Some UFC PPVs are exciting, while others are bemoaned. Neither the fans nor Dana White himself are fond of the cards that set decision-based records. The appeal of MMA is to watch a contest that will determine the superior martial artist between the two competitors. Thus, fans are eager to see knockouts and submissions.
It is no secret that some years are better than others for Dana White's banner. Some years yield a string of action-packed cards, while other years are riddled with injury bugs that cancel highly anticipated bouts. 2022 has been a fine year for Dana White's promotion. Its penultimate card, UFC 281, was incredible.
While it was an exciting PPV with surprises, it was not the greatest card in the promotion's history. That distinction is deserved by another PPV altogether. However, it does deserve a mention in the pantheon of legendary UFC events. With that being said, this list compiles five of the best UFC PPVs in history.
#5. UFC 281
Last Saturday played host to one of the greatest PPV cards in the promotion's history. UFC 281 was a source of thrilling entertainment from top to bottom. Furthermore, the card featured a low percentage of decisions, with only three across 14 matchups.
Contextually, the PPV was also phenomenal. It was headlined by Israel Adesanya and his mortal rival Alex Pereira. The Brazilian great twice defeated 'The Last Stylebender' in kickboxing bouts. Thus, much of the buildup for the PPV focused on their competitive rivalry.
Once the two men crossed swords, the result was as it has always been. Alex Pereira emerged victorious with a fifth-round TKO. The rest of the main card was similar, with every other fight ending via either KO/TKO or submission.
Furthermore, the event featured Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler facing off in a Fight of the Year candidate. No bouts were boring and fans were also treated to one of the greatest post-fight interviews from Renato Moicano.
#4. UFC 232
The last time Jon Jones finished an opponent inside the octagon was in 2018. At the time, fan interest thickened around a rematch between 'Bones' and Alexander Gustafsson. At the time, the Swede was best-known for giving the then 205 lbs kingpin his most difficult-ever fight in their initial outing.
Thus, the rematch was of immense interest. The bout did not disappoint and Jon Jones punctuated his second win over 'The Mauler' with a third-round KO. The co-headliner produced 2018's Knockout of the Year after Amanda Nunes flattened Cris Cyborg within 51 seconds of the first round.
It was one of the most shocking upsets in MMA history as Cris Cyborg was unbeaten in 21 fights across 13 years. No one expected her—the preeminent knockout artist in women's MMA—to lose. No one in particular expected her to lose by knockout.
The win was Amanda Nunes' crowning achievement in MMA. The rest of the event was memorable as well, featuring only two decisions across 13 bouts.
#3. UFC 189
While Conor McGregor first became the undisputed featherweight kingpin at UFC 194, his ascension to MMA superstardom came at UFC 189. He faced Chad Mendes in the main event for the interim title in an action-packed affair. It remains the only comeback of the Irishman's career.
Despite losing most of the fight, 'The Notorious' came from behind with a thunderous TKO win in the dying seconds of the second round. Prior to the headline bout, the co-main event was a showstopper. Arguably the greatest UFC fight of all time, Rory MacDonald challenged Robbie Lawler for the 170 lbs throne.
The back-and-forth battle captured the essence of MMA. By the end, both men were bloodied and battered. However, 'Ruthless' exhibited a deeper will and claimed the TKO win in the fifth round. The main card was a barnburner, with every bout in it ending via finish.
While the prelims were largely overshadowed by decisions, the card itself was thrilling like no other. No fight has enthralled an audience quite like Robbie Lawler's war against Rory MacDonald. Additionally, no fighter has captured the imagination of MMA fans like Conor McGregor.
#2. UFC 92
The most casual fan of combat sports recognizes knockouts. While many can appreciate submissions, nothing quite stirs the heart like a KO. UFC 92 featured an absurdly high percentage of knockouts. Every bout ended with either a KO or TKO, save for two decisions.
The card was headlined by the then undefeated Rashad Evans. He dethroned future Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin for the light heavyweight title with a third-round TKO. Meanwhile, the co-main event was an interim title fight between heavyweight legend Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir.
In a shocking upset, Frank Mir dealt his idol 'Big Nog' the first-ever stoppage loss of his career with a TKO. Furthermore, the card was bolstered by a matchup between legends Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson and Wanderlei Silva. The pair fought twice in PRIDE, with 'The Axe Murderer' emerging victorious.
In the trilogy bout, 'Rampage' avenged his previous KO losses to the Brazilian by scoring one of the greatest knockouts in UFC history.
#1. UFC 217
There has never been a PPV quite like this. The main event revolved around the return of Georges St-Pierre after four years away. The Canadian great was on the search for MMA immortality. 'Rush' did what many fans had been clamoring to see him do for years by challenging the reigning middleweight champion.
Instead of Anderson Silva, he faced Michael Bisping. Their bout was a bloody, action-packed affair that featured tactical adjustments from both fighters. In the third round, 'Rush' dropped his foe and quickly secured a rear-naked choke. By doing so, he became a two-divisional champion.
In the co-main event, a grudge match boiled over. At the time, T.J. Dillashaw had recovered from his split-decision loss to Dominick Cruz. He embarked on a quest to reclaim his 135 lbs title. His foe, Cody Garbrandt, was an undefeated KO artist who had recently captured the title from 'The Dominator'.
He did what no other bantamweight before him had managed to in the UFC by overcoming Dominick Cruz. Due to T.J. Dillashaw's departure from Team Alpha Male, bad blood brewed between him and 'No Mercy'. The two men settled their differences at UFC 217.
Cody Garbrandt not only lost his undefeated record, but lost his title in a back-and-forth bout to his rival. Meanwhile, Rose Namajunas defeated Joanna Jędrzejczyk for the strawweight title in a massive upset. The Polish kickboxer was undefeated and seemed all but unstoppable.
Not only did she suffer the first loss of her career, but it was a knockout no less. Before that upset, Paulo Costa announced himself to the world by mauling former champion Johny Hendricks. Furthermore, the PPV only featured two decisions, and even had the added drama of a DQ.