Since the inception of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993, the UFC has served fans the ultimate mixed martial arts experience. It is the biggest MMA promotion and has given us some of the best and biggest MMA fights in history.
Are there boring fights? Of course! Many fights make us pray it ends quickly. However, there is always that one fight that has us glued to our seats and wishing it would never end. We decided to compile a list of some of the best fights in the history of UFC events. These fights had MMA fans worldwide sitting at the edge of their seats.
While going down memory lane to find these fights, we realized that the biggest fights aren’t necessarily the best. Some of the fights on this list are not as big as the others, but there is no doubt that they kept fans entertained from the onset.
10. Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor, 2016
Few MMA-related lists are complete without some mention of McGregor (for better or worse), and this one is no exception. He’s known for making knockout wins look effortless, but in the summer of 2016, the Irish superstar was dragged into a grueling, 25-minute battle with his chief nemesis, Nate Diaz.
Diaz landed slightly more significant strikes, connecting on 166 attempts compared to McGregor’s 164, and also racked up 5:50 minutes of control time on the mat.
9. Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, 2005
Griffin and Bonnar met in the finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, a time when the UFC was struggling to break into the mainstream. The two light heavyweights helped the promotion do just that: The three-round slugfest was a dazzler, and Griffin ultimately won by decision.
It was hardly a technical fight, but it didn’t matter. The aggression and grit of both men left jaws on the floor, and it helped introduce a whole new crop of fans to the UFC.
8. Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson, 2017
But the best fight of Gaethje’s legendary career occurred in 2017. After an impressive reign as the World Series of Fighting lightweight champ, he made his Octagon debut opposite Michael Johnson. Gaethje was unbeaten at the time, and he was among the most hyped fighters in MMA. Yet Johnson very nearly spoiled the undefeated star’s debut by pushing him to the brink of consciousness in the early going.
In a display of incredible toughness and heart, however, Gaethje surged back for a second-round knockout win—bolstering his resume with not only a classic fight but one of the sport’s great comebacks
7. Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit, 2016
From the moment it was announced that Robbie Lawler would defend his welterweight title against Carlos Condit in early 2016, MMA fans expected an incredible fight. The two welterweights were both regarded among the most exciting fighters in the sport, and with a title on the line, drama seemed guaranteed.
Lawler won the fight via split decision, but many fans felt Condit should have gotten the nod—and that verdict is still debated today. One way or the other, the fight was one of the best ever.
6. Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry, 2011
A fight doesn’t need to last multiple rounds to be great. Heavyweights Pat Barry and Cheick Kongo proved that when they collided in the Octagon in 2011.
Just when it looked like Kongo couldn’t possibly take another punch, and the referee looked ready to intervene, the Frenchman surged back and floored Barry with a punch of his own. A few punches later, it was over—this time for real, as Barry stared up at the Jumbotron with his back on the floor.
5. “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier, 2012
Next time you’re trying to introduce somebody to MMA, show them the 2012 featherweight fight between “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung and Dustin Poirier.
This fight was a lot like Costco—it had everything. From wild striking exchanges, to blindingly fast scrambles, to slick submission attempts, every weapon in the MMA arsenal was on full display.
For some reason, this one seems to be forgotten when fans debate the best fights of all time, but make no mistake: It belongs on this list
4. Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, 2020
Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s 2020 strawweight title fight isn’t just one of the best women’s bouts of all time, it’s one of the best fights ever, period.
At the time of the fight, China’s Zhang was the reigning champion. She was on a staggering 21-fight win streak and looked to make it to 22 against Jedrzejczyk, the most dominant champ in the division’s history.
The two strawweight stars got to work early and didn’t stop until the final bell: They threw a dizzying 783 strikes combined.
3. Jon Jones vs. Alexanders Gustafsson, 2013
By the time Jon Jones stepped into the cage with Alexanders Gustafsson in 2013, Jones was already considered unbeatable in the eyes of many fans. Since winning the light heavyweight title with a TKO win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in 2011, the American had defended it six times against an impressive procession of skilled fighters: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, and Chael Sonnen.
In the end, however, the unheralded Swede gave Jones the toughest fight of his entire career. He matched the dominating champion with his footwork and shocked onlookers by taking him down.
2. Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, 2011
Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, two of the greatest light heavyweights in MMA history, came up together in PRIDE but never met in the now-defunct Japanese promotion’s ring. After migrating to the UFC, they finally came face-to-face in the Octagon in 2011—and their fight was absolutely worth waiting for.
In the end, Henderson was awarded a unanimous decision win, but the fight was close enough that the pair were slated for a rematch in 2014. That time around, Henderson picked up a more decisive win, stopping his rival with a vicious volley in the third round
1. Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald, 2015
Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald’s first fight, which the former won by split decision in 2013, was good, but by no means a classic. Yet when the two welterweights met again in 2015, this time with Lawler’s title on the line, it turned out to be one of the best fights ever—maybe even the best outright.
The two welterweight stars wasted no time painting the Octagon floor red. By the time the fourth round was winding down, both men were nearly unrecognizable due to the bruising and cuts they’d sustained, and the intensity inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena couldn’t have been higher—thanks in large part to Lawler giving MacDonald a murderous stare right as the round concluded.