The 411 MMA Top 10 11.4.13: The Top 10 MMA Tournaments
Posted by Alex Rella on 11.04.2013
From Royce Gracie's win at UFC 1 and the finals between Mark Coleman and Don Frye at UFC 10 to the Shogun Rua's breakthrough in the PRIDE 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 MMA tournaments of all time!
Top Ten MMA Tournaments
Hey everybody, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at the ten best MMA tournaments of all time. The UFC's twentieth anniversary is coming up so I wanted to do something that had to do with their early days. Originally I was going to write about only UFC tournaments, but unfortunately they didn't really have ten tournaments I felt like talking about. Maybe I'll do that when I'm out of topics in a few months, but I decided to expand it to all MMA tournaments in general. Tournaments with multiple fights in one night are pretty much done in MMA at this point, but they helped build the UFC and they took Pride to that next level. Bellator has also used tournaments give themselves a unique style in the MMA world.
So, ones from the UFC, Pride, Strikeforce, Bellator, and pretty much any other company all qualify. It was a tough topic to rank considering all the great tournaments from over the years, so I'm sure I'll get a few insults in the comment section. Anyway, I ranked them based on the quality of fights in the tournament, the caliber of fighters in the tournament, the significance of the tournament, and some of my opinion. I decided not to include TUF tournaments/seasons as they are technically exhibitions and I'll be giving them their own column in a few weeks when this season ends.
• Pride 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix- Fedor beat Big Nog in the finals of this one. This was on my original draft, but I decided it just fell short to the others in the top ten.
• Pride 2005 Welterweight Grand Prix- Another one that I went back and forth on whether it should crack the top ten. Dan Henderson won the eight man tournament and Pride's middleweight title as he beat Murilo Bustamante in the finals.
• UFC 8- Don Frye's MMA debut as he just wrecked everybody to win the tournament.
• ROTR Welterweight Tournament- This one came up a few weeks ago when I was talking about Jake Shields and yes I know most of you hate him. Shields won the tournament that included Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami, and Anderson Silva.
• 2007 HOOKnSHOOT Women's Grand Prix- This is the best women's tournament I know of as Kaitlin Young knocked out three women in one night including Miesha Tate.
• Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix- Yes it took forever to finish, but it had the best heavyweights in the world outside of the UFC and all the fights were good except for Werdum vs Overeem. Dan Cormier defeated Josh Barnett in a great five round battle to win the tournament.
10: UFC 1
This week's list starts off with the UFC's first event in the ten spot. The eight man tournament had no weight classes and had fights to the finish. The match only ended by submission, knockout, throwing in the towel, or referee stoppage due to a severe cut or injury. Royce Gracie submitted Art Jimmerson, Ken Shamrock, and Gerard Gordeau to win the tournament. None of the fights on the show were very good, but they were all finishes and the longest one only went over four minutes. This tournament makes the list because of it's significance. It set a precedent that fighters would need to know jiu-jitsu from that point on in order to succeed in mixed martial arts and this was the show that started the greatest MMA company in the world.
9: Pride 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix
This was Pride's final Grand Prix and while their welterweight division (183 lbs) wasn't always the focal point of the organization, the tournament was pretty good as it included past and future champions from different organizations. It had Kazuo Misaki, Phil Baroni, Ryo Chonan, Paulo Filho, Akihiro Gono, Hector Lombard, Gegard Mousasi, Murilo Bustamante, Dennis Kang, Murilo Bustamante, Ninja Rua, and welterweight champion Dan Henderson. The fifteen man tournament took place from Pride Bushido 11-13. Misaki, Filho, Gono, and Kang reached the semis after some nice performances in the previous rounds. Filho and Kang advanced to the finals, but Filho was injured from his fight from Misaki, so Misaki took his place. Of course it's a bit of a letdown, but these things happen when fighters are asked to compete more than once in a night. Misaki won by split decision in the biggest achievement of his career.
