The 411 MMA Top 10 04.29.13 Top Ten UFC Light Heavyweight Title Fights
Posted by Alex Rella on 04.29.2013
From Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell at UFC 43 and Forrest Griffin's battle with Rampage Jackson at UFC 86 to Shogun Rua vs. Lyoto Machida at UFC 104 and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 light heavyweight title fights in UFC history!
Top Ten UFC Light Heavyweight Title Fights
This is the MMA Top Ten and yes I picked Chael Sonnen to beat Jon Jones this weekend. Unfortunately that fight won't make the cut, but this week will look at the ten best UFC light heavyweight title fights. The light heavyweight division has been the most talent filled division since it's inception and some of the best fighters of all time fought at 205 lbs. There have been twelve champions in the UFC and thirty three title fights. This list is based on fight quality, then the significance of the fight, and with some of my personal opinion mixed in.
• Chuck Liddell vs Jeremy Horn UFC 54- Liddell's first title defense ended in a fourth round TKO as avenged the first loss of his career.
• Jon Jones vs Shogun Rua UFC 128- Jones took the fight replacing an injured Rashad Evans and just completely overwhelmed Shogun. Jones would win by third round TKO to start his run as champ.
• Quinton Jackson vs Chuck Liddell UFC 71- Rampage picked up the biggest win of his career when he ended Liddell's nearly two year reign with a big first round knockout.
• Shogun Rua vs Lyoto Machida UFC 113- Shogun got his chance to avenge bad judging and picked up the KO of the year as he won the light heavyweight title
10: Lyoto Machida vs Rashad Evans UFC 98
Both of these fighters had less than spectacular reigns with the championship, but they took on each other in the main event of UFC 98. Rashad Evans had just defeated Forrest Griffin for the title at UFC 92 and Lyoto Machida earned his title shot after knocking out Thiago Silva at UFC 94. This was the only time that two undefeated fighters fought for a title in the UFC. At this point nobody had really been able to figure out Machida, but Evans' wrestling and striking speed posed a legitimate threat. The two light heavyweights spent the first couple minutes feeling each other out. Evans had a solid strategy of moving in and out and trying stay out of Machida's range, but he was barely connecting. Machida knocked him down with strikes and came close to finishing it there, but Evans was saved by the bell. Then in the second, Machida had him up against the cage and just lit him up with some of the best striking you'll see in MMA. I'm not a Machida fan, but his post fight speech was some inspiring stuff.
9:Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock UFC 40
UFC 40 was arguably the most important pay per view in the history of the UFC. The company was going towards bankruptcy and this feud had been building for years. Tito had some fights with other Lion's Den members and post fight antics that really pissed off Ken, but he was still with the WWE for most of this. The dream fight finally happened and everyone thought it would be close. Shamrock almost knocked out Ortiz in the first but Tito dominated him after that scoring surprisingly easy takedowns and dominating with ground and pound. The next two rounds were similar in that Ortiz outwrestled Shamrock in a way nobody had seen before. Shamrock showed some life at the end of the second and third round but he didn't get in any significant offense. Shamrock said he had a torn ACL after the fight which could explain his poor wrestling but really he was just older and Ortiz was too good at the time. The next two fights wouldn't even be close when they met again in 2006. This was Ortiz's last title defense and Shamrock's last great fight.
8: Chuck Liddell vs Randy Couture UFC 57
This was the rubber match of their trilogy. Couture won the first meeting at UFC 43 and Liddell won the rematch at UFC 52. Couture defeated Mike van Arsdale at UFC 54 to earn the title shot against Liddell at UFC 57. The first round was mostly spent with both fighters standing up throwing huge shots at each other. Couture won the first round as he was able to take Liddell down twice towards the end of the round. After the first round, Liddell was cut up and Couture's nose was broken. The second round started in similar fashion with both fighters standing up when Couture went to throw a big right hand and missed. Liddell responded with a right hook knocking Couture to his knees and followed up with some strikes to end it. Liddell defended his title for the second time and Couture would then announce his short retirement after the fight.
7: Randy Couture vs Tito Ortiz UFC 44
Randy Couture took on Tito Ortiz in a champion vs champion fight for the undisputed UFC light heavyweight championship. Couture defeated Liddell in his light heavyweight debut for the interim title at UFC 43 and Ortiz had been the UFC light heavyweight champion for over three years and a half years with five title defenses. All though his fight with Couture was his first fight in close to a year as he last defended his title against Ken Shamrock at UFC 40. This fight went the full five rounds and had some nice wrestling and striking exchanges. Couture won by unanimous decision as he just overpowered and outwrestled Ortiz for almost the entire fight. And the fight ended with Couture spanking Ortiz up against the cage.
