The Juggernaut MMA News Report 06.28.12: Top 10 Rematches
Posted by Jonathan Solomon on 06.28.2012
In honor of next week's epic Silva/Sonnen rematch, 411's Jonathan Solomon runs down the top ten MMA rematches of all-time. Plus, check out the latest news including Anderson Silva's angry rant, Bibiano Fernandes finally signs and UFC vs. Boxing!
Top 10 MMA Rematches
In honor of next week's star studded main event between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen, I want to go through history and check out the best rematches in MMA. "Best" can mean a plethora of things so I'll briefly discuss how I have picked my choices below. In some cases, these fights had an enormous amount of hype leading up to fight night. For them, whether the fight itself became a classic is irrelevant because the build was so memorable. Other situations, the fights were defining moments in the sport were instant classics. For example, the rematches between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock were huge in the moment in terms of fan interest. Unfortunately, neither of the two rematches were great fights and trust me when I say that nobody goes back to rewatch them. Plus, I only have room for ten fights and I wanted to mix some around to get representatives from a variety of organizations.
#10 B.J. Penn vs. Jens Pulver II - The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale - June 23, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada
These men were and will always be linked because of their classic fight at UFC 35 in 2002 when the 11-2-1, reigning UFC lightweight champion Pulver beat the 3-0 B.J. Penn by unanimous decision.
Pulver left the UFC after the fight, eventually ending up in Japan for Pride. When he returned to the UFC in 2006, he lost in upset fashion to unknown 22-year old Joe Lauzon by knockout. After his first loss, Penn continued in the UFC but also left the promotion after jumping up in weight and beating Matt Hughes for the welterweight championship in 2004. After a small stint in Japan (and Hawaii) for K-1, Penn returned to the UFC with a split decision loss to Georges St. Pierre in a fight to determine the number one contender. After replacing GSP in the title fight with Hughes (St. Pierre was hurt), he lost by TKO and was 3-for-4 in his last four fights.
That's when The Ultimate Fighter came calling and the two were named coaches of the fifth season in 2007. While plenty of long-term UFC fighters were discovered (Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard, Joe Lauzon, Matt Wiman, Manny Gamburyan and Cole Miller to be exact), what made the season entertaining was the distaste Penn and Pulver had for one another. Even their ping pong games turned into a heated battle!
Even better, the rematch five years in the making was broadcast on SpikeTV. It was clear that Penn was the better fighter, entering his prime, while Pulver was in the middle of a stretch where he went 1-8 between 2006 and 2010. B.J. finished him in the second round with a rear naked choke that was left on perhaps a few extra seconds too long for good measure.
The fight marked the rebirth of Penn's lightweight career and he won his next four fights at the weight in dominant fashion until he ran into Frankie Edgar. Pulver dropped down to featherweight in WEC and had a classic title fight with Urijah Faber one year later.
#9 Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson II - Strikeforce: Evolution - December 19, 2009 in San Jose, California
Because of Cung Le's presence on the show, this lightweight championship rematch was the co-main event but as it turned out, both fights left fans mouths ajar in awe. Speaking about this fight, it was their second fight against one another since the previous summer when Melendez lost his gold in a five-round decision.
After breaking his ankle earlier in 2009, the fight was delayed until the end of the year. In the meantime, Melendez became interim champion when he knocked out Rodrigo Damm and Mitsuhiro Ishida.
While they were at one point close friends, they were not enemies by any means. Still, they were (and to this day, are) similar fighters who have great energy and love to go toe-to-toe. The first fight saw Thomson dominate the action for five rounds with an endless array of strikes to the head and body. To his credit, Melendez never backed down and came forward with strikes of his own but he was not going to be able to win in the later rounds unless he finished Thomson and that's never an easy task.
In the 2009 rematch, the two pretty much started where they left off. They simply beat on each other for five rounds. However, this time, it was Melendez getting the better of the striking exchanges. He did so much so, that he knocked Thomson down at least three times over the course of the five rounds. One of the rare times you'll see Thomson's gas tank reach empty happened in the fifth round when he just could not muster up enough energy to go for a knockout. Melendez won the unanimous decision and has been undisputed champion ever since.
Melendez emerged as one of the best three or four lightweights since then with wins over Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Jorge Masvidal and most recently, another win over Josh Thomson (a split decision).