8: The King of Kings Tournament 1999
The King of Kings Tournament 1999 took place over three nights of events and had thirty two fighters including some of the best from the earlier days of MMA. I'm curious how many other high level tournaments had this many people. The events took place in Osaka and Tokyo Japan and the fights consisted of two five minute rounds. It had Dan Henderson, Jeremy Horn, Gilbert Yvel, Big Nog, the Overeem brothers, Renato Sobral, Dave Menne, Renzo Gracie, Maurice Smith, and whole lot of other guys. I'd be lying if I said I've seen every fight in the tournament, but most are on Youtube and I've seen most of the fights featuring the better fighters. Rings' rules were a little different like no strikes to the head while an opponent is on the ground, but most of the fights were pretty good. Dan Henderson won the tournament after becoming the first man to defeat Big Nog and Sobral in the semis and finals. It was cool to see how his wrestling was able to go toe to toe with such high level BJJ specialists.
7: UFC 10
Not to be confused with the fake UFC 10 tournament that was shown in the terrible movie Virtuosity, this was one was pretty good. The UFC was returning to tournament style at this event as they took a break from it at UFC 9 and they needed a good show since Senator John McCain was trying to shut the company down. The Hammer Mark Coleman made his MMA debut in the UFC 10 tournament and it was quite impressive. Coleman dominated the eight man tournament and reached the finals after submitting Gary Goodridge in the semifinals. He took on Don Frye in the finals, Frye was undefeated at this point and won the last tournament. Coleman won by TKO in a hard fought battle and he would go on to win the UFC 11 tournament as well.
6: Ultimate Ultimate 1996
This stacked tournament didn't play out as epic as it could have been, but it was still great enough to make the list this week. Tank Abbott, Don Frye, Ken Shamrock, and Kimo Leopoldo all won in the opening round, but unfortunately Shamrock and Kimo were too banged up to continue in the tournament. Tank Abbott knocked out Steve Nelmark to reach the finals and Frye got a controversial submission victory over Mark Hall in twenty seconds. Hall has since claimed that he threw the fight since they had the same trainer, Frye just had a grueling battle with Gary Goodridge, and Frye had already defeated him twice so it was likely he would just lose again. The main event was great though as Abbott came out to an early lead with some huge shots cutting Frye open. Abbott would slip and Frye would capitalize by locking in a rear naked choke to win his final tournament. Frye would leave the UFC for pro wrestling after the event.
5: Pride 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix
Pride only had one lightweight Grand Prix (161 lbs) and while it wasn't as stacked with champions like their other ones, it was a lot of fun to watch. The lightweight division was still fairly shallow in MMA around 2005, but Pride brought in a nice group of fighters. Former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver, former UFC welterweight number one contender Hayoto Sakurai, future Dream lightweight champion Joachim Hansen, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Yves Edwards, and Takanori Gomi all competed in the eight man tournament. One thing that I always thought was cool about some of these Pride tournaments is that they helped create superstars. Gomi was already a great fighter at this point, but this tournament brought him to that next level. His first round submission victory over Tatsuya Kawajiri was a huge fight as they were considered to be the top lightweights in the world and the fight itself was great. Gomi defeated Luiz Azeredo to take on Sakurai in the finals who had defeated Pulver and Hansen to get there. Gomi knocked out Sakurai in another good fight to win the Grand Prix and Pride's lightweight championship.
4: Pride 2006 Openweight
It was during The 2006 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix tournament that he came up with the quote, "Right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery" and the tournament was the greatest achievement of his MMA career. The tournament took place over three nights and had fourteen other great fighters including Josh Barnett, Aleksander Emelianenko, Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Big Nog, Wanderlei Silva, and others. Fedor was originally supposed to compete in the tournament and was given a first round bye due to a hand injury, but he wasn't healed up in time so Silva took his place in the second round. Barnett, Big Nog, Cro Cop, and Silva reached the semifinals after wrecking everyone in the previous rounds. Barnett defeated Big Nog by split decision and Cro Cop knocked out Silva in two truly great fights. The finale was a little anticlimactic after Barnett got injured and had to quit, but still a great tournament and it was great to see Cro Cop finally win the big one.
