Best MMA Fights of All-Time
By nature, any MMA fight is exciting to watch.
So for a fight to be remembered more than all others and be labeled as one of the greatest, it has to have a lot going for it: evenly-matched fighters, back-and-forth action, near-KOs, close-call submissions, and perhaps a title on the line. Get all those ingredients together (and a wager on who you think will win doesn’t hurt the excitement level) and you have a recipe for a legendary bout.
In chronological order, here are our best MMA fights of all-time.
2000: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie I (Pride Grand Prix Finals)
Royce Gracie is considered to be the godfather of modern MMA. Similarly, Kazushi Sakuraba is considered one of the most well-rounded and complete MMA fighters and wrestlers of all-time. And when the two met for the first time in the quarterfinals of the Pride Grand Prix 2000 Quarterfinals, the result is what everyone expected: one of the greatest fights ever.
Fighting with specially-requested rules of unlimited rounds and no ref-stoppages, the match had to be won by submission or knockout only. The grueling affair ran for 90 minutes (six 15-minute rounds) and as fatigue set in Sakuraba’s wrestling skills began to negate any chance Gracie had of getting a takedown. Finally, Royce’s corner threw in the towel after the fifth and sixth rounds consisted of not much more than long series of brutal leg kicks from the Japanese.
2005: Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar 1 (TUF 1 Finale)
For what it lacked in technical precision, the first Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight made up for with pure energy and non-stop action. Credited as the beginning of the current UFC boom, the finale of the first Ultimate Fighter season has been called the most important fight in UFC history by president Dana White.
Round one ended with no clear winner, but was every bit the slugfest as anticipated. In the second, Bonnar cut Griffin on the nose which spiked the match’s ferocity even further. The final round began similarly, and ended with Bonnar in a Thai clinch and receiving a series of short punches from Griffin. Despite all three judges scoring the fight 29-28 in favor of Griffin, Joe Rogan granted both battered fighters UFC contracts on the spot for their efforts.
2010: Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen (UFC 117)
Anderson “The Spider” Silva was a man that looked unbeatable for a period of time, winning 13 consecutive fights over seven years heading into UFC 117. His opponent there would be Chael Sonnen, who vowed that he would “retire” the legendary grappler.
Sending Silva into retirement may have been a bit of a stretch, but after four rounds it was indeed the American that held the advantage in the judge’s scorecards. Despite being hit more than in his entire UFC career combined, Silva was able to take the fight to the ground and get the challenger in a triangular arm bar that would force him to tap with less than two minutes to go.
2011: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard II (UFC 125)
Few things are better when a fight not only lives up to its billing, but blasts far beyond it. After winning the lightweight title from BJ Penn and then successfully defending it from him too, Frankie Edgar was pitted against the only man that had ever beaten him: Gray Maynard.
The first round gave the impression that the fight once again would go to Maynard, who pummeled the champion and even knocked him to the mat several times. From there, the reigning champ would climb his way back into the fight over the next four rounds. Ultimately, the match would be declared a draw by the judges for just the third time in UFC title fight history. If you on the other hand always know who the winner of a fight will be, you can try sports-betting on MMA fights online.
2011: Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua (UFC 139)
The fight by which all others are measured against. With his light heavyweight title at stake, Dan Henderson and challenger Mauricio “Shogun” Rua went the distance in a five-round affair that Dana White would later compare to boxing’s Thrilla In Manila.
After Henderson controlled much of the first few rounds, the match twisted into a bloody adventure where both men were seemingly seconds away from winning on several occasions each. Rua was able to mount the champ in the fourth, but the decision was ultimately given to Henderson with all three scorecards reading 48-47. However, White said after the fight he thought it should have been a draw and that it was “one of the top three best fights ever in MMA”.