10. Velasquez Ends Lesnar’s Run
Brock Lesnar was a monster with NCAA National Champion credentials, a WWE heavyweight title, and had a ton of pay-per-view power. He jumped into the UFC in his second career bout, and within a year, knocked out hall of famer Randy Couture to become UFC heavyweight champion. He avenged his loss to former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir at UFC 100, the biggest show in the company’s history, in July 2009, which made him undisputed. After battling back from life-threatening diverticulitis, he remained undisputed against Shane Carwin on another million-buy PPV, making him the only fighter to hit that mark three times - and he did it consecutively. It’s one of the most unique stretches in history, but that didn’t deter Cain Velasquez, who halted Lesnar’s domination of the heavyweight scene at UFC 121 in October 2010 via first-round TKO. Inheriting Lesnar’s “baddest man on the planet” moniker, Velasquez reminded everyone that the imposing Minnesotan was an anomaly - a successful one-dimensional phenomenon in a time of complete mixed martial arts fighters like the Mexican-American.
9. The “Bonnar-Griffin Boom” Concludes First TUF, Ushers in UFC to America
April 2005: Light heavyweight reality television tournament finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar went full-steam ahead for 15 sport-defining minutes. The Ultimate Fighter finale bout instantly became the most viewed in UFC history, with nearly two million viewers. The numbers kept increasing throughout the fight, as many frantic, “Please tell me you’re watching this!” calls circulated around the country. The UFC’s brand recognition changed from that point on. The “Bonnar-Griffin Boom” eventually led to Griffin’s unlikely and inspirational title grab, that helped keep the UFC in national sports headlines during the boom years they sparked.
8. Matt Serra’s Shattering Upset of GSP
Matt “The Terror” Serra was the definition of a long shot - he’d be the first to admit his diet is more Garfield the cat then world champion. An old-school veteran, Serra won The Ultimate Fighter comeback season with a narrow split decision against Chris Lytle, setting up his improbable fight with Georges St-Pierre. “GSP” had just knocked out future hall of famer Matt Hughes, pegging him in the 10-to-1 favorite range opposite Serra. The New Yorker punched a hole in St-Pierre’s championship reign hopes, causing the titlist to tap to strikes in less than four minutes. “Shock” barely begins to describe the response, especially considering Serra only won one more fight in his career, and St-Pierre went on to become one of the all-time great champions, currently having the second longest reign in UFC history.
7. Jon Jones’ Coronation As Youngest Champ in UFC History
A year into his MMA career, Jon Jones was in the UFC. Two years in the UFC and Jon Jones got the gold. “Bones” fell to his knees in emotion when announcer Joe Rogan informed both Jones and the world that Jones would be fighting for the light heavyweight belt in a little more than a month. At UFC 128 in New Jersey, Jones linked his legacy to great boxing figures Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson by becoming the youngest man to wear gold in the UFC, easily cruising past “Shogun Rua” via third round TKO. He then decimated a murderer’s row of champions and surpassed two UFC hall of famers’ title defenses in the division: Chuck Liddell (four) and Tito Ortiz (five). Jones’ success has been so remarkable it received a Nike brand swoosh.
6. Liddell-Ortiz II: UFC’s First Million Dollar PPV
Chuck Liddell’s tattooed, Mohawk-sporting head became synonymous with the UFC. He was knocking everyone out in the most historically rich division when the Octagon first really found its way in America. He was on Entourage. Liddell was a champion and a rock star all at once. He’d decisively beaten Tito Ortiz in a bad blood non-title fight, but years later, with Ortiz fresh off high-profile wins against past-his-prime rival Ken Shamrock, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” challenged Liddell in the UFC’s first New Year’s Eve year-end show. It was truly an event, and the two legends broke the million PPV buy barrier for the first time, bringing home a long-anticipated milestone for the UFC.
5. Anderson Silva Front Kicks Vitor Belfort
There is no way to sum up Anderson Silva’s brilliance. He’s the finisher of all-finishers. Effortless. In a high-level title fight, Silva’s most masterful finish came against decorated and dangerous Brazilian icon Vitor Belfort. “The Spider” struck Belfort with a basic but never-before-seen front kick to the face, ending the former title holder’s night at UFC 126 in February 2011 in less than four minutes. Silva brought the UFC gold back to his native Brazil - the home of no-holds-barred fighting - for the first time in 13 years.
4. Dos Santos KO's Velasquez on FOX
Junior dos Santos won the heavyweight title when the UFC debuted on FOX network TV on the UFC’s 18th birthday on Nov. 12, 2011. He only needed 64 seconds to be the man of the hour: A record 8.5 million American viewers witnessed an overhand right by “Cigano” dethrone Cain Velasquez. An estimated 60 million Brazilians rooted dos Santos on from back home, and although he came up short in the trilogy, dos Santos had his finest moment on that historic night of firsts.
3. Gray Maynard-Frankie Edgar II Scored a Draw
It’s the perfect fight to show someone unfamiliar with mixed martial arts. Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard defined what a UFC title fight should look like, battling for 25 grueling minutes in UFC 125’s lightweight title main event on New Year’s Day 2011. That fight had it all. It plays out with the drama of a three-act story: Edgar gets beat pillar to post, works his way back into the fight, and each pushes hard until the end, creating a scoring nightmare. The judges called it a draw, and while both will forever contend they won that night, it’s one of the most accurate decisions in history. High-level talent and heart - Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard left it all in the Octagon in their instant classic.
2. GSP Stops Matt Hughes In Rematch
Georges St-Pierre couldn’t lock eyes with Matt Hughes when they first met in the Octagon; he was too green and too respectful, despite his athletic gifts. A dominant and resourceful blue-collar champion, Hughes submitted him in one round. Two years later, at UFC 65 in November 2006, St-Pierre, 25, became the first man in UFC history to knock out Hughes. It was a picture perfect performance from the French-Canadian. He bested Hughes in a trilogy, broke his title defense record, and occupied his spot as the greatest 170-pound fighter of all time. Each was ahead of their time in their own way, but St-Pierre went far ahead of Hughes that night, and never looked back.
1. Chris Weidman Hands Anderson Silva His First UFC Loss
Anderson Silva’s seven-year stranglehold over the middleweight division is full of impressive figures - most consecutive wins in the Octagon (16) and the most title defenses (10) to name but two. “The Spider” spun a highlight reel so extensive in the UFC, only two fighters ever went the distance with him. Silva’s such a masterful martial artist he seemed part magician, but the Brazilian’s well-deserved mythical aura didn’t phase Chris Weidman’s unwavering belief in his upset potential. Perspective: Silva had already had four title defenses before the New Yorker ever fought in MMA. At UFC 162 last July, “All-American” did the unthinkable by knocking out Anderson Silva in the second round. It was the left hook heard around the world: Ten bouts into his career, Chris Weidman seized the greatest achievement available in the sport. The audacious victory is arguably the best in the UFC’s 20-year existence: Remarkable, historic, and most importantly, a sign that the best may always still be ahead.
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