We’re hot off the heels of an amazing UFC 205 event that featured Conor McGregor making history as he became the first man to ever hold two titles in different weight divisions at the same time. UFC and all of MMA has continued to grow over the last number of years and the rise is amazing to see.
UFC sold for over four billion dollars this past summer, proving that the future is bright for the sport of MMA and the UFC in general. However, the sport has been great for years and it took amazing fights to get them to the success they are at right now.
There have been several cases when top contenders give us the battle we want to see, but the fun is when fighters unexpectedly give a great performance to bring them up a peg. That is what makes this sport so special. There are no unbeatable people anymore it seems, which means that any man or woman can go down at any time to any person.
15. Eddie Alvarez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri – Dream 5
People forget that UFC is not the only MMA promotion in the world. Just like the WWE, while they may be ahead in what they do, they’re not the only ones who do it. You’ll find that some of the best fights occurred over in Japan.
In 2008, Eddie Alvarez took on Tatsuya Kawajiri in a bout that you need to watch. It was a huge back and forth battle with both Eddie and Tatsuya going down during the fight. It was a complete brawl with strikes flowing heavily. This may very well be the match that helped put Eddie on the map.
14. Gilbert Melendez vs Josh Thomson III – Strikeforce 2012
Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson have a storied rivalry in Strikeforce and may be credited at least in part to the company’s success. The two went back and forth in two fights with Josh winning the first bout and Gilbert winning the next. The Srikeforce Lightweight Championship was swapping back and forth and it made sense that a third fight had to occur.
13. Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz – UFC 205
UFC 205 literally just came to a close, and it certainly gave us one fight to talk about for this list. UFC Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk took on fellow Polish fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz at the event for the title, and on paper it seemed like it would be another easy fight for Joanna.
Going in, most thought Joanna was the most dominant champion in the UFC today. It was a tough mark, but she has been proving it left and right. She and Karolina have a history dating back to their Polish days when Joanna beat Karolina in an amateur fight. Obviously with Joanna being undefeated in the UFC, it seemed like bringing in someone who came up like her would be ideal…and it surely was.
Karolina gave Joanna perhaps her toughest test to date. She almost knocked out the champion and put a hurting on the face of Joanna like the latter had never seen before. Joanna would end up winning the fight, but after one heck of an attempt by Karolina who was cheered heavily by the New York crowd at Madison Square Garden. Karolina and Joanna may very well fight again some day soon and no one will be upset about that.
12. Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley – Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley
I know what you’re thinking. Some of these fights went to five rounds already and they were amazing from beginning to end. I understand your issue. However, this fight was kind of a big deal. Nick Diaz had been proving that he was one of the best fighters in the world at his size…then along came Paul Daley who said he was the best.
Both Diaz brothers are epic trash talkers who simply love to tell you how they feel. Nate is seen a lot today, but brother Nick was by no means less popular. In the cage, they would destroy guys at times. Nick needed to prove himself as a champion and had to go through Daley to do that. So he brawled in the first round with him as if he had no need for the other four rounds.
He pushed the limits and managed to brawl with Daley heavily until they finally were getting close to the end of round one. Diaz would then manage to get an epic KO victory out of nowhere to shock everyone and make history with his third title defense in Strikeforce. It was kind of awesome.
11. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko Filipovic – Pride Final Conflict 2005
Back in the early to mid-2000’s, there was perhaps no better heavyweight fighter in the world than Fedor Emelianenko. While he wasn’t fighting in the UFC at the time, he was everywhere else one could be. There was a need to give him bigger fights and that allowed for Pride FC to give us Mirko Filipovic (Cro Cop).
Many thought that Mirko was more than capable of dethroning Fedor to become the Pride FC Heavyweight Champion, putting an end to his win streak back in 2005. He certainly attempted to take out the champ as Mirko stood up and delivered more than one major blow to Fedor.
The two would go the full three rounds in Pride and the winner ended up being Fedor, but not after one heck of a fight and major brawl. It is one of the best heavyweight fights of all time, and that is mostly due to how fun the fight was from start to finish.
10. Maurício “Shogun” Rua vs Antonio Rogério Nogueira – Pride Critical Countdown 2005
A lot of our favorites were just getting started in the early 2000s, two being Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Both battled at Pride Critical Countdown 2005 in one heck of a brawl.
The two would end up going the distance after literally beating the living hell out of the other. Shogun would catch Nogueira a number of times whether on the ground or standing up with vicious strikes. Meanwhile, Shogun ate a few himself.
9. Antonio Bigfoot Silva vs. Mark Hunt – UFC Fight Night 33
You want to talk about a blood bath? We knew going into this fight that both men liked to throw some hard punches and neither were willing to give up. They both could eat punches and come back again and again and again.
Hunt has always been seen as a top ten heavyweight as had Silva. So when both clashed, it was as if two punching titans came together. Hunt even broke his hand in the bout. Seriously, that is how hard these two hit each other. Just watch the fight to see what we’re talking about here. It is literally like seeing two sharks fight with both smelling blood and wanting more.
