The Countdown: The 10 Most Significant Events in UFC History
History will be made on July 11, as the UFC will present a stacked fight card with UFC100. The UFC has evolved tremendously over the years. There was a time when everyone doubted the organization and claimed the sport would fail, but the UFC has proved the doubters wrong and is now going into their 100th pay-per-view event.
Now it’s time to look back on the events that helped the UFC get to where it is today. Let’s take a look at the ten most significant events in UFC history.
No. 10 UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008 (Dec. 27, 2008)
UFC ended 2008 with a bang with UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008. The card was stacked from head to toe with a grudge match and two-title bouts.
The main event featured No. 1 contender Rashad Evans winning the UFC light heavyweight championship from Forrest Griffin. The referee stopped the fight due to a series of strikes from Evans in the third round.
The first co-main event saw former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir score a stunning second-round technical knockout of former PRIDE heavyweight champion and current UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. With the victory, Mir claimed the interim championship and delivered a memorable speech in the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.
The other co-main event was a fight between former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and former PRIDE middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva. Jackson avenged two earlier losses to Silva by knocking Silva out in the first round.
No. 9 UFC 79: Nemesis (Dec. 29, 2007)
UFC 79 was the night the long-awaited mega-fight between former PRIDE champion Wanderlei Silva and former UFC champion Chuck Liddell finally took place. Even though it was a few years late, the fight was just as good as everyone had expected.
Liddell and Silva put on an exciting three-round war, with Liddell getting the better of the exchanges and winning the fight by unanimous decision.
The main event of the night featured the rubber match between Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes for the interim welterweight championship. The fight was originally supposed to be a grudge match between TUF coaches Matt Hughes and the champion at the time Matt Serra, but Serra pulled out with a back injury.
St. Pierre stepped in as a late replacement and completely dominated Hughes, finishing him in the second round with an incredible judo throw followed by a bone-snapping armbar forcing Hughes to tap.
No. 8 UFC 13: The Ultimate Force (May 30, 1997)
UFC 13 featured two four man tournaments, a lightweight and a heavyweight tournament, as well as two alternate bouts and a Superfight between Vitor Belfort and Tank Abbott.
This event may seem average on paper, but it marked the debuts of three MMA legends and two future UFC champions: Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and UFC commentator Joe Rogan.
A young Ortiz made it all the way to the lightweight (less than 200 pounds) finals, submitting to tournament winner Guy Mezger by way of guillotine choke. Couture won the heavyweight (over 200 pounds) tournament with victories over Tony Halme and Steven Graham.
Both Ortiz and Couture would go on to win UFC championships later on in their careers, and Rogan would become one of the greatest commentators in the sport alongside his partner Mike Goldberg.
No. 7 UFC 34: High Voltage (Nov. 2, 2001)
This fight card featured several future MMA legends including Randy Couture, Josh Barnett, Pedro Rizzo, Matt Hughes, B.J Penn, Evan Tanner, and the list just goes on and on.
The main event of the night featured a heavyweight title bout between Randy Couture and Pedro Rizzo in a rematch from their previous bout from UFC 31. Couture was dominant in the rematch finishing Rizzo in the third round to retain the heavyweight championship.
The highlight of the night was Matt Hughes winning the welterweight championship for the very first time against Carlos Newton. Newton had Hughes in a triangle choke but the powerful wrestler hoisted Newton up and slammed him on his head knocking him unconscious.
Hughes would go on to become the most dominant welterweight champion of all time defending the title five times and then winning it back to defend it six more times.
No. 6 UFC 81: Breaking Point (Feb. 2, 2008)
The mainstream media went crazy when it was announced that former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar would be signing a contract with the UFC after just one professional MMA bout. Not one to give anyone an easy fight Dana White announced that Lesnar would take on former UFC Heavyweight champion Frank Mir in his UFC debut in the co-main event of UFC 81.
Even people who had no idea what MMA was were interested in seeing what Lesnar could do in the Octagon. When the fight started, Lesnar came out like a raging bull, taking Mir down instantly and pounding on him recklessly with hammer fists. Mir managed to survive the onslaught and lock on a heel hook forcing the inexperienced Lesnar to tap out.
This fight was significant for two reasons. Firstly, it proved that even though he lost, Lesnar has a lot of potential and a very bright future in the UFC. It also proved that Mir still has the heart and the determination to be an elite fighter in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
The main event of the night featured an interim heavyweight championship bout between former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia and former PRIDE heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera.
Casual fans who have never heard of Noguiera before witnessed first hand why he is truly a legend. Sylvia pounded on Noguiera early on and seemed like he was well on his way to winning a decision victory.
Noguiera took everything Sylvia threw at him and came back in the third round, submitting Sylvia with a guillotine choke to win the interim championship. Vintage Noguiera.
