UFC 261 this weekend will be the eighth time a UFC event has been headlined by three championship fights. The history of these events is mixed, with some being historic and unforgettable while others were disastrous for the UFC (hint - UFC 33).
From title changes and controversial disqualifications to history-making moments, here are the 5 most memorable UFC events headlined by three title fights.
#5 UFC 245 - December 2019
One of the greatest UFC welterweight championship fights in history took place at UFC 245 in Las Vegas. Defending champion Kamaru Usman faced bitter rival and number one contender, Colby Covington, in the main event.
The two wrestlers somewhat surprisingly slugged it out on their feet for five rounds. The fight was very razor-close entering the final round. The Nigerian Nightmare was able to land a powerful hook that dropped Covington. Usman then followed up with vicious ground strikes to stop the challenger with less than a minute left in the fight.
The co-main event featured a UFC men’s featherweight title fight between Max Holloway and Alex Volkanovski. The challenger Volkanovski came out fast with leg kicks. He continued to throw more strikes and combos throughout the fight with Holloway struggling to solve the Australian’s puzzle. All three judges scored the fight for the new featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.
In the third title bout, Women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes defended her belt against Germaine De Randamie. In a rematch of their 2013 matchup, the Brazilian used her superior ground game to win a relatively boring unanimous decision.
#4 UFC 214 - July 2017
One of the greatest and most controversial UFC fighters, Jon Jones, returned to action at UFC 214 in Anaheim, California.
After being banned for a year by USADA due to drug failure before UFC 200, Jones was finally cleared for a rematch with his fierce rival UFC light heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier. The highly-anticipated return bout did not disappoint.
The opening rounds were contested at a hectic pace, with both Jones and DC landing big blows against each other. The turning point of the fight came midway through the third round. Jones landed a massive head kick to Cormier that had him staggering against the cage. The challenger followed up with some brutal ground and pound to knock DC out cold.
Unfortunately, just days after the fight Jones once again tested positive for a banned substance and the fight result was changed to a no contest.
UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley faced Demain Maia in the co-main event. The American hurt Maia badly in the first round with a big straight left hand but tore his labrum in the process. He was able to survive by easily avoiding the challenger’s takedowns and won a unanimous decision.
Cris Cyborg defended her featherweight belt against late replacement Tonya Evinger. The challenger showed her heart by surviving the first two rounds, but the ref had seen enough by the third round, stopping the action.
#3 UFC 259 - March 2021
The light heavyweight, women’s featherweight and men’s bantamweight titles were on the line at UFC 259 in Las Vegas.
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya was attempting to become the fifth UFC ‘champ-champ’, by challenging light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
The legendary Polish Power proved to be too much for the Kiwi to overcome. Blachowicz used his grappling and size advantage by securing takedowns in the fourth and fifth rounds to seal the unanimous decision victory. It was the first loss of Adesanya’s MMA career.
In the co-main event, UFC featherweight champion Amanda Nunes once again showed why she’s the greatest women’s fighter of all time. It took her just two minutes to submit her overmatched challenger Megan Anderson.
The most memorable fight of the event was the UFC bantamweight champion bout between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling. The challenger came out all guns blazing but started to fade in the third round. Yan had taken control of the bout entering the fourth round and looked like he was set to retain his title.
Unfortunately, Yan had a brain explosion midway through the fourth round, throwing a blatantly illegal knee to Sterling and the fight was stopped. UFC history was made as Sterling became the first champion to win a title via DQ.
#2 UFC 217 - November 2017
The world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden in New York City, was the setting for UFC 217. It proved to be a fitting venue for an epic pay-per-view.
MMA legend Georges St-Pierre was attempting to make history by becoming a two-division UFC champion. The French-Canadian challenged UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping in the main event.
Despite being the smaller fighter, GSP was able to drop Bisping in the third round, then apply a rear-naked choke to submit the champion. It proved to be GSP’s last fight in the UFC and was a dream moment to retire on.
A long-running rivalry was finally settled in the octagon when UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt took on TJ Dillashaw. The former training partners brought their heated feud into the cage.
The champion was able to drop the challenger Dillashaw late in round one but TJ recovered to knock Grabrandt out in the second round to win the championship.
The third title fight resulted in a massive upset. UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk was heavily favored to beat Rose Namajunas. However, the American challenger shocked the world, and Daniel Cormier in the commentary booth, by knocking out the Polish champion in the first round.
Thug Rose would go on to beat Joanna again in their rematch at UFC 223.
#1 UFC 205 - November 2016
UFC 205 was the crowning achievement for The Notorious Conor McGregor. The charismatic Irishman became the King of New York after the main event in Madison Square Garden.
The UFC featherweight champion was attempting to become the first-ever fighter to hold two UFC championships at the same time. He faced UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and put on a performance for the ages.
McGregor systematically picked Alvarez apart with crisp, powerful boxing, knocking him out in the second round to make history. The main event of what Dana White called “The biggest fight card in UFC history” was a show stopper.
In the co-main event, UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley was matched up against Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson. The evenly contested bout won the ‘Fight of the Night’ award. Both fighters had their moments but the champion Woodley inflicted more damage. The judges couldn’t split the two and the fight was a majority draw.
UFC strawweight champion, Joanna Jędrzejczyk took on fellow Polish countrywoman Karolina Kowalkiewicz. JJ was at the height of her power on this night and put on a striking clinic against Kowalkiewicz. She won via unanimous decision to defend her belt for the fourth time.