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The 10 Greatest UFC Events of All TIme (#5-1)

The UFC’s first 132 events have given us over 15 years worth of legendary battles, shocking finishes, and historic debuts. With UFC 100 coming up on July 11th, we decided to do some digging and pick out the 10 most monumental events of all time. So join us as we step into the way-back machine…

(Check out part one here.)


#5: UFC 1: The Ultimate Fighting Championship
11/12/93; Denver, Colorado

Notable Fights:
Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock, Gerard Gordeau vs. Teila Tuli, Royce Gracie vs. Gerard Gordeau
Lowdown: Nearly 3,000 people packed into the McNichols Sports Arena on one fateful night in November to witness the beginning of cultural movement, which is cool even if most of them only showed up because they were already drunk and had reason to believe that they might see a man killed.  It was billed as an eight-man tournament with no rules, and although that wasn’t entirely true (biting and eye-gouging were both outlawed) it might as well have been.  Referee guidelines consisted mostly of instructions not to stop the fight no matter what, there were no judges, not even the suggestion of weight classes, and the approved attire had no limits whatsoever, as evidence by Royce Gracie’s gi and Art Jimmerson’s one lonely glove.

The obvious storyline that night was Gracie’s unfettered run through the motley crew of fighters to prove the superiority of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, as planned.  In three fights that night he spent around five minutes in the newly-unveiled Octagon to win the first UFC.  But there were other memorable moments, as well, such as when Gerard Gordeau kicked a downed Teila Tuli in the face so hard his tooth became embedded in Gordeau’s foot.  Or when Ken Shamrock introduced America to the heel hook against Patrick Smith, only to go on to lose via gi-choke to Gracie in the next round, though the referee completely missed the tapout.  In the end Gracie would win easily in the finals against Gordeau, while football great/announcer Jim Brown mostly blundered his way through the broadcast with no real concept of what he was seeing.  Chances are no one knew it at the time, but a monster was born that night in Denver.

#4: UFC 31: Locked and Loaded
5/4/01; Atlantic City, New Jersey

Notable fights: Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo, Carlos Newton vs. Pat Miletich, Chuck Liddell vs. Kevin Randleman, Shonie Carter vs. Matt Serra, BJ Penn vs. Joey Gilbert
Lowdown: The second event promoted by Zuffa, "Locked and Loaded" established the weight classes that are still used in the UFC today: 155, 170, 185, 205 and above. And aside from that bit of MMA history, it was also stacked to the gills with big stars, future legends, and exciting finishes. The event was headlined by Randy Couture in his first heavyweight title defense — a classic 25-minute battle with Pedro Rizzo that was so close (and so entertaining) that the two fighters had an immediate rematch at UFC 34. The event also featured a welterweight title match, in which Carlos Newton stole the belt from five-time champion Pat Miletich via third-round bulldog choke. Meanwhile, Chuck Liddell officially became a fan favorite with his 78-second disposal of the beefed-up and scary-looking Kevin Randleman.

But it was the new faces that stole the show: A young Hawaiian jiu-jitsu prodigy by the name of BJ Penn, who outboxed boxer Joey Gilbert; a gargantuan Dutch kickboxer and Pancrase vet named Semmy Schilt, who tore apart Pete Williams; and a local grappler named Matt Serra, who was nine seconds away from earning a decision victory against Shonie Carter when he fell victim to a Hail Mary spinning backfist, in one of the most shocking knockouts in UFC history.

#3: The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale
4/9/05; Las Vegas, Nevada

Notable fights: Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, Diego Sanchez vs. Kenny Florian, Rich Franklin vs. Ken Shamrock
Lowdown: Zuffa mythology credits the TUF 1 finale as the night that saved the company and broke the UFC into the mainstream. Though it’s remembered best for the epic three-round slobberknocker between light-heavyweight finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar — as the story goes, ratings climbed steadily through the fight as dumbstruck viewers called their friends and urged them to turn on Spike TV — the card was wild from top to bottom.

Mike Swick, Nate Quarry, Josh Koscheck, and Chris Leben began their veteran runs in the Octagon that night with first-round T/KO victories. Diego Sanchez won the finale’s middleweight contract by beating up an overfed Kenny Florian. (Four years later, they’re eyeing each other once again at the top of the lightweight food chain.) And fading Hall-of-Famer Ken Shamrock was brought in to face rising star Rich Franklin in the headlining bout, which wasn’t exactly one of Shammy’s most graceful performances. The main event actually felt like an unnecessary afterthought following such an incredible display of young talent. The next wave had arrived; not since UFC 1 had MMA felt so revolutionary.

#2: UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell II
4/16/05; Las Vegas, Nevada

Notable Fights:
Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell II, Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II, Georges St. Pierre vs. “Mayhem” Miller
Lowdown: If it seemed like there was more attention paid to this event than to previous pay-per-views, that’s because there was.  Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell were both coming off stints as coaches on the original “Ultimate Fighter” and their reward for putting up with all the lame challenges and not ogling the fantastic ta-ta’s of host Willa Ford was a much-hyped rematch on a card that would yield the UFC’s highest-grossing live gate up until that point.   