6: Lyoto Machida vs Shogun Rua UFC 104
I talked about these two fighters a few weeks ago in potential trilogies that should be finished. Right now both former UFC light heavyweight champions are at different spots in the UFC's light heavyweight division, but their first fight at UFC 104 was one of the greats. Machida was going for his first title defense and Shogun got the nod after knocking out Chuck Liddell at UFC 97. Nobody had been able to hurt Machida at this point, Tito Ortiz had his moments but it was nothing substantial. Shogun finally figured out how to beat him with his constant pressure, excellent striking, and durable chin. The fight went the distance, but somehow all three judges scored the fight 48-47. This was a very controversial decision as FightMetric showed that Rua landed twice as many shots as Machida. Luckily though, everything righted itself when the rematch took place seven months later at UFC 113 and Shogun won by TKO in the first round.
5: Frank Shamrock vs Tito Ortiz UFC 22
It's weird to think that this fight happened fourteen years ago and how different the UFC is today. Frank Shamrock barely gets any respect from the UFC today, but he was a great champion and could have kept going with the belt if he wanted to. At this point he had defended his title a then record five time and was taking on the rising star in Tito Ortiz. This was marketed as a grudge match as Ortiz had been feuding with the Lion's Den at the time, but in reality Frank had left that training camp well before this fight happened. Despite his previous success as champion, a lot of people thought Ortiz was going to win because of size advantage and brutal ground and pound style. Ortiz came out to an early lead as he dominated the first couple rounds, but Shamrock turned it around in the fourth round when he made Ortiz tap out to strikes. Shamrock had later stated that Ortiz was his toughest opponent. This was named fight of the year in 1999.
4:Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz UFC 66
Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz had one of the most heated rivalries in MMA. It started back when Ortiz was champion and was pretty much ducking Liddell. They first met at UFC 47 after Ortiz dropped the title to Couture and Liddell had returned from his stint in Pride. That fight ended with Ortiz getting knocked out in the second round. Their second fight at UFC 66 was much better. Liddell was going for his fourth title defense and Ortiz had won five fights in a row to get another chance at the title. Liddell was clearly the better striker, but Ortiz really held his own in this fight. Ortiz got bloodied up and was nearly finished in the first, but he covered up and got back in it. Ortiz took the second round as he avoided most of Liddell's striking and scored a takedown. The third round had some nice striking exchanges with Liddell dropping him and finishing it on the ground for the TKO victory. This was Fight of the Night and Liddell's final title defense.
3: Quinton Jackson vs Dan Henderson UFC 75
This was Rampage's first and only title defense as the UFC light heavyweight champion. The challenger was fellow Pride legend and friend Dan Henderson. Henderson held both the Pride middleweight and welterweight titles and this was the first of two merging fights. Hendo came out to an early lead. He took the first round and I (and one judge) thought he took the second one too. But it wouldn't be enough as Rampage persevered and battled back in the later rounds. Henderson was never out of the fight though. Rampage was taking the later rounds, but Henderson was patient and came real close to locking in submissions multiple times. Hendo turned it on again in the fifth round knowing he needed the finish, but he ran out of gas and the champion dropped him at the end of the round. This was a great five round fight between two legends. This fight didn't have Bonnar/Griffin nonstop action, but they never stopped going at it and the fight had some really high level wrestling maneuvers and nuances that were awesome to watch even if you barely know anything about grappling.
2: Randy Couture vs Chuck Liddell UFC 43
After losing two heavyweight title fights in a row to Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez, Randy Couture decided to drop down to light heavyweight. His first fight was against Chuck Liddell for the interim UFC light heavyweight championship at UFC 43. Liddell was on an awesome ten fight win streak at the time with wins over guys like Belfort, Randleman, Sobral, Monson, and Mezger. The champion Tito Ortiz was not fighting at the time due to a contract dispute/ducking Chuck Liddell, so these two fought to decided who would take on Ortiz when he eventually came back. One would expect this to be a classic striker vs grappler fight, but Couture decided not to go with that route. Couture shocked everyone when he out struck Liddell for three rounds and eventually won via TKO on the ground to win the interim title. Couture became the first person in the UFC to hold titles in two different weight classes.
1: Forrest Griffin vs Quinton Jackson UFC 86
Forrest Griffin earned a title shot against Rampage Jackson after upsetting Shogun at UFC 76. Both fighters coached TUF 7 against each other leading up to the fight as well. Rampage was undefeated in the UFC at this point including a title win against Liddell and one title defense against Dan Henderson. Griffin was in danger early in the first round when he got dropped with an uppercut. Griffin was able to escape and comeback in the second round. Griffin hit a leg kick that hurt Rampage for the rest of the fight. Griffin was then able to take him down and dominate the rest of the round. The rest of the fight had some great back and forth striking. Rampage almost power bombed Griffin in the fourth round when Griffin had him in a triangle choke, but Griffin smartly let go of the hold to avoid the damage. Griffin won the title via unanimous decision, the fight also won Fight of the Night honors and Fight of the Year by Wrestling Observer. This was such a huge fight too because it highlighted how far the UFC had come in a way. Griffin was in that historic TUF fight and would gradually grow for years as a fighter and finally reach the top on this night. Rampage has complained over the years that he wants a rematch because he only lost because of racism and other nonsense that he spews out. A rematch wouldn't be a bad fight to make at this point if he were to return to the UFC.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fight out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Next week I'll rank the ten biggest chokers in MMA.