Thomson has battled more injuries over the years but still has an eye on fighting as evidenced by his latest return in 2012 in which he nearly upset Melendez a second time.
#8 Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II - UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell II - April 16, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Heading into UFC 52, the main event light heavyweight title rematch between Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell was the most anticipated fight. Although Liddell won, beginning his famous reign, what you take away from the show was how crazy awesome the welterweight championship bout between Hughes and Frank Trigg was. This remains my personal most favorite fight of all-time and if you're a long-time reader of 411MMA, you probably have read me write about it on several occasions. Well, here's one more.
Hughes had just regained the gold about six months earlier when he submitted Georges St. Pierre. His first title defense since losing to B.J. Penn in 2004 came against Trigg, who he choked out at UFC 45 in 2003. After losing to Hughes, Trigg rebounded with knockout wins against Dennis Hallman and Renato Verissimo to earn his rematch.
The fight lasted all of four minutes and five seconds, but the buzz began before the fight even kick off. Trigg wouldn't look at Hughes until the pre-fight referee instructions when they went face-to-face. Hughes didn't like that and shoved him away leading Trigg a chance to blow the champ a kiss. If only Yoshihiro Nakao had seen this, he would have known a better method than to actually kiss Heath Herring on New Year's Eve 2005.
Trigg hit Hughes in the groin (accidentally) but referee Mario Yamasaki did not see it and Hughes's request for time was not granted. Trigg pounced on the opportunity landing a series of strikes which sent Hughes to the ground. He mounted him, then took his back and locked in a rear naked choke (the same move he was beaten with, mind you). Although he looked like he was going to pass out, Hughes defends the choke, stands up, picks Trigg up, RUNS ACROSS THE CAGE AND SLAMS HIM DOWN!!! With the Vegas crowd going apeshit at this point, Hughes mounts Trigg, batters him with strikes until the challenger gives up his back. Almost as though it was a scene in a cheesy Hollywood flick, Hughes sinks in the rear naked choke and forces Trigg to tap out.
While Hughes' run in the UFC would continue on, Trigg left the promotion following his next fight when he lost to Georges St. Pierre. He fought around the world until returning to the UFC in 2009 to lose to Josh Koscheck and Matt Serra.
#7 Mike Brown vs. Urijah Faber II - WEC 41: Brown vs. Faber 2 - June 7, 2009 in Sacramento, California
One of my favorite fights of all-time, this was not just an awesome fight but it did tremendous business in Sacramento. WEC 41 broke the previous company records for live gate (over $815,000) and attendance (13,027, nearly selling Arco Arena out). Plus, Versus (the television network it aired on) was ecstatic because due to WEC and NHL playoffs, they beat ESPN's prime time numbers that week for the first time ever (hat tip to Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter for that bit of information). What that all means is WEC 41 was not just an awesome show from a fight quality perspective, but proved that with the right guys (ie. Urijah Faber), the smaller weight classes were not just a throwaway.
The story for this fight revolves around Urijah Faber, the long-time WEC poster boy and featherweight champion for over two years. He was 21-1 and coming off a big win over Jens Pulver when his reign ended at the hands of Mike Brown via knockout in November 2008. Brown was 33-years old when he beat Faber the first time and had a 21-4 record heading into the rematch. He had literally fought all over America and around the world and was eventually able to make some money out of MMA thanks to his emergence in WEC.
With California as the setting (the first fight was in Florida, Brown's base), the crowd was loud in their support of the California Kid. However, early in the fight, Faber broke not just one but both hands. Amazingly, he continued on for four more rounds and had to resort to throwing forearm strikes. The two featherweights battled for five rounds ending in a unanimous decision for Brown.
WEC is best remembered for being the source of so many epic fights in its final years, this title fight may be the best of them all.
#6 Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre II - UFC 65: Bad Intentions - November 18, 2006 in Sacramento, California
At this point in 2006, Matt Hughes was in the middle of his second epic run as the best welterweight in the sport. Some of his big wins at this stretch included fights over Georges St. Pierre (2004), Frank Trigg, Joe Riggs, Royce Gracie and B.J. Penn. He finished each of those fights and it looked like he would be champ for a long time to come.
The other man on an impressive run of his own was GSP who rebounded from his first fight with Hughes to win four straight in the UFC. Wins over Mayhem Miller, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk and B.J. Penn brought him his rematch for the title. In fact, at one point, he even begged the UFC for a second chance and he promised he wouldn't need a third.