No. 5 UFC 40: Vendetta (Nov. 22, 2002)
UFC 40 contained one of the most important and most anticipated fights in UFC history, a UFC light heavyweight championship bout between bitter rivals Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock.
Shamrock, a legendary fighter from the UFC’s early years, was returning to the UFC for the first time since 1996. The trash talking between Shamrock and Ortiz was legendary, but the fight itself was very one-sided, with Ortiz beating Shamrock down and making him quit in the third round.
UFC 40 also featured a welterweight title bout between Matt Hughes and Gil Castillo. Tank Abbott also provided an interview in the octagon after Dana White had announced Abbott would return to the octagon on a three-fight deal.
The buy rate for UFC 40 was approximately four times larger than the buy rates of the previous UFC events. After initially losing a lot of money, UFC 40 showed Zuffa that it was possible to make money with the UFC. UFC 40 was a near sellout of 13,022 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for a gate of $1.54 million, a UFC record at that point in time.
UFC 40 also gained mainstream exposure for mixed martial arts for the first time since entering the dark ages of MMA. Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz both appeared on The Best Damn Sports Show Period and engaged in trash talk on live television. Shamrock and Ortiz's fight also gained mainstream media attention from massive media outlets such as ESPN and USA Today, something that was unfathomable for mixed martial arts at that point in time.
No. 4 UFC 1: The Beginning (Nov. 12, 1993)
UFC 1 was the night it all began, and the night Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was introduced to the United States.
In the beginning, the sport had very few rules, didn’t have any weight classes or rounds, and there weren’t any judges. The event was more of a spectacle than a sport.
Fighters would have to fight several times in the night, as opposed to modern-day MMA, where a fighter is only required to fight once.
UFC 1 used an eight-man tournament format with the winner receiving $50,000. Royce Gracie won the tournament, opening the eyes of several thousand people watching at home defeating much larger opponents with choke holds and submissions.
The sport has come a long way since its early days and is becoming one of the most popular sports in the world. Without UFC 1, MMA would not be around and would not have evolved to where it is today.
No. 3 UFC 91: Couture vs. Lesnar (Nov. 15, 2008)
When Dana White announced that Randy Couture would be returning to the UFC to defend his heavyweight championship against MMA newcomer Brock Lesnar, everyone started talking.
Some fans were furious at the idea and thought Lesnar to be unworthy of a title shot, while others thought the opposite. Either way, the event received a ton of mainstream media attention.
People who normally wouldn’t watch a UFC event were ordering the pay-per-view just to see that fight.
When Lesnar and Couture stepped into the Octagon, history was made, as Lesnar defeated Couture to capture the heavyweight championship in just his fourth professional MMA fight.
While the event fell a bit short in terms of expectations made by Dana White, the fact remains that this event was a huge step forward for the UFC in the mainstream media.
No. 2 UFC 66: Liddell vs. Ortiz II (Dec. 30, 2006)
UFC 66’s main event was a championship fight between two of the UFC's biggest light heavyweight stars: light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell defending his title against former champion Tito Ortiz. There was a ton of bad blood between the two, and the first time they fought, Liddell knocked Ortiz out in the second round.
Two years later, Ortiz called out Liddell for a rematch, and after some back and forth trash talking between the two, they were signed on for a rematch at UFC 66. The result was similar, with The Iceman stopping Ortiz in the third round with strikes to successfully defend his title.
The co-main event saw Forrest Griffin take on Keith Jardine and also saw the return of Andrei Arlovski and the post-TUF debut of Michael Bisping.
The event produced the highest live gate revenue in North American mixed martial arts history, extending the previous record at UFC 57 by over $2 million. At the time, it was estimated to be the UFC's biggest pay-per-view success with just over one million buys.
No.1 The Ultimate Fighter Season One Finale (April 9, 2005)
It was the first ever live UFC event broadcasted on non-pay-per-view television, and in terms of bringing MMA to the mainstream media, it was the most significant.
Previous to this event, MMA only had a handful of loyal followers, and the sport as a whole seemed to be on life support. The Ultimate Fighter reality show was a last ditch effort from UFC president Dana White to turn the company and the sport around.
The main event was a light heavyweight bout between Rich Franklin and UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock, but the spotlight was stolen by the incredible bout between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonner.
Hailed as one of the greatest fights in UFC history by many, Griffin and Bonnar produced a three-round stand up war that went the distance. This fight was so exciting that it had fans everywhere sending out text messages to their friends telling them to turn on Spike TV immediately.
Although Griffin would take the decision, both men were given UFC contracts for their amazing performance.
Without The Ultimate Fighter Season One Finale, the UFC would not be in existence today.