The 411 MMA Top 10 1.27.14: Top 10 Champion vs. Champion Fights
Posted by Alex Rella on 01.27.2014
From Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir and Rampage Jackson vs. Dan Henderson to Fedor Emelianenko vs Big Nog and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 champion vs. champion fights of all-time!
Top Ten Champion vs Champion Fights
Hey everybody, I am Alex Rella and I'm still disgusted by the judging in this weekend's main event. But this week we will be looking at the ten best champion vs champion fights. I was hoping to do this list after Dominick Cruz vs Renan Barao, but unfortunately Cruz got injured again. The list should be fairly straight forward, it's fights where both fighters are holding gold. So it could be a unification bout, one of the guys is an interim champ, one champ moves up in weight to take on another, or a champion is coming over from another company but lost his title. You get the idea. The rankings were based mostly on fight quality, then the significance of the fight, and some of my personal opinion too.
• GSP vs BJ Penn 2- The rematch between the two champs was heavily anticipated as Penn tried to hold two titles at once, but GSP dominated him and Penn would quit after the fourth round. There was some greasing controversy afterwards as GSP was a little too slippery.
• Benson Henderson vs Gilbert Melendez- The best fighter in Strikeforce history came over to the UFC and took on their best lightweight. It was a good fight and I thought Melendez won, but neither fighter really went for it in the later rounds so I wasn't too upset.
10: Georges St-Pierre vs Matt Serra 2
UFC 83 was the first event held in Canada and this is where GSP got his revenge on Matt Serra. Some people say Matt Serra beating GSP at UFC 69 was a fluke, luck, or even due to illegal punches to the back of the head, but it happened either way and GSP wanted that title back. Serra never got a chance to defend his title due back problems. During this time, GSP had defeated Koscheck and Hughes in dominant fashion since dropping the title. This time interim champion GSP didn't give Serra the opportunity to strike with him or pretty much do anything else. GSP used his superior wrestling to prevent Serra from getting anything going. Serra was exhausted by the second round when GSP finished him with knees to the body to regain his title and start his current awesome title reign.
9: Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir
Not only was this a unification fight at an historic pay per view for the UFC, but these two legitimately hated each other with a passion. I admit this wasn't the most exciting fight. The first round was spent with Lesnar on top of Mir working in short punches. It didn't seem like much, but Mir's face was bruised and swollen at the end of the round. Mir had him reeling a little with some striking in the second, but then he went for a kind of jumping knee and Brock just took him down. Lesnar just held him up against the cage and beat the crap out of his face until Herb Dean stopped the fight. And Lesnar was in full WWE mode after the fight ended. He cursed out Mir, insulted Bud Light, and even talked about how he might get lucky with Sable later all while getting booed. I could watch this fight all day cause I love Lesnar and I also enjoy seeing Mir get destroyed, but it wasn't the best fight in the world so I can't put it any higher than nine.
8: Anderson Silva vs Dan Henderson
When Dan Henderson came over to the UFC from Pride he was the Pride middleweight and welterweight champion (205 and 185 lbs). Henderson first lost to Rampage at UFC 75 in a unification bout and then challenged Anderson Silva at UFC 82. Silva had only defended his title twice at this point and it was thought that Henderson's superior wrestling would make him a serious challenger, but he was unable to do much when he did bring Silva down. Henderson won the first round, but he was hesitant to engage with Silva's reach in the second. Silva would drop Henderson to his back after a striking flurry in the middle of the round and then got Henderson's back. Silva forced Henderson to tap out with a rear naked choke with only seconds left in the round
7: Randy Couture vs Tito Ortiz
Randy Couture took on Tito Ortiz in a champion vs champion fight for the undisputed UFC light heavyweight championship back at UFC 44. 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. Although 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: Fedor Emelianenko vs Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira 2
It was appropriate that the two greatest heavyweights of all time would meet in the finals of the Pride 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix. Their second meeting got off to a great start, but unfortunately it ended in an early no contest as an accidental head butt busted Fedor open. It would get rescheduled for New Year's Eve. Different from their first encounter, this time Fedor kept most of the fight standing up. He dominated the first round knocking Big Nog down multiple times with strikes and Judo throws. The second and third rounds went to the ground a little more, but Fedor was the clear winner with his superior striking, take down defense, and ground and pound. Fedor would win by unanimous decision to take the Grand Prix and unify the two Pride heavyweight titles.