Their first fight saw Hughes submit GSP with a second remaining in the first round via armbar and he has since talked about how he went into the fight with too much respect for the champion. The rematch came over two years later and this time, St. Pierre was all over Hughes. He rocked him in the first round with a patented superman punch and finished him in round two with a head kick an follow up strikes. As we will see, this fight is one of the big 'changing of the guard' moments in the sport.
The loss, in hindsight, marked the end of Matt Hughes' career as one of the best in the world. He went 1-2 in his next three fights (including a third bout with GSP) before rebounding with three wins. Most recently, he was knocked out in vicious fashion by both B.J. Penn and Josh Koscheck.
As for St. Pierre, he was not mentally strong for his first title defense, five months later against Matt Serra. In Houston, Serra knocked GSP out in the first round. However, after the loss, GSP began an incredible streak of success that continues to this day. He is 9-0 since then including six consecutive title defenses.
#5 Chuck Liddell vs. Quinton Jackson - UFC 71: Liddell vs. Jackson - May 26, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada
UFC 71 holds the distinction of being the one and only UFC event to be heavily promoted by ESPN. While the honest reason behind that was business, ESPN was interested in buying the television rights to the product, they latched on to this huge main event and pushed it like it was something everyone had to see.
This was a rematch fans had been waiting to see ever since Rampage knocked out Chuck in the semifinals of the 2003 Pride middleweight grand prix. Liddell went to Japan to get a fight with Wanderlei and could not hold up his end of the deal. Instead, Silva ended up knocking out Jackson in the finals of the tournament. Chuck returned to the UFC months later and proceeded to defeat his next seven opponents by knockout or TKO. Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture fell victim twice, each, to Liddell during this run. As UFC champion, he successfully defended the gold four times, which is somewhat amazing, because it seems like he was champion for much longer than the two years he was.
Meanwhile, Rampage would go on to have an entertaining Pride run in his next eight fights with the promotion following the first fight with Liddell. Although he was knocked out twice by Wanderlei and once by Shogun Rua, he remained one of the most popular fighters because of his explosive power. The famous power bomb knockout of Ricardo Arona is still considered to this day one of the all-time best knockouts.
After leaving Pride, Jackson returned to America and his contract was eventually absorbed by the UFC when Zuffa purchased the WFA in 2006. He debuted in the octagon by knocking out Marvin Eastman which set up the big rematch with Liddell.
With a big fight feel, the rematch certainly ended with fireworks. Under 120 seconds into the fight, Rampage knocked Liddell out with a hook to become the new champion. He was instantly made into one of the sports' true superstars.
Jackson went on to unify the UFC and Pride championships when he defeated Dan Henderson later in 2007, before he abruptly lost the gold to Forrest Griffin the following summer. Although he finally avenged his losses to Wanderlei with a brutal knockout, he has never again been a champion.
For the Iceman, Liddell's career was effectively pushed off a cliff following this fight. With the exception of the long awaited fight with Wanderlei that went down at the end of 2007, he never won another fight. After being knocked out three times in a row from 2008-10, he was forced into retirement by the UFC.
#4 Fedor Emelienanko vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira III - Pride Shockwave 2004 - December 31, 2004 in Saitama, Japan
One of the few instances in MMA history where the top two unanimously best heavyweights squared off. When they stepped foot inside the ring for this fight, they had three losses between them (that includes Fedor's only fluke loss up to that point). Combined, their record was 44-3-1 with two no contests.
Their first fight took place in the spring of 2003 over Minotauro's Pride heavyweight championship and he proceeded to be soundly beaten by Fedor. Over the next year, Nogueira knocked off five opponents (including Ricco Rodriguez, Mirko Cro Cop, Heath Herring and Sergei Kharitonov) to become interim-champion before earning his shot at Fedor in the finals of the 2004 heavyweight grand prix tournament.
For his part, Fedor finished seven opponents leading to the first rematch in August 2004. However, the fight ended abruptly minutes in because of an accidental headbutt which cut Emelianenko and it was ruled a no contest.
