Sometimes an MMA fight is so close — or controversial — that matching the fighters up again a few months later is the only logical option. In honor of the upcoming immediate rematches between Leonard Garcia and Nam Phan (at UFC Fight Night 24 on March 26th), and Edgar vs. Maynard 3 at UFC 130, we decided to round up our favorite “do-over” fights of all time…
6. STEPHAN BONNAR vs. KRZYSZTOF SOSZYNSKI
UFC 116, 7/3/10
Why it was necessary: A clash of heads during their first fight at UFC 110 opened up a nasty gash on Bonnar’s forehead; the referee didn’t see the illegal impact, and awarded a TKO victory to Soszynski due to cuts. Furious at taking his third-straight loss in such an unjust manner, Bonnar filed a formal appeal with the Combat Sports Authority of New South Wales. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears, but the UFC hooked Bonnar up (as they often do) by giving him an immediate rematch with K-Sos on the blockbuster “Lesnar vs. Carwin” card.
What happened: Bonnar/Soszynski 2 turned out to be a meat-and-potatoes brawl reminiscent of Bonnar’s first war with Forrest Griffin. The American Psycho and the Polish Experiment both appeared to gas out by the start of the second round, but Bonnar was able to keep throwing and landing until he overwhelmed Soszynski with strikes at the 3:08 mark. The fight netted both men $75,000 Fight of the Night bonuses, and produced one of the greatest victory poses in UFC history.
5. FRANKIE EDGAR vs. BJ PENN
UFC 118, 8/28/10
Why it was necessary: Mostly because nobody could believe Edgar actually won. A 7-1 underdog going into their initial meeting at UFC 112, Edgar edged out a lethargic-looking Penn in a match that was close through all five rounds. The Answer shocked the crowd by scoring a takedown in the fifth, which seemed to clinch his unanimous decision victory. Frankie Edgar was the new UFC lightweight champion, but come on — surely it was a fluke, right? The UFC scheduled a rematch four months later in Boston, just to make sure.
What happened: Turns out, it wasn’t a fluke. Edgar had Penn’s number in their rematch, outboxing and outwrestling the Prodigy in every single round. The scores came back 50-45 from all three judges. Edgar had answered the doubters, and was free to defend his belt against somebody not named BJ Penn. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
4. RANDY COUTURE vs. PEDRO RIZZO
UFC 34, 11/2/01
Why it was necessary: Couture and Rizzo’s UFC 31 title fight was one of the most classic five-rounders in the history of the sport — a truly back-and-forth battle that saw Couture nearly finish the fight with ground and pound in the first frame, before Rizzo roared back in the second to dominate the Natural with strikes. Couture edged out the challenger in rounds 3 and 4 with his trademark dirty boxing and takedowns, but was outgunned by Rizzo in the final frame. Couture took the fight by unanimous decision. It wasn’t the most controversial outcome, but the UFC decided to match them up again three events later, just because the first fight was so epic.
What happened: Couture/Rizzo 2 didn’t quite match the original in terms of non-stop thrills, but the ending was indisputable. In the third round, Randy scored a takedown, deposited Rizzo against the cage, and pounded on him until Big John called a stop to the contest at the 1:38 mark. It would be Couture’s last victory at heavyweight until 2007.
Why it was necessary: After smashing their way through a 16-man heavyweight grand prix field, Fedor and Big Nog met in the tournament finals at PRIDE Final Conflict 2004 in August. It was a rematch of their fight at PRIDE 25 the year before, where Emelianenko outpointed Nogueira and took his heavyweight title. So, a lot was on the line here. But the fight itself turned out to be anti-climactic. An accidental headbutt on the ground opened up a cut on Fedor’s notoriously thin skin, and the meeting was ruled a no-contest just shy of the four-minute mark. The promotion had no choice but to book an immediate rematch at their New Year’s Eve event.
What happened: A one-sided beatdown in favor of the Last Emperor (the beginning of which you can watch above). Fedor decided to keep the fight standing as much as possible rather than mess with Nogueira’s guard-game, and won a clear unanimous decision thanks to his striking, takedown defense, and judo throws.
2. KAZUSHI SAKURABA vs. MARCUS “CONAN” SILVEIRA
UFC Japan, 12/21/97
Why it was necessary: The UFC’s first Japanese event featured a four-man heavyweight tournament that pitted Brazilian badass Marcus Silveira against the much-smaller Kazushi Sakuraba, a former pro wrestler — and future MMA legend — who lied about his weight in order to compete. In a rare officiating mis-step, Big John McCarthy misinterpreted Sakuraba’s single-leg dive (see the video’s 2:58 mark) as a drift into unconsciousness, and gave Conan the win, which was later changed to a no-contest. Since Tank Abbott broke his hand in his decision victory over Yoji Anjo on the other side of the bracket, a rematch between Silveira and Sakuraba was set for the tournament finals, just an hour later.
What happened: In the first of many truly heroic performances, Sakuraba used his superior grappling to overcome his larger opponent, and secured an armbar victory at 3:44 into the fight. The win launched Saku’s career; he would go on to become an icon in the MMA world, best known for beating members of the Gracie family and absorbing heaps of abuse.
Fun fact: This wasn’t the only immediate rematch that took place on the same night as the first fight. In 1995, Igor Vovchanchyn beat the crap out of Adilson Lima twice in consecutive matches at Absolute Fighting Championship 1.
1. MAURICIO RUA vs. LYOTO MACHIDA
UFC 113, 5/8/10
Why it was necessary: Machida’s narrow unanimous decision at UFC 104 was universally declared “bullshit!” by everybody except Cecil Peoples. One of the other judges from the fight publicly changed his mind about the scoring — after all, Shogun was clearly the aggressor throughout the fight, and outstruck the champion by a 2-1 ratio. The fans wanted a rematch, and they got one.
What happened: The end of the Machida Era. For the first time since his glory days in PRIDE, Shogun looked like he was firing on all cylinders. Rua put relentless pressure on Machida, stalking the champ with strikes until he finally landed a right hook to the temple that sent Machida reeling. A few more punches on the ground, and the Dragon was out cold at the 3:35 mark of round 1. The resurgence of Shogun after a very rough start to his UFC campaign has to be one of the greatest career comeback stories in MMA history — and has now led him to a meeting with 205-pound wunderkind Jon Jones at UFC 128 next weekend that may decide the future of the division.
Honorable mentions: Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort, Shinya Aoki vs. Gesias Cavalcante, Anthony Johnson vs. Kevin Burns, Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra (an immediate rematch for Serra, though not for GSP), Phil Baroni vs. Evan Tanner, Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith, Dan Henderson vs. Kazuo Misaki, Nick Diaz vs. Jeremy Jackson