The UFC currently has ten championship belts in rotation, eleven including the women's featherweight strap. Between these eleven titles, there have been an innumerable number of championship bouts, some of which have stood up to fans' expectations while others were complete duds.
However, some title fights have given birth to unwarranted controversy as fans often disagreed with the outcome of the bout. Many a time, a controversial end to the fight has also seen a new UFC champion being crowned.
Let's take a look at 5 UFC champions who won the belt amidst controversy:
#5 UFC 143: Carlos Condit
Carlos Condit features at the bottom of this list as he is the only interim champion to have won the belt amidst controversy. Following GSP’s knee injury, Carlos Condit got a shot at the interim UFC welterweight strap against Nick Diaz, who seemed unstoppable at the time.
The fight was a stalking game between two grown men as Carlos Condit chose to avoid any conflict and only jumped in to pepper Diaz with strikes ever so often. Nick Diaz was a constant aggressor but seemed frustrated that Condit retreated every time there was scope for an open exchange. Diaz would even call out Condit in round two and follow his taunts with a slap. The Stockton native finally got Condit to the ground in round five, where he worked hard for submission, but Condit slipped out and survived the clock.
To the disbelief of fans and Nick Diaz himself, Carlos Condit was crowned the interim UFC welterweight champion just by dint of a greater number of strikes landed overall. In the aftermath of the bout, Nick Diaz announced his displeasure with the decision, his resulting intention to retire, and the fact that he “doesn’t need this s***.”
#4 UFC 112: Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar has often been on the receiving end of criticism regarding his lackluster approach to fighting. This 'point fighting' approach was the root cause of controversy when Edgar defeated BJ Penn in a massive upset at UFC 112.
'The Prodigy' took control of the ring early, landing precise and powerful combinations. Some opine that the decision to keep the fight standing might have eventually led to the BJJ black belt losing his UFC lightweight strap.
Frankie Edgar mostly moved around and only mounted some offense in the later rounds with multiple takedown attempts thwarted by BJ Penn. Edgar finally secured a solid but fruitless takedown in the fifth round that might have resulted in the razor-thin split decision going in his favor.
#3 UFC 86: Forrest Griffin
Forrest Griffin and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson featured as rival coaches in the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. 'Rampage' would then put his UFC light heavyweight title on the line against Forrest Griffin at UFC 86. While Griffin was crowned the new light heavyweight king by the end of the night, the result remains a topic of contention to this day.
Griffin attacked Jackson with leg kicks which led to a successful takedown in round two, the only round Griffin won decisively. However, Griffin's attacks became inaccurate in the later rounds as 'Ramage' countered precisely and powerfully. Many argue that it was Griffin's constant activity that finally gave him the edge in the fight.
#2 UFC 20: Bas Rutten
Bas Rutten won against Kevin Randleman in the finale at UFC 20, named "The Road to the Heavyweight Title." While Rutten was a sizeable favorite entering the bout, the controversial split decision left many questioning his victory.
The bout was deemed a lopsided affair as Kevin Randleman dominated Bas Rutten on the ground throughout the fight. Despite his best efforts, Rutten was unable to get back to his feet before the end of any round, only to hit the canvas at the start of the next one.
Those who argue for Bas Rutten say that the fight was judged on his hard work from the bottom compared to Randleman's inactivity despite having top position.
#1 UFC 259: Aljamain Sterling
Aljamain Sterling tops our list as he is the only fighter in UFC history to win a championship bout via disqualification. In a night of title fights, Sterling got his shot at the UFC bantamweight title against Petr Yan at UFC 259.
The Russian champion was dominant from the onset and looked on his way to a successful title defense when he landed an illegal knee on a downed Aljamain Sterling. Despite clearly dominating the fight, Petr Yan would shock fans as he went on to land a brutal knee, ignoring the referee's warnings.
While Aljamain Sterling was crowned the new UFC bantamweight champion via DQ, he has since been criticized for overplaying his injury.
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