Before UFC 229: A look at 7 of the biggest UFC shows of all time
#2: UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell II – 04/16/2005 – Las Vegas, Nevada
Why was it a big show?
Despite the success of UFC 40, the UFC continued to struggle for mainstream acceptance in the years that followed. But in 2005, they managed to land a television deal with Spike TV, and the first series of The Ultimate Fighter followed. The show was a massive success and brought a whole new fanbase to the promotion, and the Finale card – which featured the classic fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar – only cemented the UFC as the hot new thing.
UFC 52 followed a week later and was main evented by the coaches of the inaugural TUF season, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, fighting for Couture’s Light-Heavyweight title. Despite the lack of a bitter rivalry between the two, TUF had effectively made them the biggest stars in the promotion. The undercard was strong too, with a Welterweight title fight between Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg the main highlight, as well as early appearances from future stars like Georges St-Pierre and Patrick Cote.
The show turned out to be an all-time great for the UFC as the fighters took the opportunity they were given – the show set a new buyrate record of 280k – and basically every fight delivered in spades. Hughes vs. Trigg was an instant classic, featuring a remarkable comeback from Hughes to retain his title, and in 2015 it became the second fight to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. St-Pierre vs. Jason Miller and Cote vs. Joe Doerksen were also amongst the best fights of 2005.
The main event ended quickly as Liddell knocked Couture unconscious with a right-hand midway through the first round to claim the Light-Heavyweight title, and from there he became the UFC’s most bankable star, basically supplanting his friend-turned-rival Tito Ortiz. With so many new eyeballs on the product, the UFC needed to knock this one out of the park and they did so in style.
Success rating: *****