8. Fedor Emelianenko vs Josh Barnett
As Emelianenko climbed to the top of the PRIDE heavyweight ranks, the only fighter who eluded one of his signature ass-whippings was the one big name he never fought: the Baby Faced Assassin, Josh Barnett. When his name came up as a possible opponent for Fedor at Yarennoka!, our heart skipped a beat. Then, reality set in. Fedor would most likely do to Barnett what he does to everyone else — turn him into a human punching-bag for 2-15 minutes depending on how hard his skull is — but Barnett is an A-level fighter and it wouldn’t be fair to count him out against anybody (even though we just did).
7. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Andrei Arlovski
While every other heavyweight match the UFC books seems to feature Tim “Xanax” Sylvia, the organization’s two most exciting stars are sitting on the bench. Anytime you put two offensive powerhouses — neither of whom has much of a chin — in a cage together, you’re guaranteed to see fireworks. It doesn’t matter that Cro Cop is coming off of back-to-back losses and there really wouldn’t be anything on the line; fans would kill to see these guys bash it out.
6. Randy Couture vs. Mark Coleman (circa 2000)
Mark Coleman used to be the most accomplished wrestler in mixed martial arts, and is often credited with inventing “ground and pound.” The ageless Couture has since eclipsed him, but the relentless attack of a top-of-his-game Coleman would have been a tough match-up for the Natural. Both fighters went undefeated in 2000, with Couture winning the UFC’s heavyweight title for the second time and Coleman winning the PRIDE Grand Prix, and a fight between them at that moment in their careers would have been legendary.
5. Shinya Aoki vs. BJ Penn
Japanese star (and Shooto‘s middleweight champion) Shinya Aoki has a lot in common with BJ “The Prodigy” Penn — for one thing, neither fighter has ever been submitted. And though their opponents have known better than to intentionally tangle with them on the ground, a match between the two would make for a grappling master-class. But considering that Aoki isn’t heading to the UFC any time soon, and BJ seems committed to making a go of it as a lightweight, a “Battle of the Ground Gurus” will probably remain a pipe dream…
4. Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva — in 2004
When PRIDE star Wanderlei Silva showed up at UFC 61 in July of last year, his staredown with Chuck was the highlight of the show, and the UFC announced that two would be fighting that November. Unfortunately, negotiations between the UFC and PRIDE fell apart and the biggest fight in MMA history was postponed to this year, where the two tarnished legends now sport a combined 0-4 with 3 KOs in their last four fights. But for all the excitement it generated in 2006, the fight was past its expiration date even then. If we had our way, we’d watch these two bruisers face off in 2004, when Silva was in his prime and Liddell was still hungry and heading for his first UFC title.
3. Dan Henderson vs. Frank Shamrock
These days, Frank Shamrock rests comfortably as Strikeforce’s middleweight champion, but worthy opponents are increasingly hard to come by. If he’s looking for suggestions, we’d love to see him check in with Dan Henderson, who Shamrock beat in a submission wrestling event ten years ago. In the ensuing decade, Henderson’s accomplishments have been stellar, and a middleweight superfight against Shamrock would be something no fan could miss. Unfortunately, we’ll be stuck watching Frank “doing a little sibling rivalry in the ring” with his batshit crazy brother Ken.
2. Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko
Bottom line is, this needs to happen. Couture will be a creaky 45 years old next October (the earliest possible time he’ll be contractually eligible to face Emelianenko, unless a UFC/M-1 co-promotion can be arranged), but his unrivaled strength and experience give him a fighting chance to be the first person to defeat the Russian juggernaut — and how wild would that be? As for Fedor, the most dominant heavyweight fighter in the sport should not be squandering his ability on guys like Hong Man Choi. Both men have a lot to prove — until they meet, neither one can legitimately claim the title of “Greatest of All Time.”
1. Rickson Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba
In the mid ’90s the Gracie family ruled the world of MMA, and their brand of jiu-jitsu launched a martial arts revolution. It had been nearly half a century since a Gracie tasted defeat in a mixed martial arts competition…then came Kazushi Sakuraba. He stopped Royler, Renzo and Royce and won a unanimous decisions over the late Ryan, earning him the nickname “The Gracie Hunter.” But how would he have faired against Rickson, the man whose jiu-jitsu was the stuff of legends? Since Rickson retired from competition in 2000 (with an undefeated record), we’ll never know, and no matter how many times this fight occurs on a message board, it always falls short of the real thing.
Of course, that’s just our humble opinion. Let us know how you feel in the comments section…