In the main event, Liddell knocked out Couture with the right hand that we’ve since come to regard as his trademark, claiming the UFC light heavyweight title that he’d hold for the next two years.  Another exciting finish came in the other rematch on the card between welterweight champ Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg.  A groin shot left Hughes open and Trigg wasted no time pouncing on him and nearly finishing him with a rear naked choke.  But Hughes rallied back with one of his patented slams and then slapped an RNC on Trigg, just to show him how to properly finish the move while also providing an iconic highlight for the UFC to run over and over and over again.  

Also on the card, a fresh-faced young kid name of Georges St. Pierre put a serious hurting on Jason “Mayhem” Miller, winning a decision after three brutal rounds, though Miller would later allude to problems holding on to the slippery French-Canadian…

#1: UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008
12/27/08; Las Vegas, Nevada

Notable fights: Quinton Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva, Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Rashad Evans vs. Forrest Griffin
Lowdown: Storylines make fights, and UFC 92 had some great ones. Quinton Jackson, who had been destroyed by Wanderlei Silva twice in PRIDE, was booked to face the Axe Murderer a third time at "The Ultimate 2008" — and considering Jackson was coming back from a loss to Forrest Griffin and an alarming emotional breakdown, it looked like Silva was about to go 3-0 in their series. But Rampage slayed his personal demons with a cathartic first-round knockout of Wandy, reviving his career yet again.

Still, in terms of upsets, Silva vs. Jackson III wasn’t in the same ballpark as the Frank Mir/Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira fight, which everyone — including Mir himself — was giving to Big Nog. Mir wisely stayed off the ground with his TUF 8 rival coach and used his striking to knock Nogueira around the cage, dropping him twice in the first round, and once more in the second before finishing the Brazilian legend off with strikes on the ground. Counted out after his motorcycle accident, Frank Mir had somehow come back to pick up another heavyweight title — even if it was one of those off-brand "interim" belts.

In the main event, Rashad Evans completed his ascension in the light-heavyweight division by scoring a third-round TKO victory over Forrest Griffin in what was deemed the Fight of the Night; it was the first time that two Ultimate Fighter winners had competed for a championship belt. UFC 92 also featured impressive victories by Cheick Kongo, Matt Hamill, CB Dollaway, Antoni Hardonk, and Pat Barry, and set up new storylines that would capture our attention in 2009.

Okay, what’d we miss?  You know you’re dying to tell us…

Cagepotato Comments

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ScrambledEggs- July 2, 2009 at 7:40 am
Oh and I forgot to mention that the The Ultimate Ultimate Ultimate 2008 is also the event that introduced us all to the new and improved striking of Frank Mir which was basically running straight forward full speed while punching.

This site loses what shred of credibility it had naming that event #1 in UFC History.
ScrambledEggs- July 2, 2009 at 7:36 am
UFC 47
UFC 59
UFC 75
Ultimate Fight Night 6

And you fuckers picked The Ultimate Ultimate Ultimate 2008.
Are you fucking kidding me? The event that has completely shopworn and past their primes Noguiera and Wanderlei in two of the top three fights, and also featured a rather boring main event with Forrest and Rashad until the ending. That event really?
That is a totally new mma fan worthy pick. A pick fans who think Junie Browing and George Roop have potential can appreciate.
It's got to be a fucking joke.
Chri534.- July 1, 2009 at 10:57 pm
Ultimate Fight Night, TUF Finale's 2 & 3, Fight Night 9, UFC 73, Fight Night's 11 & 13, and UFC 87, 91, and 101 are my list. reason...
Jay Smith- July 1, 2009 at 4:33 pm
I was at UFC 92 in Vegas, and I do think it was the best card to date. I wish I could go to 100 though. I will be watching though!
Jay Smith- July 1, 2009 at 4:32 pm
I failed...............
Chachie- July 1, 2009 at 3:50 pm
I think the UFC Fight for the Troops event deserves a mention on the list.

Did it have big names? No, not really.
Was it entertaining? I can't think of many more events in recent history that was more entertaining. Great fights with great finishes. One of the most violent shows ever!

The best things going for this event? A) it supported a great cause, B) it was free.
Just A Wrestler- July 1, 2009 at 3:17 pm
i jizzed again
EzMoNeY- July 1, 2009 at 1:26 pm
i think i'm gonna have to agree with wheelchairbandit on this one UFC49>UFC92.
also, even though UFC92 might be worthy of a number one, i think i dont like it because historically, i believe, it will be viewed in hindsight as something of a tragic card, where two of prides better legends went to die. i think 92 kind of shows the point where both Wanderlei and Nogueira hit a downslide in their careers and didn't recovered, never again to be elite level fighters, as they once were.
MMAMoneyLine- July 1, 2009 at 1:13 pm
The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale was a terrific card. They had the Franklin/Shamrock fight on replay a week or two ago. Shamrock actually looked pretty decent...I believe he even floored Rich with a right hand before slipping and getting pounded out.
WheelchairBandit- July 1, 2009 at 12:16 pm
A list of the ten greatest UFC events of all time that doesn't include UFC 49?!?!How could you overlook that card?