8. Nick Diaz vs Takanori Gomi – Pride 33: Second Coming
When you have a Diaz involved in a fight, you have a whole lot of punching, kicking, and pretty much anything allowed in the street that they may also allow in a sanctioned event. Nick Diaz, like his brother Nate, will be more than happy to go into a war with you any day.
At the time, Takanori Gomi was relatively new to Pride while Diaz had been around a bit. He wanted to prove he belonged and going through Nick was a good way to do that. He and Nick put on one heck of a battle. At one point, it seemed Gomi was out on his feet taking punch and kick and punch and kick. Yet he was still swinging, hoping to hit something in the area code.
The following round saw him get ahead and land bombs on Diaz, doing so much damage that one would assume the ref would stop the fight. Finally he got tired of waiting and went hard after Diaz, but Nick found a way out of trouble and managed to land a submission of Gomi, to see him tap out within 10 seconds of putting it in fully. It was a great brawl that ended wonderfully, like most Nick Diaz fights tend to do.
7. Cain Velasquez vs Antonio Silva – UFC 146
So about that Mark Hunt vs Antonio Silva fight from earlier….yeah this one might be bloodier. This wasn’t so much for Cain Velasquez however, as he pretty much did everything one could do to get ahead in the fight and landed critical strikes throughout.
No one thought Bigfoot would end up going down the way he did to Cain, but obviously Cain was a young lion who was proving he was the best heavyweight at the time. He certainly made a case for it in this match. While it was mostly bloody and Cain did dominate, Silva certainly put up a worthy fight in this brawl.
6. Robbie Lawler vs Johny Hendricks – UFC 171
Robbie Lawler has always been seen as one the most fun fighters in the UFC, considering his fights are always dramatic. He brawls like few others can and each fight he has makes you want to see him again.
One of the best representations of that is probably his fight, where he lost, against Johny Hendricks. Hendricks is a very good fighter in his own right, but many seemed to expect Robby to win and looking back on it, he probably should have if he did a few different things.
5. Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – UFC 139
This is not the first time on the list for Shogun, the man simply has no ability to give us a bad fight. He was one of the best in his time and his match-up with Dan Henderson proved how good he was while also establishing Henderson as a great fighter who could take numerous punches despite his age and still deliver on any stage at any time.
The elder statesmen in Henderson would win the fight when it went to the judges, and it would prove to us that age was only a number and if Dan could do it…others could follow at older ages. Rua is still considered an all-time great, and he also delivered well here. Henderson just got the win on this night.
4. Jose Aldo vs Chad Mendes – UFC 179
Let’s be honest, you don’t get a more complete fighter than Jose Aldo. The man can do almost anything you could want as a fighter and yet he’s yet to get his true rematch against Conor McGregor for the UFC featherweight title. Regardless, he had to prove how good he was for years before becoming one of the better competitors in the world.
Enter his match with Chad Mendes that was considered the fight of the year for 2014. Both men went all out to determine who was the best featherweight in the world. Aldo took it to Mendes and Mendes took it to Aldo. Both men would brawl like no other.
They showed us that the true fun was not in the heavyweight division anymore, but in the smaller guys. Aldo was a stud in that time and remains one. Mendes is still considered one of the best fighters in his division, too. Most fans wouldn’t mind seeing these two fight as often as possible.
3. Robbie Lawler vs Carlos Condit – UFC 195
To start off 2016, the UFC gave us an amazing classic with two great welterweight fighters in Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit. Carlos had proven for some time that he was one of the best in the division and clearly deserved a fight for the title against Lawler.
Lawler would go forth with it and literally go nuts against each other. Robbie has been known for his impressive distance fights with various men, but this one was something special and truly made everyone try harder to beat them out for the fight of the year this year.
What makes this so special is that people are still saying that Carlos should have beaten Robby as the judges declared Lawler the winner at the end of the bout. The best fights are the ones where people disagree with the outcome. That means we’ll want to see it again to get the true answer and often times that means money for the promotion. These two equal that in spades.
2. Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson – UFC 165
Oddly enough, Jon Jones was not seen as some unbeatable monster of a fighter. Many thought he was a beatable man and there was none better to prove that than Alexander Gustafsson. Jones seemed to always win out in fights due to his impressive reach, size, speed, strength, striking, and wrestling ability. The man is as complete as they come and considered by many to still be the pound for pound best fighter in MMA.
However, Alexander was proving how good he was at the time and wanted to prove to the world that Jones was beatable and he was the man to do it. He had everything that Jones had, with only the lack of championship experience to compare. Jones and Alex went to war at UFC 165 and brawled as much as one could.
Considered to be one of the best fights of both men’s careers, Jones would end up the victor but not after having to survive at times against Alexander. If there is a fight you should watch soon with bigger competitors to give you hope for the bigger male divisions, it is this one.
1. Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald – UFC 189
When the latest UFC game opens up with people having to play as you to start the game because of how iconic and awesome your fight is…I think that makes you pretty legendary. Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald went to war and decided to literally go at each other the entire time.
They would go round for round and punch for punch without any desire to stop until the other man went down by knockout. It was awesome to watch these two because they were willing to give the fans what they wanted – a brawl like no other.
If there is a fight that you must watch, like, right now…it’s Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald from UFC 189.