5 most significant fights in the history of the UFC
- Not all fights are created equal and some fights have far larger implications than others.
- We take a look at five fights which had serious implications and changed the course of the UFC.
Not all fights are created equal. Some fights have far larger implications than others and these fights don't even have to involve titles changing hands necessarily. Some fights are such that they have molded and marked significant shifts for the sport into a new era. These are fights that brought about key changes that would have a long-lasting impact on the sport of mixed martial arts and its premier company, the UFC. Today we take a look at five bouts which meant so much more than wins and losses and changed the very face of UFC and were key in its development to become the $4.2 billion company it is today:-
5) Ronda Rousey vs Liz Carmouche
By 2013, Dana White had softened on his stance that "you would never see women in the UFC" as he found about Rousey. She was an undefeated phenom who also doubled down as a charismatic and bonafide star in the making. UFC was so invested in her abilities that they crowned her champion of the only women's division at the time even before she had stepped a foot into the octagon.
Liz Carmouche was a heavy underdog for this one but put up a valiant effort as she almost finished Ronda with a head crank. "Rowdy" was able to weather the storm though and secured her signature armbar win within the first round. The explosion in talent and interest in women's division that followed Ronda's rise makes this a pivotal fight in UFC's history.
4) Chuck Liddell vs Randy Couture 2
When ZUFFA bought the UFC in 2001, they knew that they had bought a company that had been suffering financially and that the sport itself was in dire straits. By the time UFC 52 had rolled around in the year of 2005, the UFC was losing more money than it was making and the Fertitta brothers, who had invested so much in the company had just about reached their limits. Luckily, one week before this pay-per-view the TUF 1 finale sparked a wave of new fans and interest in the product.
Aligning UFC 52 a week after Ultimate Finale with coaches of TUF, Chuck Liddell, and Randy Couture was the perfect match up. Chuck Liddell was a star in the making at the time with his patented mohawk but would have to overcome light heavyweight champion Randy Couture, who had defeated him two years earlier. It was the right big fight feel at the time and ended spectacularly as Liddell scored a KO in the first two minutes. The show shattered the pay-per-view record for UFC at the time with 280,000 buys and marked a change in the fortune of the company.
3) Brock Lesnar vs Randy Couture
Brock Lesnar is sculpted like a Greek god. He had already built up an incredible following in his career as a WWE superstar during his four-year stay at the beginning of the Millenium. Such was his popularity that when he was signed by the UFC, he had pulled in many wrestling fans who just wanted to see him succeed. After losing his debut fight against Frank Mir and winning the second one against Heath Herring, Lesnar was put straight into a heavyweight title fight against the "American Hero" Randy Couture.
It still felt like a gimmick for the wrestler turned fighter at that point with his record of 1-1 in the UFC and his former career notwithstanding. Lesnar proved himself as a fighter that night though as he ran through an aging Randy Couture, viciously finishing the fight in the second round. Lesnar had reached the peak of the mountain after this fight and would serve as the biggest draw for the company for three years alongside Georges Saint-Pierre and would lead to the expansion of the sport, especially among wrestling fans who followed Lesnar.
2) Stephen Bonnar vs Forest Griffin
The one fight from the TUF finale that everyone remembers but not the reason for which the audiences had shown up for in that card. This blood and guts fight put between the two finalists of the Ultimate Fighter was an all-out stand-up fight despite Bonner's credentials as a wrestler. The fight, according to UFC president Dana White saved the company and his theory is supported by the no.of viewers who watched this fight at home.
Over 10 million people had simultaneously watched this fight which in itself was a landmark for the UFC. The UFC in 2005 was a company that was bleeding out money left and right. They needed some kind of spark to connect and expand their audiences and this fight was it. The fairytale ending for this fight makes it all the sweeter as despite Bonner losing a decision both guys were given a contract by the UFC for their amazing displays. The fight itself saved cash strapped UFC at the time and probably MMA as a whole.
1) Royce Gracie vs Gerard Gordeau
In 1993, cross-discipline combat was a very new concept across most parts of the world. The UFC 1 thus was a milestone and was one of a kind as it pitted every style of fighting known against each other, inside the now famed octagon. The result of the tournament finals between Gerard Gordeau and Royce Gracie was just as important. The little guy in the gi that was Royce Gracie would somehow beat three guys all much bigger than him, all in one night using a thing called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The importance of this fight and Royce winning the tournament can't be stated enough with the event itself a huge success. This win also made Royce Gracie an instant legend and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has proliferated as a result. Many prominent personalities in the game have also cited this tournament as an eye-opener with the likes of UFC commentator Joe Rogan and Tristar head coach Firas Zahabi among them. Rogan stated that after watching the tournament he felt his Taekwondo was not enough while Zahabi had his whole family sit down to watch this fight.