. His speed, technique and poise are just phenomenal.

Wineland is going to give Barao a big fight similar to fellow brawlers Pickett and Michael McDonald but he’s just not on his level. He will ultimately succumb to Barao’s advanced grappling within the first three rounds.

Conclusion: Barao via round 2 submission

Heavyweight Bout: Brendan Schaub vs Matt Mitrione

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Let’s call this right away: Mitrione by first round knockout. I like Schaub a lot better and he’s on a good winning streak but his three most recent losses (all by KO) suggests he can’t take hits as well as he can dish them. Add the fact Meathead is a one of those prototypical top-heavy fighters with heavy fists and this fight is big trouble for Schaub.

Schaub can win if he fights smart and keeps his distance from Mitrione, “out-pointing” him because he is the faster of the two but Mitrione is tougher. This fight may end up mimicking the Vera-Rothwell fight one PPV ago where Vera outstruck Rothwell for the majority of the fight but eventually let Rothwell get too close and score the big knockout. I don’t see this fight lasting all three rounds and I see Schaub hitting the mat in a heap within round 1 or 2.

Conclusion: Mitrione via round 1 KO

Middleweight Bout: Costa Philippou (#7) vs Francis Carmont

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I don’t know too much about fighters and it’s because neither one has really had a fight that’s been memorable. Costa’s biggest win came against Tim Boetsch a few months ago, utterly dominating him and finishing him in round 3. Carmont on the other hand has been on the better end of controversial decisions most recently against Lorenz Larkin, a fight that saw him fail at multiple takedown attempts and get kicked around.

My heart suggests Philippou, who appears to have more knockout power of the two, will finish off Carmont once he finds his striking range but the rangier Carmont  has the better grappling game and is tenacious with his takedown attempts. Having GSP at his side is also an “intangible” that’s clearly worked in his past fights.

Conclusion: Carmont via split decision

Lightweight Bout: Pat Healy (#10) vs Khabib Nurmagomedov

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I’m tempted to buy into Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov’s hype. He’s undefeated and has absolutely manhandled the four fighters he’s faced in the UFC. He’s the type of fighter as Dana loves to say, “wrestle f*cks” you to oblivion with his triple threat background of sambo, judo and wrestling. Scoring a big win over Healy would vault him up the lightweight rankings and a title shot would be within striking distance.

Healy on the other hand is one of MMA’s more underrated fighters. His “grind you to death” style of wrestling/fighting is not too unlike Nurmagomedov and while he doesn’t have the Eagle’s pedigree he has twice the experience (46 fights versus 20) and has even fought at welterweight beating the likes of Paul Daley and Dan Hardy. Since moving to lightweight, Healy has gone 8-1-1 with his NC decision being an original Submission of the Night win over the gritty Jim Miller. Healy’s only loss came to Josh “The Punk” Thomson, who is now fighting Anthony Pettis for the lightweight title.

The Eagle has a bright future in the UFC and is one of the better prospects but he hasn’t fought an opponent of Healy’s caliber and experience and “Bam Bam” rises up to usually overcome his underdog status. Chalk another big win for Healy.

Conclusion: Healy via unanimous decision