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5 of the most stacked cards in UFC history

Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor headlined the ultra-stacked UFC 205 in 2016
Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor headlined the ultra-stacked UFC 205 in 2016

The UFC is undoubtedly the world’s biggest MMA promotion, and so it’s hardly surprising that they’ve been responsible for putting together some of the sport’s most stacked cards.

The UFC doesn’t always stack their cards, often preferring quantity over quality when it comes to events, but when they do, the results are often spectacular.

Sure, even stacked UFC cards don’t always guarantee a night packed full of action, but naturally, the more high-end fighters that an event has, the more likely it is to be entertaining, especially for the more casual fans.

With that in mind, here are five of the most stacked cards in UFC history.


#5. UFC 251: Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal

UFC 251 was headlined by a major grudge match between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal
UFC 251 was headlined by a major grudge match between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal

At the height of 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic, the UFC announced that they’d “secured an island” – eventually revealed as part of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island complex – to hold international events on, the promotion’s fanbase was buzzing with excitement.

It came as no surprise, then, when the first pay-per-view event to be held on Fight Island was an absolutely stacked one that ended up drawing over a million buys.

UFC 251 was headlined by a UFC welterweight title fight between champion Kamaru Usman and challenger Jorge Masvidal. It was one of the most highly anticipated grudge matches in a long time. But that wasn’t the only title fight on tap at the event.

UFC 251 also featured a UFC featherweight title rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway, and a fight between top contenders Petr Yan and Jose Aldo for the vacant UFC bantamweight title.

The main card was rounded out by a rematch of a previous UFC strawweight title bout between Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas, and a clash of flyweight contenders pitting Paige VanZant against Amanda Ribas.

Even the preliminary card was stacked, as the likes of Jiri Prochazka, Makwan Amirkhani and Muslim Salikhov were all in action.

In the end, UFC 251 wasn’t one of 2020’s most entertaining shows, as its top two fights both went the distance. However, in terms of how filled it was with sheer star power, it has to be considered one of the most stacked cards in UFC history.

#4. UFC 217: Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre

UFC 217 saw a headline fight between Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre
UFC 217 saw a headline fight between Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre

The UFC’s annual trip to New York’s famous Madison Square Garden in 2017 was not only one of the most stacked cards in the promotion’s history, but it also turned out to be one of the most entertaining.

The UFC went all out for this one, filling the card with three title fights. A UFC middleweight title showdown between champion Michael Bisping and former welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre, who was returning from a four-year hiatus, served as the main event.

And underneath it, the UFC bantamweight title was on the line in a grudge match between Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw, while Joanna Jedrzejczyk defended her UFC strawweight title against Rose Namajunas.

And with high-level fighters like Stephen Thompson, Jorge Masvidal, Johny Hendricks, Paulo Costa, Curtis Blaydes and Ovince St. Preux also in action, UFC 217 essentially featured a star name in almost every fight.

Incredibly, practically every fight on the card delivered in terms of action, too. Of the eleven fights on tap, just two went the distance – Randy Brown vs. Mickey Gall and Thompson vs. Masvidal – and both were entertaining clashes.

As for the rest of the fights, they all featured highlight reel finishes, from St. Preux’s head kick knockout of Corey Anderson all the way up to St-Pierre’s eventual submission of Bisping.

In the end, UFC 217 was easily the best event of 2017, and remains one of the UFC’s best efforts in the state of New York to date.


#3. UFC 200: Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes

Brock Lesnar's return to the octagon was the major drawing card at UFC 200
Brock Lesnar's return to the octagon was the major drawing card at UFC 200

UFC 200 had a fraught build that saw both fights that were initially booked as its main event scrapped. And in execution, it turned into a bit of a damp squib, with more dull fights than entertaining ones.

On paper, however, this flagship show was undoubtedly one of the most stacked cards that the UFC had put together, complete with appearances from some of the biggest stars in the promotion’s history.

UFC 200 was headlined by a UFC bantamweight title fight between champion Miesha Tate and challenger Amanda Nunes, who won the title to kick-start her epic reign.

But that fight was largely overshadowed by UFC 200’s big drawing card – the return of former UFC heavyweight champion and then-WWE superstar Brock Lesnar. ‘The Beast Incarnate’ defeated Mark Hunt by decision in what would turn out to be his final trip to the octagon.

Elsewhere, Daniel Cormier defeated a late replacement in the form of the legendary Anderson Silva, who stepped in when Jon Jones failed a pre-fight drug test, while Jose Aldo beat Frankie Edgar to become the interim UFC featherweight champion.

And with UFC legends and former champions like Cain Velasquez, T.J. Dillashaw, Diego Sanchez and Johny Hendricks also competing, it’s easy to see why UFC 200 got so much hype at the time. One can only imagine how big it would’ve been had Conor McGregor’s rematch with Nate Diaz headlined the show as was initially planned!

#2. UFC 100: Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II

Brock Lesnar's mega-rematch with Frank Mir was the headliner at UFC 100
Brock Lesnar's mega-rematch with Frank Mir was the headliner at UFC 100

Until the rise of Conor McGregor as the UFC’s all-time biggest drawing card, it looked like no UFC show would ever top the pay-per-view buyrate of 2009’s UFC 100. The event drew a monster 1.6 million buys, and it was for good reason.

This was a genuinely stacked card that featured two of the UFC’s biggest three stars at the time – UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and UFC welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre – defending their titles against Frank Mir and Thiago Alves respectively.

The Lesnar vs. Mir fight, in particular, garnered unheard of levels of hype thanks to the star power of Lesnar, as well as the shocking ending to the first fight between the two.

There would be no controversy here, as Lesnar crushed Mir in the second round before going on an epic rant in his post-fight interview. It only cemented him as the UFC’s most bankable star at the time.

But UFC 100 wasn’t all about Lesnar and St-Pierre. The show also featured a major grudge match between TUF 9 coaches Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson, the UFC debut of Japanese superstar Yoshihiro Akiyama, and a stacked undercard that featured Jon Jones, Jim Miller and former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman.

Add in the fact that this was the first time the UFC had produced its now-traditional ‘International Fight Week’ – building it around this landmark show – and it’s easy to see why UFC 100’s buyrate record held fast for over seven years.


#1. UFC 205: Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor cemented himself as the UFC's biggest-ever star at UFC 205
Conor McGregor cemented himself as the UFC's biggest-ever star at UFC 205

For years, the UFC had been desperate to put on an event in New York City’s famous Madison Square Garden. And so once MMA was finally legalized in the state, it was no surprise that the promotion put together one of the most stacked cards in its history.

Nobody could’ve predicted quite how stacked UFC 205 would become, though. During the build up to the event, it felt like every other day would see a new amazing-sounding fight added to the card.

UFC 205 was unsurprisingly headlined by the promotion’s biggest star – then-UFC featherweight champ Conor McGregor, who moved up to 155 pounds for the first time to challenge UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.

Underneath that, UFC fans were treated to two more title fights – Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson for the welterweight title and Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz for the strawweight title.

The show also featured New York favorites Chris Weidman, Frankie Edgar and Jim Miller, as well as a clash between former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate and Raquel Pennington. A late addition saw future UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov matched with Michael Johnson.

Unlike many other stacked cards, the PPV also delivered when it came to action. The fans watching for McGregor were awestruck as he knocked out Alvarez in the second round, but practically every fight on the card was either wildly entertaining or featured a violent finish.

The promotion would return to MSG three more times after this event, but it’s arguable that, to date, UFC 205 has never been topped.

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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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