30 Years of Ultimate Fights: The Best from the UFC

November 17, 2023
3 months

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is closing in on 30 years of action, having provided fight fans with high-octane MMA action throughout. Let’s review some of the best fights from its storied history, which have ensured that the UFC has dominated the industry.

 

Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit, UFC 195

 

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Right at the start of 2016, the UFC hosted a terrific event at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main event truly lived up to its billing as the UFC Welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler, took on the challenger, Carlos Condit. Lawler’s untamed aggression was on full display, while Condit used his Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing across all five rounds in a total classic, which split the judges’ decision. Lawler ended up retaining the belts, which sent Condit on a five-match losing streak.

 

Namajunas vs. Jędrzejczyk II, UFC 223

 

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The thuggish-looking Rose Namajunas shocked the Polish veteran Joanna Jędrzejczyk at UFC 217 when she won the UFC Strawweight championship with a TKO victory in the first round. The re-match was booked for UFC 223, and it didn’t disappoint. This second encounter went the full 25-minute period in the Barclays Center as both fighters landed over 100 strikes on each other. Namajunas was able to land a takedown, which ultimately gave her the decision to win.

 

Forest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, The Ultimate Fighter Finale

 

It’s hard to believe, almost 20 years on from the Ultimate Fighter series, that this fight wasn’t the main event. The Ultimate Fighter as a reality show didn’t have the same appeal it currently enjoys. Therefore most fans weren’t excited about the finale between Forest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar. Most were there to see Ken Shamrock. Yet, here at the Cox Pavilion, Griffin and Bonnar tore the house down with a fine display of standing strikes. Dana White has since recalled this fight as one of the driving forces for MMA entering the mainstream. Griffin won the fight via decision and was awarded a pro-UFC contract.

 

Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk, UFC 248

 

UFC 248 might have been one of the most stacked cards in UFC history, with fighters like Israel Adesanya, Alex Oliveira, and Sean O’Malley all taking part on the night at T-Mobile Arena. Despite those fights, it was the championship fight for the UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship that stole the show. Zhang Weili and Joanna Jędrzejczyk squared off in a fierce battle that saw multiple disciplines clash. The fight went the distance, and the Chinese fighter was declared the winner via split decision.

 

Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz II, UFC 202

 

Would it be an article befitting an MMA news website without a mention of Conor McGregor? In March 2016, the Irishman was incredibly popular with the fans as his rise ran parallel with the sport becoming increasingly well known. His first match against Nate Diaz was his welterweight debut and ended up being the fight of the night. McGregor might remember the night less fondly, as Diaz locked in a rear-naked choke four minutes into the second round, which saw the American pick up a submission win.

While that fight was good, the match just five months on at UFC 202 was a match-of-the-year contender. McGregor had been committed to avenging his loss as he was able to drop Diaz three times throughout the re-match. Diaz continually rose to his feet and swung at McGregor, leading to blood-soaked faces and fighting surfaces. McGregor won this fight, making it 1-1 in the rivalry. However, no third match has taken place, with fight fans itching to see who would win the series decider.

 

Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock, UFC 1

 

There’s a certain amount of grandeur, homage, and prestige that every MMA news site should bestow on the embryonic UFC events. While the fight doesn’t look like a contemporary product at all, it’s very amusing to see one fighter competing in a Gi and the other in swimming trunks and relatively unappealing knee pads. This semi-final match at UFC 1 ended after 57 seconds as Ken Shamrock tapped out to Royce Gracie. However, the fight was exciting enough to set the tone for what the MMA product should be like going forward.

 

Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson, UFC 165

 

The Air Canada Centre in Toronto played witness to one of the best fights in not just UFC Light Heavyweight Championship history but in the entirety of the UFC. The main event pitted the champion, Jon Jones, against Swedish adversary Alexander Gustafsson. Jones found it difficult to land offense throughout the fight as Gustaffson either blocked or used his footwork to evade. As the rounds went on, it became a fluid match, with both men landing key strikes. The judges, however, felt that Jones had done enough throughout the match and scored the only takedown in the fight, so handed him the decision to win. The pair met in a re-match five years later, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the original fight.

 

Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald II, UFC 189

 

There are some fights you’d like to see go on and on forever. Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald had already fought at UFC 167. That split decision victory for Lawler and the subsequent career trajectories led to a second encounter when Lawler became the UFC Welterweight champion. This re-match has been noted as one of the most fiercely contested MMA fights of all time. By the fifth round, both men were covered in blood and still staring each other down with great vigor. MacDonald, who could have won the fight, left himself exposed for the first time 60 seconds into the fifth, which saw the fight end after a direct shot shattering MacDonald’s nose.

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