10. Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson vs. Ken Shamrock, EliteXC, 10/4/08
The prefight hype for this match-up was probably the only thing the Shaw boys over at EliteXC should be credited with.
Kimbo Slice even appeared on the “ESPN The Magazine” cover, taking about 15 years less than it did for a mainstream, legitimate MMA fighter to do. Not to mention this was to be the capstone of ProElite’s multi-show deal with CBS to broadcast MMA to the world.
And two hours before this little scrap (which I’m not totally sure was worth the buzz to begin with since Slice is as yet untested and Ken has seen WAY better days) Mr. Shamrock somehow gets cut open in a sparring session? (Your training partners should not GnP you on fight day).
Needless to say the last minute replacement Seth Petruzelli has since made “Standgate” something to not remember. A couple days later ProElite hits bottom and everyone gives The Shaw’s and co. a giant EPIC FAIL.
Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites, UFC 97 Redemption, 4/18/09
This was to be Anderson’s biggest challenge to the middleweight crown to date (maybe). Thales Leites is a BJJ black belt who ran through such fierce competition as Floyd Sword on his way to solving the Silva riddle (maybe).
Anderson was not match for Leites on the ground (possibly). After 25 minutes of breakdancing, dead legging, and other non-fighting, this scrap made me (and many others) rethink about coughing up the 10 duckets and watching terrible UFC cards at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Georges St. Pierrevs. BJ Penn II, UFC 94, 1/31/09
After about 2,319 episodes of that stupid show where BJ told Faris Zahabi to “take thirty minutes and go f*$% yourself” (that was kinda funny), and all the talk about fighting to the death and everything else, this fight turned out to be what they refer to in the movie business as a big freakin’ flop.
Basically this was just another episode of “GSP is P4P number one” and “BJ shouldn’t fight at welterweight”. “Rush” tore through Penn, dominating him in the first four rounds. Penn didn’t make it out for the fifth.
Jens Pulver vs. BJ Penn II, Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale, 6/23/07
A great season of TUF where so much drama and hate came between The Prodigy and Lil’ Evil. The hype up to this fight, following their classic lightweight war where Pulver hung tough through a Penn armbar (youtube it…that sh*t is deep) had the whole MMA world abuzz with the possibility that this fight could be the greatest display of combat on live TV.
However, instead of enthralling fight fans and providing discussion forum fodder for years, Penn easily took Pulver’s back and finished it with the rear naked choke. Great hype, but a fight that didn’t quite deliver.
(3 Way Tie) Tim Sylvia/Andrei Arlovski/ Josh Barnett vs. Fedor Emelianenko, The Affliction Trilogy, 7/19/08; 1/24/09; 8/1/09
These two fights were supposed to be the ultimate test for Fedor. Finally, we could see how the UFC heavyweight division, already being called week and kiddie pool deep, would fare against the world’s greatest heavyweight.
The hype for the Sylvia/Fedor fight was through the roof. Being Affliction’s first foray into the fight promotion game, and with a huge card this fight was definitely the most hyped in 2008. 36 seconds later and Tim Sylvia proved that he belonged in a cage with Ray Mercer. Fail.
Arlovski on the other hand was the best technical striker Freddie Roach had ever seen, hyped up as the striking answer to Fedor’s somewhat unorthodox striking. This was a battle of Eastern Bloc boys.
Then Arlovski threw the flying knee. Good night Andrei. While Fedor lived up to all the hype that has been his since about 2003, the former UFC champs failed to deliver on their end of the hype wagon.
Barnett is the No. 2 ranked heavyweight behind The Last Emperor. He has been heralded as the most wrestling prolific heavyweight of our time. Now we get to see if the hype was worth it.
If Babyface makes it past the first round then he will have at least somewhat redeemed former UFC champs versus Fedor.
Jens Pulver vs. Urijah Faber I, WEC 34, 6/1/08
Billed the greatest fight in featherweight history, this is the first fight on our list that really lived up to the hype. The California Kid is perhaps the most dynamic and exciting fighter on the planet, and his 12-fight win streak was pretty impressive.
Pulver was cutting down to 145 to make this one of the superfights MMA fans have been salivating at for years. These two warriors delivered on their hype.
This is arguably the fight of the year for 2008 and saw a back and forth, 5 round war from both men. Urijah took the unanimous decision in the end, and helped cement this fight in the legacy and minds of MMA fans everywhere.
Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, TUF Finale 1, 4/9/05
This is the fight that was going to make or break Dana, Frank, and Lorenzo’s fantasies of ruling the world through cagefighting and selfless sponsorship endorsements.
Riding on the ability of two reality show contestant fighters to launch your global entertainment brand is a hell of a gamble. Good thing the Fertitta’s know a thing or two about gambling.
Needless to say the Griffin-Bonnar war at the TUF Finale lived up to the hype and beyond. You can even recreate the fight on UFC Undisputed 2009. This fight will live on in infamy, forever.
Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn II, UFC 63 9/23/06
This fight certainly lived up to its hype. While the original matchup was between Hughes and GSP for Hughes’ welterweight strap, injuries forced Rush off the card. Matt Hughes was surprisingly finished by BJ Penn in their first contest, and the rematch was driving MMA fans crazy.
Was BJ really “the Prodigy”, able to dominate a weight class above what he should be fighting at? Was Hughes beginning the decline of his career? Could he handle the striking and jiu-jitsu that Penn threw at him?
In a match that lasted three rounds, BJ may have had the nod on the judges but a purported rib injury (or an empty gas tank) ruined BJ’s stride. Hughes showed us the guts and determination and was able to finish off Penn with some punches.
This fight delivered on its promises and helped revitalize Hughes and Penn’s careers.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko”Cro Cop” Filipovic, PRIDE Final Conflict 2005, 8/28/05
Derailed from a meeting in the 2004 Pride GP, this was the talk of the MMA world for roughly 3 years…most assuredly a superfight for any fan. Cro Cop was the most feared and dominant striker in PRIDE FC and possibly all of MMA. He's the guy that made Bob Sapp cry like a b*tch.
Fedor was the man who beat the unbeatable Antonia Rodrigo Nogueira.
This was the showdown to end all showdowns. After trading shots for three rounds Fedor took home the unanimous decision and MMA fans have been buzzing about a rematch since. This fight goes beyond the hype.
Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba, PRIDE GP Finals 2000, 5/1/00
After being the first person to defeat a Gracie (Royler) in competition in many decades, Saku was elevated to rockstar status in Japan. But all the “Gracie Hunter” did was manage to piss off the most feared family of fighters.
This set the stage for the ultimate of ultimates, a no time limit, no referee stoppages deathmatch with none other than Royce Gracie himself. This bout was anticipated in legendary proportions.
Did it deliver? After 90 minutes of fighting (!!), multiple near submissions from both men, and punishing leg kicks from Sakuraba forced the Gracie cornermen to throw in the towel. And this was only the second round of the tournament!
This fight is legendary, and anyone claiming to be a MMA aficionado should have at least watched it once in its entirety. This is why we love MMA.