5 most controversial title fights in UFC history

Petr Yan throwing the infamous illegal knee
Petr Yan throwing the infamous illegal knee
David Barry Gear

When it comes to UFC championship fights, anything can happen. There have been many legendary title fights, where a fighter’s championship performance has led to superstardom.

However, not all UFC title fights end with a clear winner.

From close-fought split decisions, to stoppages and disqualifications, let’s take a look at the five most controversial title fights in UFC history.

#5 UFC 150 - Benson Henderson vs Frankie Edgar 2

Henderson vs Edgar 2
Henderson vs Edgar 2

Benson Henderson's lightweight title reign was famous for its controversial judging decisions. Both his fights with Frankie Edgar could have gone either way.

Bendo won the UFC lightweight championship when he defeated Edgar via unanimous decision at UFC 144. The bout was very close so an immediate rematch was set to headline UFC 150 in August 2012.

The second fight proved to be even closer than the first.

Edgar landed slightly more significant strikes 66 v 64. The Answer was also able to secure two takedowns, leading to over three minutes of control time on the ground. while the champion Henderson only attempted one unsuccessful takedown.

Despite these stats, the defending champion Henderson was awarded the split decision to retain his title.

At MMA Decisions, five out of six media members scored the fight for the former champ, Frankie Edgar.

#4 UFC 195 - Robbie Lawler vs Carlos Condit

Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit
Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit

The first PPV of 2016, UFC 195, ended with a controversial main event title fight. UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler was matched against dangerous challenger Carlos Condit.

Condit started strong, dropping the champion in round one. Lawler came back in the second round, dropping the challenger with a huge right hand. The third and fourth rounds were super close, Condit throwing more strikes while Lawler landed the more damaging blows.

In the fifth round, Lawler waited until the final 90 seconds of the bout to go for broke. In classic Lawler fashion, he threw vicious combos to Condit’s head with the challenger showing off a granite chin to survive this flurry.

The Natural Born Killer Condit landed 176 significant strikes to Lawler’s 92. However, the judges scored the fight for Lawler via a split decision.

At MMA Decisions, 14/19 media members scored the bout for Condit, with two scoring it a draw.

The fight, while controversial, is one of the greatest welterweight title fights in UFC history.


#3 UFC 46 - Randy Couture vs Vitor Belfort

Belfort vs Couture
Belfort vs Couture

The rematch between UFC light heavyweight champion Randy Couture and Vitor Belfort took place at UFC 46, in January 2004.

The American Couture had upset the previously unbeaten Brazilian phenom Belfort seven years earlier at UFC 15 in 1997.

The title bout lasted only 49 seconds after Belfort landed a glancing blow to Couture’s eye. The seemingly harmless strike caused a cut to the champion’s eye, and the cage-side doctor stopped the bout despite Couture’s protests.

Couture would avenge the loss at UFC 49, beating Befort by TKO in the third round, to reclaim his light heavyweight title.


#2 UFC 167 - Georges St-Pierre vs Johny Hendricks

GSP vs Johny Hendricks
GSP vs Johny Hendricks

UFC 167 in November 2013 played host to one of the most controversial title fights in UFC history. Longtime welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre took on number one contender Johny Hendricks in the main event on the card.

GSP started the fight well but he was badly hurt by Hendricks in the second round and battered in the following rounds.

Hendricks landed 142 total strikes compared to 125 by GSP while St-Pierre managed three takedowns to the challengers' two.

At MMA Decisions, 16/16 media members scored the fight for Hendricks.

GSP would 'step away' from the UFC after the bout and Hendricks would go on to win the UFC welterweight title at UFC 171.


#1 UFC 259 - Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling

UFC 259 Yan v Sterling: Weigh-Ins
UFC 259 Yan v Sterling: Weigh-Ins

The bantamweight title fight at UFC 259 between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling ended in controversial circumstances. It was the first time in UFC history that a championship changed hands due to a disqualification.

The fight started with challenger Sterling pushing an insane pace, throwing dozens of strikes over the first two rounds. The champion Yan successfully managed to survive the early onslaught and began to dominate the fight in round three.

In round four, Yan was picking Sterling apart before he made a costly error and threw an illegal knee to the grounded challenger. Sterling was unable to continue and was awarded the UFC bantamweight championship via DQ.

Edited by James McGlade


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