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The 5 greatest Heavyweight title fights in UFC history

Stipe Miocic
Stipe Miocic's second UFC Heavyweight title clash with Daniel Cormier was an all-time UFC classic.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 23 Mar 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

This Saturday's UFC 260 pay-per-view sees Stipe Miocic defend his UFC Heavyweight title against top contender Francis Ngannou.

Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 promises to be an epic clash, but will it live up to the best UFC Heavyweight title fights of all time?

Over the years, we’ve seen some truly titanic battles for the UFC Heavyweight title, featuring legends like Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez.

So with that in mind, here are the five greatest Heavyweight title fights in UFC history.


#1 Randy Couture vs. Ricco Rodriguez – UFC 39

Ricco Rodriguez won the UFC Heavyweight title from Randy Couture in a tremendous battle.
Ricco Rodriguez won the UFC Heavyweight title from Randy Couture in a tremendous battle.

Longtime UFC fans will often point to Randy Couture’s epic Heavyweight title clash with Pedro Rizzo at UFC 31 as his best effort.

However, in truth, his fight with Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 39 for the title vacated by Josh Barnett is probably the better overall fight.

This clash saw Rodriguez – who was unbeaten in the UFC at the time with four wins – survive a hellacious beating from The Natural in the early going.

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Ricco Suave simply couldn’t handle the Greco-Roman wrestling of Couture, who took him down with ease and beat him up in the clinch.

And in the second round, the fight appeared to be over when Couture took Rodriguez down, causing him to yelp in pain after jamming his knee into an odd position. Couture smelled blood and looked for the finish, but somehow Rodriguez was able to survive the round.

In the third round, though, surprisingly enough, it was Rodriguez’s cardio that appeared to be stronger. He managed to secure more than one takedown on The Natural, and by the end of the fourth round, it was clear which way the fight was going.

The fifth round saw Rodriguez secure a takedown again, and this time he ended things with a series of brutal elbows that forced Couture to tap out due to a broken eye socket.

This was a classic, back-and-forth UFC Heavyweight title fight that honestly isn’t talked about enough these days.


#2 Andrei Arlovski vs. Tim Sylvia – UFC 59

Tim Sylvia shocked the world when he knocked out Andrei Arlovski to win the UFC Heavyweight title.
Tim Sylvia shocked the world when he knocked out Andrei Arlovski to win the UFC Heavyweight title.
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Andrei Arlovski’s UFC Heavyweight title reign began in style at the start of 2005, as he dropped Tim Sylvia and then finished him off with an Achilles lock early in the first round to claim the vacant belt.

But when Sylvia secured a rematch for the gold at UFC 59, The Maine-Iac promised things would be different.

Arlovski had a weak chin, Sylvia claimed – and he was going to expose it.

What followed was one of the wildest title fights in UFC history, and it ended with Sylvia’s hand being raised in the first round.

Early on, it looked like Arlovski would have the advantage once again. He looked much quicker than his opponent, and when he leveled Sylvia with an overhand right, it looked like the UFC Heavyweight title would be remaining with The Pitbull.

However, this time, Sylvia somehow willed himself to his feet, shocking UFC fans across the world.

And when Arlovski swarmed him to look for a finish, he left himself too open. Sylvia landed a short uppercut that dropped him face-first and then sealed the deal with a rapid series of punches.

To say this finish was insane would be an understatement.

Sylvia would go onto defend his title on three occasions but never replicated this level of drama. He would also fight Arlovski twice more, but neither fight lived up to this instant UFC classic.


#3 Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin – UFC 116

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Brock Lesnar survived a horrific beating to submit Shane Carwin at UFC 116.
Brock Lesnar survived a horrific beating to submit Shane Carwin at UFC 116.

When Brock Lesnar returned from his bout of diverticulitis to defend his UFC Heavyweight title against interim champ Shane Carwin, he had a point to prove.

Despite beating Randy Couture and Frank Mir to claim the title, there were still so many questions around The Beast Incarnate.

One was his overall toughness – something that Carwin thoroughly tested in this fight.

The challenger came flying out of the blocks and stunned Lesnar with a combination, sending him tumbling to the ground in the early going.

And from there, he unleashed some brutal ground-and-pound strikes that busted Lesnar open and had him on the verge of being finished.

But Lesnar proved his detractors wrong by displaying serious toughness. The former WWE superstar survived the round, and when the two men headed back to their corners, it was clear that Lesnar had the advantage.

An exhausted Carwin struggled to get off his stool, was taken down in the early going, and then submitted to an arm-triangle choke midway through the round.

Sure, this fight was sloppy at points, but in essence, it was a classic and saw an unbelievable comeback from Lesnar.

If anything, it was the Heavyweight equivalent of the UFC classic between Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg.


#4 Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum – UFC 188

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Cain Velasquez
Cain Velasquez's fight with Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188 was an insane war.

Cain Velasquez came into his fight with Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188 as a heavy favorite.

He’d not only beaten the likes of Brock Lesnar, Antonio Silva, and Junior Dos Santos during his reign as UFC Heavyweight champion, he’d destroyed them.

In fact, many fans were talking him up as the greatest Heavyweight in MMA history.

However, what Velasquez didn’t reckon on was the location of UFC 188 – high-altitude Mexico City.

And so when he came out looking to push an unmatchable pace against Werdum, it suddenly became apparent that the Brazilian was more prepared for the fight than the champ.

Velasquez hit Werdum with everything he had in a frenetic opening round. But Werdum was also catching him with heavy blows, particularly from the clinch.

And as the fight headed into the third round, we saw something we’d never seen before in the UFC – Velasquez looking tired.

And so, midway through the third round, he shot a tired-looking double leg at Werdum – who promptly wrapped him up in a guillotine, forcing him to submit for the first time in his UFC career and taking his title in the process.

The fight is usually remembered today for the online memes about Sea-Level Cain and so forth. But due to the crazy pace of the clash, it definitely ranks as one of the best UFC Heavyweight title fights in history.


#5 Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic – UFC 241

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Stipe Miocic
Stipe Miocic's second fight with Daniel Cormier was the best of their epic trilogy.

When Stipe Miocic’s initial UFC Heavyweight title reign came to an end at Daniel Cormier's hands at UFC 226, it was clear the two men had unfinished business.

Simply put, Miocic just didn’t look like his usual self in that fight and fell victim to a first-round KO.

Their second fight saw Miocic look much more like his usual self, and so we were treated to the titanic battle that everyone had hoped to see the first time around.

These two all-time greats exchanged bomb after bomb, and somehow, both men were able to absorb a simply ridiculous amount of punishment.

This time though, it was Cormier who would give up the ghost first.

A smaller Heavyweight with a softer midsection than most, he began to suffer midway through the fight when Miocic targeted his body with some huge punches.

And it was one of those left hands to the body that would set up a fight-ending combination for Miocic with a minute remaining in the fourth round.

It was just the second time Cormier had been stopped in his UFC career and cemented Miocic as the greatest Heavyweight currently in the UFC.

The two men had a third fight at UFC 252 in 2020, but while it was also action-packed, it didn’t quite reach this clash's heights.

Published 23 Mar 2021, 16:02 IST
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