With the undisputed Pride heavyweight championship and the grand prix championship at stake, the future legends rematched on the year-ending Shockwave show. Unlike the first fight which saw Fedor control the Brazilian on the ground, he sought to battle him on the feet. Nogueira was unable to get the fight to the ground for any meaningful amount of time and was beat to the punch. Emelianenko displayed great takedown defense and superb striking en route to the unanimous decision victory.
Unbeknownst to everyone at the time, Fedor would have just five additional fights in Pride before the promotion went out of business. Although he would go on to avenge his only "loss" and have an epic fight with Cro Cop, this rematch stands as one of the biggest heavyweight fights in history.
#3 Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz - UFC 66: Liddell vs. Ortiz II - December 30, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada
This championship fight has the distinction of being the biggest fight in UFC history between two men who became the largest superstars with the promotion. As mentioned above, Liddell won six fights in a row leading up to this fight, plus he appeared on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2005.
For Tito, he found himself as arguably the #1 star in the promotion thanks to his appearance on season three of TUF and his final two fights with Ken Shamrock. The last of which appeared on Spike TV to huge ratings success. Fighting wise, Ortiz had defeated Patrick Cote, Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffin and Shamrock leading him into his first title fight since he lost the gold to Randy Couture in 2003.
Ortiz and Liddell first fought in 2004 when Chuck won by TKO in the second round. The storyline was the two were former friends who were no longer friendly with one another. In 2003, Ortiz wouldn't give a title shot to Liddell which led to Chuck fighting and losing to Randy Couture for an interim-belt.
In 2006, with them as the two biggest MMA stars in America, the UFC 66 PPV did the highest buyrate of any UFC show up to that point, 1.05 million buys. As for the fight, Liddell dominated the contest, ending it with a series of punches which resulted in a referee stoppage in the third round. The win marked the final time Liddell would leave the octagon as champion.
Even worse, for Tito Ortiz, he has gone 1-5-1 in fights since losing to Chuck in 2006. Ironically, Ortiz's active fighting career will come to an end next week when he fights Forrest Griffin in a rematch of their two battles.
#2 Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton Jackson II - Pride 28: High Octane - October 31, 2004 in Saitama, Japan
Pride had several tremendous rivalries during its peak, but one of the best and most vicious was fought in their middleweight division. "The Axe Murderer" Wanderlei Silva and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson were two of the best and they did not like each other at all.
The two were on a collision course since early 2003 when a brawl nearly started after Jackson called out Silva at ringside after he defeated Kevin Randleman. Wanderlei jumped into the ring, the two shouted, Silva pushed Jackson and everyone ran into the ring to separate the two.
They first fought that November, in the finals of the 2003 Pride middleweight grand prix tournament, which meant both men fought earlier (Jackson over Chuck Liddell and Silva over Hidehiko Yoshida). Rampage controlled the majority of the first round after securing a takedown and from Wanderlei's guard, unleashed his ground and pound. Unfortunately for Jackson, the referee ruled him to be not active enough to sustain the position and stood them up. That's when the tide changed and Silva began peppering him with all kinds of strikes including soccer kicks and his famous Muay Thai knees. Jackson was knocked silly and the referee stopped the fight at the 6:28 mark of round one.
Each won a pair of fights leading to their huge rematch in October 2004 for the middleweight championship.
After one of the best stare-downs you'll ever see, the two squared off. Strikes exchanged but nothing too massive until Rampage landed a huge right that rocked Wanderlei. Moments later, he followed that up with a knee to the head from side mount. If not for round one ending, Jackson probably is able to finish Silva then and there.
In the second round, Silva nailed a huge right hand of his own that rocked Rampage, the beginning of the end. Wanderlei threw another right before unleashing some of the sickest knees of all-time. The final shot sent a knocked out Jackson careening through the ropes as blood fell from his face, ending the fight.
While Rampage would not avenge his two losses to Silva until four years later, Jackson was 7-2 leading up to that fight at UFC 92. Silva on the other hand? 5-5 after this win to Rampage until his loss in 2008.
#1 Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II - UFC 100 - July 11, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada
The most successful UFC pay-per-view in history was UFC 100 because of this fight (with some help of Georges St. Pierre in the co-main event, fighting Thiago Alves) which led to a monster 1.6 million buyrate. It remains the best business a UFC PPV has done to this day.
Frank Mir, the UFC-lifer and former champion, was just another fighter in 2007. He came back after his motorcycle accident in 2006 and went 1-2, losing both of those fights by TKO. He bounced back in 2007 to submit Antoni Hardonk. Then, Brock Lesnar happened.
