5 most memorable trilogies in UFC history
Trilogies are rare in the UFC. Oftentimes, fighters don't face each other three separate times in the same sport.
Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira recently clashed at UFC 281 in a matchup that was billed as a trilogy bout between the two men. However, the first two times they faced each other was in a different sport.
They first locked horns as kickboxers before meeting each other for the third time in MMA. However, sometimes fighters not only face each other thrice in the same sport, but they do so in the same promotion as well. The UFC has had several trilogies throughout its history.
Some trilogies are better than others. The name value of the fighters involved and what those trilogies meant for the legacies of the fighters elevate their standing. With that taken into consideration, this list compiles five of the most memorable trilogies in the promotion's history.
#5. Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos
Long before Francis Ngannou was flattening 265'ers with seismic power punches, Junior dos Santos was the preeminent knockout artist of the heavyweight division. The Brazilian power-puncher embarked on a seven-fight win streak that culminated in a title fight with Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title.
At the time, Velasquez was an undefeated force who finished all nine of his opponents via TKO or KO. When the two finally clashed, 'JDS' needed only a minute to crush his foe with a well-timed overhand right. While the win was impressive, it was not a sign of things to come for the Brazilian.
At UFC 155, the two men crossed paths again. What ensued was one of the most brutal beatings in recent memory. Velasquez made dos Santos pay for constantly retreating in a straight line by swarming him. It was the first time a fighter in UFC history landed triple-digit significant strikes and double-digit takedowns.
The fight was so brutal that 'JDS' claims he can't remember what happened past the first round. By the end of the bout, his face was unrecognizable. After the bout, Cain Velasquez continued his dominant title defense run by TKO'ing Antônio 'Bigooft' Silva. Meanwhile, 'JDS' scored a highlight reel KO against Mark Hunt. The Brazilian landed a spinning hook kick, a rarity among heavyweights.
Fan interest in both fighters led to a third bout. Unfortunately for 'JDS', the trilogy fight went similarly to their previous bout. He was brutalized, and eventually TKO'd after he hit his head on the mat due to the damage he'd sustained during the fight.
#4. Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo
The UFC flyweight division isn't known for fielding the most interesting fights in the promotion. Throughout most of the division's existence, fans rarely paid attention. Even when Demetrious Johnson was exhibiting once-in-a-lifetime skills, he was largely treated as an afterthought.
However, the rise of Deiveson Figueiredo coincided sparked a new level of interest in the 125'ers. The Brazilian was a violent finisher capable of crushing his opponents in any way he wanted. He could submit them or knock them out. However, at UFC 256, he faced an opponent that he could do neither to.
Brandon Moreno emerged as a potential star due to his thrilling action style and likable demeanor. He and 'Deus da Guerra' fought in a high-paced affair that saw both fighters hurt. The Fight of the Night winner was declared a draw, and an immediate rematch was booked.
After realizing that he could absorb Figueiredo's punches, Moreno was more confident in the rematch. At UFC 263, he was immediately aggressive, scoring a knockdown en route to submitting his foe in the third round. While he was crowned the new UFC flyweight champion, a third matchup was immediately booked.
In their third bout, 'Figgy' recaptured his title in another Fight of the Night winner. This time, the fight was declared a unanimous decision in his favor after he scored three knockdowns. The level of excitement surrounding this matchup is such that a historic fourth bout. a first in promotional history, has been booked.
#3. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard
Frankie Edgar's trio of bouts with Gray Maynard is similar to Deiveson Figueiredo's three clashes with Brandon Moreno. The three bouts included a loss for 'The Answer', a draw, and an eventual win. Initial fan interest in the bouts was due to the undefeated record that both fighters sported.
Edgar was 9-0, while Maynard was 10-0. In their first bout, 'The Bully' used his greater size to outwrestle and bully his foe, no pun intended. Maynard captured a unanimous decision win, and the two did not cross paths for the next three years. Finally, at UFC 125, the pair fought each other in a rematch years in the making.
By then, 'The Answer' had amassed a five-fight win streak and captured the lightweight title. His only loss at the time had been to Maynard himself, and the rematch was his chance at revenge. Unfortunately, Edgar's long-awaited win over his rival didn't come.
He suffered several knockdowns early in the bout but did enough to secure a draw. A third bout was subsequently booked. In the trilogy bout, 'The Answer' got nearly finished early on but survived to KO his foe in the fourth round in an iconic comeback win.
#2. Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock
Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock never got along. They're from two different generations of fighters in terms of attitude. The first time these two crossed paths was after 'The Huntington Beach Bad Boy' defeated his future rival's teammate, Guy Mezger.
After defeating him, Ortiz mocked his opponent in the post-fight moments of the bout, incensing Shamrock. Years later, 'The Huntington Beach Bad Boy' became the promotion's 205 lbs champion, and Shamrock was keen to challenge him. The bout finally took place at UFC 40.
Fan interest in the fight was at a fever pitch. At the time, it was the biggest fight the UFC could have booked. Shamrock returned to the promotion after a six-year absence. Furthermore, the rivalry between the two men led to such sporting exposure for the UFC that it saved the promotion from financial ruin.
Ortiz emerged victorious, dominating his foe to such an extent that Shamrock's corner threw in the towel in the third round. The loss haunted the MMA pioneer, prompting him to demand a rematch, which eventually materialized at UFC 61. The rematch set a PPV record for the UFC at the time, with over 700,000 buys.
The second bout was another Ortiz win as he secured a takedown and landed ground-and-pound en route to a TKO win. Unfortunately, the win was decried as an early stoppage, and a trilogy bout was immediately booked. The third fight was another dominant win for 'The Huntington Beach Bad Boy'.
Shamrock was TKO'd in the first round and eventually confessed to having lost a step.
#1. Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes
Georges St-Pierre's trilogy with Matt Hughes will be etched forever in the UFC's history books. Their fights are widely viewed as the passing of the torch from a fighter previously recognized as the greatest 170'er of all time to his successor. The pair first locked horns at UFC 50.
At the time, the former NCAA Division I wrestler was already an MMA legend. He a former UFC welterweight champion and had defended his former title five times. At 36-4, he was a highly experienced veteran. Meanwhile, 'GSP' was an undefeated prospect with seven wins.
He was awestruck by his opponent and the occasion. So while he did well for most of their initial clash, he couldn't counter his idol's wrestling. 'GSP' surrendered to a first-round armbar and lost his first chance at capturing UFC gold.
However, after two years of rebuilding himself, St-Pierre earned his rematch.
At UFC 63, Matt Hughes defeated B.J. Penn, the only man to whom he had ever lost at the time. However, the fight was controversial as the Hawaiian won the first two rounds before a rib injury left him in no condition to defend himself in the third round. In Matt Hughes' post-fight interview, 'GSP' entered the octagon.
The moment has become part of MMA lore as the Canadian great expressed how unimpressed he was with his idol's performance. At UFC 65, their rematch took place, and 'GSP' was completely dominant, defeating Hughes via TKO in the second round.
A third bout took place after the Canadian great stepped in as a replacement for an injured Matt Serra. At UFC 79, the trilogy was completed after 'GSP' dominated his former idol again en route to another second-round finish, this time an armbar submission.