Yves Edwards vs Josh Thomson
Karo Parisyan vs Nick Diaz
Chris Lytle vs Ronald Jhun
Justin Eilers vs Mike Kyle
David Terrell vs Matt Lindland
Chuck Liddell vs Vernon White
Joe Riggs vs Joe Doerksen
Randy Couture vs Vitor Belfort

Out of 8 fights,only one went the distance (Diaz vs. Parisyan),and it was an all time classic;three highlight reel KO's,including Yves Edwards' head kick on Josh Thompson;and Randy Couture winning back the light heavyweight belt by beating Vitor Belfort into a bloody pulp.

831 Son- July 1, 2009 at 12:04 pm
Thats one of the dumbest things Ive heard all week Derly. That doesnt mean you are obligated to write so much.

Love how Rampage socked up Wanderlei as hard as he could 3 more times when he was already out cold haha. True rivals.
karate is back- July 1, 2009 at 11:28 am
Good to know that the only UFC event i've ever hosted at my house made number 1. haha.
Derly- July 1, 2009 at 11:02 am
Man... now that I've started commenting again, I'm writing some long ass shit... I'm sorry guys... This is what happens when you have a very intellectually involved professor for a summer course.
Derly- July 1, 2009 at 11:01 am
No the UFC isn't a league but it might as well be a league, at least in America. If you go international, then you can put DREAM on the same table, even though some might argue the talent pool is slightly offset. Of course because it is such an international sport then maybe you want to argue that you can't have two leagues at the top of a sport. But then this is mma, it's defining it's own terms in the sports industry at this time, and maybe that's how the story is told.

And although many of the casual fans see the UFC as the only promotion in mma, you have to sympathize with them. In this sport, it's really hard to keep up with all the names, fighters, weight classes, styles, and techniques (mainly submissions). When I first started watching the whole weight classes concept had completely escaped me. I was just trying to remember who fighters were so I could root for them next time, but so many guys sorta look the same-ish when you're new, and you kinda just remember fighters based on physique and skin color. Then I got to the point where I could remember names without misnaming a fighter. My dad is pretty much the same at this point. He's where I was trying to remember who fought in what league and what weight class. He's definitely picking it up quick, and he's knows the main differences between Japanese mma and American mma, as well as the difference between UFC, WEC, and Affliction. If you show him that advertisement for Fedor he would know who it is.

What my point is that in any sport you have to start somewhere. The UFC is the most recognizable promotion in America, and has most of the allstar fighters in America. And no sport is able to achieve the status that mma has gotten lately without the drunk casual fans who just wanna see people inflict damage upon each other. Without them many fighters wouldn't be getting paid what they are, and we wouldn't be having these in-depth discussions on the history of the sport. But it is the hardcore fans, who writhe in inebriated screams of "...stand 'em up, Ref!" that give the sport meaning, by giving promoters a reason to hire fighters of many styles to prove who is the best. Otherwise our sport would just be kickboxing with small gloves. But fighters like Royce, Machida, and Fedor would never achieve celebrity status, had the hardcore fans not recognized the talent and casual fans not screamed for more.
ktfo- July 1, 2009 at 10:45 am
ufc 100 is a solid card. wtf are you talkin bout sheps
Sheps- July 1, 2009 at 10:36 am
ahaha I knew UFC 92 would be number one very true as well, the best MMA card since MMA became popular in the west.

TBH UFC 92 will still probably be better than UFC 100, which is a weak line up for a big thing.
Kazi- July 1, 2009 at 10:33 am
@ Swedish

Is that you Dana White? Btw Dana, the UFC isn't a league.
LoneWolf- July 1, 2009 at 10:31 am
Great list, man I can not freakin wait for UFC 100......just a week and a half away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
RaginAsian- July 1, 2009 at 9:59 am
There's something I don't quite like about UFC 92 at the number one spot, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

I think it's because, outside of Rampage, Wandy, Nog, and Mir, all of the other fighters on the card seem like they won't be remembered as distinct and/or legendary fighters (and Mir is cutting it close). Even Forrest and Rashad seem like they've hit their respective peaks in the ratings and history is going to show them as flashes in the championship pan.
danomite- July 1, 2009 at 9:56 am
i think you missed ufc 58. might not have had huge matchups like rampage and wandy and chuck but almost every fight was awesome
Swedish- July 1, 2009 at 9:47 am
Awesome list of events. Keep it coming UFC!

We are all grateful for the UFC creating the best league in the world where we can see the best fighters square off on a regular basis.

Thank you for NOT going down the boxing path of a million small promotions diluting the talent and holding meaningless best (ex. WAMMA)