3: Pride 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix
This was Pride's second tournament and they followed up the 2000 Openweight Grand Prix with another stacked tournament with their middleweight division. The eight man tournament had the champ Wanderlei Silva, former UFC champion Murilo Bustamante, Sakuraba, Alistair Overeem, Rampage, and Chuck Liddell who was sent over to represent the UFC. This was Wanderlei's tournament. He knocked out Sakuraba to finish their trilogy and he beat Hidehiko Yoshida in the Fight of the Year. Everyone was hoping to see Liddell take on Silva in the finals and Liddell picked up a hard fought victory over Overeem in the opening round, but Rampage spoiled those plans as he upset Liddell in the semis by TKO. And as most of you know Rampage versus Silva in the finals started their brutal hate filled trilogy. Silva won by TKO in the first roun as he finished Rampage off with knees to face to win the tournament and continue his awesome Pride winning streak.
2: Pride 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix
Pride's second middleweight tournament (205 lbs) in 2005 was even better than their first one in 2003. The sixteen man two night tournament had some of the best fighters to ever compete. Ricardo Arona, Sakuraba, Kevin Randleman, Wanderlei Silva, Alistair Overeem, Vitor Belfort, Igor Vovchanchyn, Little Nog, Shogun Rua, Rampage, and Dan Henderson. Almost every fight in this tournament was great and most importantly this was Shogun's coming out party. He upset Rampage in the opening round, had one of the best fights ever with Little Nog, and then finished off Overeem and Arona in the semis and finals. All great exciting fights as Shogun became a legend in two nights. Throw a bunch of great fights from the other competitors and you have the number two Grand Prix this week.
1: Pride 2000 Openweight Grand Prix
To me Pride's first Grand Prix was the best one. The open-weight tournament featured some of the best fighters of this era as it included Royce Gracie, Guy Mezger, Kazushi Sakuraba, Igor Vovchanchyn, Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr, Enson Inoue, and Kazuyuki Fujita. The sixteen man tournament's opening round took place on January 30th and the final three rounds all took place on May 1st. The tournament just had so many intriguing storylines and fights. The mixture of great Japanese fighters and pro wrestlers, former UFC tournament winners, Guy Mezger having a hissy fit and quitting, and the best heavyweight in the world at the time, Igor Vovchanchyn was the favorite to the win the whole thing. Royce and Sakuraba had a classic 90 minute battle as Royce lost for the first time, Mark Kerr also suffered his first defeat, even Gary Goodridge picked up a nice win, but the biggest storyline was Mark Coleman taking on the favorite in the finals. Coleman left the UFC in embarrassing fashion and even had to throw a fight in Pride to help support his family. Vovchanchyn on the other hand had lost in his last thirty six fights and won the last six tournaments he competed in. It was a great to see Coleman reach the top again as he finished off Vovchanchyn with knees in the second.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a tournament 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.
• Save the date:
PWS WRESTLE BOWL - Saturday November 16th
@Center Circle 1255 Main St, Rahway, NJ
6pm Autograph Signing- 8pm Bell Time
Insane Clown Posse
SIX MAN TAG TEAM MATCH
PWS Champion Bonesaw & Reality Check's Matthews & Devon Moore VS Alex Reynolds, Kyle Reynolds, and Arkum
Big Van Vader vs Justin Credible
The Blue World Order (Stevie Richards, Blue Meanie Nova)
vs The Untouchables
"Big Deal" Craig Steele vs "Hollywood" Joe Hardway
Starman vs Dan Maff
The Revolting Blob vs Cobra Commander
And more matches including Hurricane Shane Helms, The Heavenly Bodies, Mario Bokara, The Big O, and yours truly.