5: Dan Henderson vs Wanderlei Silva 2
Dan Henderson made history in the main event of Pride 33. Henderson was already the Pride welterweight champion when he moved up to take on longtime Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva. Silva had the most wins and knockouts in the history of Pride. Silva was also the first person to defeat Henderson seven years earlier at Pride 12. The first round was so close with some great striking. Then Henderson dominated the second round. Silva tried for an armbar but the second round was all Henderson as he won the round on the ground. The third round picked up with even more great striking. Hendo even connected with a perfect spinning backfist. Then Henderson connected with a big left hook to KO Silva and he got in another shot to make sure. To this day Henderson is the only fighter to hold two belts from different weight classes in a major promotion. A great fight as Henderson achieved one of the most impressive feats in the history of MMA.
4: Georges St-Pierre vs Carlos Condit
The much anticipated return of GSP took place at UFC 154 and he did not disappoint. It had been nearly a year and a half since GSP last defended his title against Jake Shields at UFC 129. Condit had won his past five fights coming into this one and was sitting out since he defeated Nick Diaz for the welterweight title at UFC 143. There was some questioning as to whether GSP would be the same fighter mentally and physically. GSP looked his best in this really exciting fight against the Natural Born Killer. The interim champion Condit came into this fight knowing that he couldn't beat GSP on the ground and his best chance was striking with him. So after a year and a half GSP came back and won by unanimous decision. As expected GSP dominated Condit with his wrestling but he outstruck him as well. Condit was a bloody mess after the first round but he came as close as anyone since Serra to defeating GSP. In the third round Condit railed GSP with a sick head kick that would have knocked out most fighters. Condit came real close to finishing it but GSP evaded it like he always does. It's been said that GSP hasn't looked to finish guys in his last couple fights but this wasn't the case. GSP was aggressively looking to finish it but Condit was too good for that.
3: Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin
This fight was originally supposed to take place at UFC 106 in November 2009, but then the diverticulitis hit Lesnar and he got sidelined for way too long. While he was sitting out for a year, Shane Carwin defeated Frank Mir for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 111. UFC 116 was a completely awesome show and the best one of 2010. Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Stephan Bonnar and Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Chris Leben won Fight of the Night, but it really should have been a three-way tie. The main event was an incredible emotional roller coaster of a fight. Carwin completely dominated the first round. Go watch it if you want to see an example of a 10-8 round. Carwin isn't as decorated of a wrestler as Lesnar, but he is a strong dude and was able to defend Lesnar's takedowns in the first round. Then he knocked Lesnar down and pummeled his face in for most of the round. Lesnar took the punishment and eventually got back up as the round ended. Some felt Josh Rosenthal should have ended the fight, but I think he did a good job as Lesnar was doing enough to stay in the fight. It wouldn't have been the worst stoppage in the world though. Carwin was completely out of gas when the second round started. Lesnar took him down this time and worked in some good body shots. Then Lesnar took full mount and locked in the arm triangle. He unified the two heavyweight titles again for his record tying second title defense. It may not have been a real technical battle, but nobody can say it wasn't exciting.
2: Dan Henderson vs Quinton Jackson
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
1: Josh Thomson vs Gilbert Melendez 2
Josh Thomson was robbed on Saturday night, but he's still number one for me this week. I miss Strikeforce. They were far from perfect and even sometimes awful, but they were a fun alternative for a couple years. The Melendez/Thomson trilogy represented everything that was great about the company and their second meeting was Strikeforce's best fight. Josh Thomson won their first meeting in June 2008, but The Punk never defended his title as he broke his ankle while training. During this time, Melendez would win and defend the interim lightweight title. After being rescheduled a few times, the two finally met at Strikeforce: Evolution. This was five rounds of pure awesome. Melendez was clearly the better fighter this night as he negated most of Thomson's wrestling and his striking was superior at this point, and there were a lot of fast striking exchanges. Sports Illustrated named Round 5 the round of the year and it was one of the best rounds ever. It had some ridiculous striking exchanges and when Melendez finally dropped Thomson, he popped right back up to score a takedown. Melendez would win by unanimous decision and would never lose the title. Melendez would also win the rubber match by split decision in 2012. This is one of those rare trilogies where a fourth fight would actually be cool to see even though Thomson talked about retiring last night.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fighter 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 will be Chris Leben's top fights.