Lesnar began training in MMA in 2006, made his professional debut in 2007 on the infamous K-1 Dynamite!! USA show in Los Angeles and beat Min-Soo Kim in 69 seconds. He jumped straight to the UFC and was given Mir for an opponent just seven months later on the 2008 Super Bowl weekend card. In that fight, Lesnar was clobbering Mir with ground and pound strikes when the action was stopped by referee Steve Mazzagatti because of apparent strikes to the back of Mir's head. After a restart, Mir took advantage of positioning, grabbed hold of a kneebar and Lesnar was forced to tap out. Mir was made to be MMA's hero against the invading arrogant professional wrestler.
Everything went exactly right for purposes of business because Lesnar bounced back to destroy Heath Herring in his next fight. In November, he beat Randy Couture to become the new UFC heavyweight champion. Weeks later, Frank Mir shocked the world by knocking out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to become the interim champion (this interim title was implemented during the period Randy Couture left the promotion earlier in the year). The huge rematch was there for the making and it was originally set for May's UFC 98 before an injury forced it to be delayed until the huge celebration that was UFC 100.
The fight at UFC 100 proved to be what their first fight may have been had Brock not been caught with the kneebar. Mir was unable to prevent his takedowns and ate huge strikes which led to the fight being stopped early in the second round. Mir's face was bloodied and Lesnar gave a boisterous interview to Joe Rogan in which he flipped off the crowd, talked poorly about UFC sponsor Bud Light (while promoting the non-sponsor brand, Coors Light) and suggested he and his wife were going to be busy later on. Brock ended up apologizing for his actions after being read the riot act but the visuals made for great television.
JUGGERNAUT NEWS BRIEFS
- Dream bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes has officially signed with ONE FC and will debut on August 31 in Manila. About a month ago, the UFC prematurely announced they had signed Bibiano, when in fact he never agreed to their offer. As we have come to understand, he was offered a more lucrative deal by the folks at ONE FC.
- The India-based Super Fight League has signed Jeff Monson, Satoshi Ishii, Sokoudjou and Michael Page to exclusive, four-fight contracts. Although their first fights have not been announced, the SFL's next show is set for September 8.
- Strikeforce confirmed the next women's bantamweight title fight is set for August 18 when champion Ronda Rousey defends against top contender Sarah Kaufman. Also on the card will be the return of former middleweight champion Jacare Souza, fighting Derek Brunson.
- Bellator announced the signing of Brazilian welterweight Marcus Aurelio. He has a 6-1 record and has been undefeated since suffering a loss in his first fight. Each of his wins have come by knockout or submission.
- Anderson Silva is angry. At a Monday conference call to promote next week's UFC 148, he unleashed a tirade about his opponent, Chael Sonnen:
"It doesn't matter if I'm on bottom, side or top. It doesn't matter. What I'm going to do to Chael will change the image of the sport. Chael Sonnen is going to get his ass kicked like never before. I'm going to beat his ass like never before. I'm going to break all his teeth, his arms, his legs. Chael Sonnen will not be able to walk out of the Octagon. I know he's listening, the game is over. No more shit-talking. It's on now. I'm just gonna make him pay and make him eat everything he said not only about myself but about my country. I'm going to make him regret disrespecting any fighter. I'm going to beat him like his parents should have beat him to teach him manners because he's disrespectful. I'm not playing anymore.
"In the first time we fought, he stepped out the loser and he's going to step out this time too. The only difference this time is he's going to need a plastic surgeon after this fight."
- ESPN's ESPYS Awards announced the nominations for best fighter, which include Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward. You can vote at this link. The ESPYS will air live on ESPN on Wednesday, July 11 in Los Angeles.
- The UFC confirmed early this morning a lightweight fight between Joe Lauzon and Jamie Varner is set for UFC on Fox 4 in Los Angeles. The expected four-fight televised main portion will include: Shogun Rua vs. Brandon Vera, Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader, Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado and Ben Rothwell vs. Travis Browne.
JUGGERNAUT VIDEO(S) OF THE WEEK
A new UFC web-series presents "Fight Camp Insider with Matt Serra" and in their premiere episode, the former champion visits Oregon to check in with Chael Sonnen and Team Quest.