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The 25 Best MMA Fights Ever, According to ONE37pm's Resident MMA Expert

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Everyone’s list will be different. Some people’s list will favor raw, back and forth action. Others will prefer fights that incorporate a lot of historical context. Maybe for some, it's the improbable comeback that left fans speechless. 

No matter how you shake it, fight fans always have a few bouts that stick in their minds. Some of these may be obvious, some not so much. But between big title fights, iconic foes, the historical magnitude, or the pure thrill of a good scrap, here are some of the best MMA fights ever put on by the UFC.

3. Tito Ortiz vs Chuck Liddell 2

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Josh Hedges / Getty Images

UFC 66. December 30th, 2006. 

Former training partners. Iconic looks. And two legendary fighters. 

This fight is the epitome of an all-time great fight. 

The two of them had trained together and were actually good friends. However, once Liddell started to string together some wins, it became clear that the two would eventually square off. During their first bout at UFC 47, their friendship was thrown out the window. Liddell won via TKO in the second round. 

The second matchup was fueled by bad blood. Liddell went on to win again in the rematch, this time in the third round. One of the cooler dynamics of this fight? Liddell had injured his knee badly prior to the bout. 

The biggest takeaway from this matchup was just how massive financial success it was for the company. It might have been the first time we saw a glimpse into the future of what the sport and company would become.

6. Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor 1

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Brandon Magnus / Getty Images

UFC 196. March 5th, 2016. 

This might be a personal favorite. And if you are a fan of McGregor’s, I am sorry. 

I loved this scrap. McGregor was rolling at this point in his career. He was tearing through the featherweight division and it became known that he had his eyes set on going up in weight. He was scheduled for a bout with the 155-pound champion, Rafael Dos Anjos. The fight was considered a big deal because Conor was being given the opportunity to capture a second belt. However, with just days remaining before the fight, Dos Anjos pulled out due to injury.

An onslaught of fighters wanted the big payday. The UFC had a decision to make. 

Now let’s rewind a few months. *rewind sound on tape* 

The date is December 19th, 2015. 

After a short layoff from the sport, Nate Diaz returns to action in the 155-pound division against Michael Johnson. Following a stellar performance, Joe Rogan asks Diaz about his performance. The rest is history. 

“F**ck that. Conor McGregor, you’re taking everything I work for, mother f**ker. I’m going to fight your f**king ass. You know what the real fight, what the real money fight is. It’s me. Not these clowns that you already punked at the press conference.” 

It was safe to say that he got McGregor’s attention. 

In round one, McGregor landed heavy blows with his left hand. Diaz was cut over his right eye, but that was nothing out of the ordinary for the Stockton born scrapper. 

In the second round, McGregor came out confident. However, after striking Nate with a few stiff shots, McGregor seems shaken by Diaz’s ability to eat the punches. Diaz continued to walk forward, pushing the pace. 

Diaz connected on a sneaky 1-2 combination that rocked McGregor. In despair, Conor shot for a takedown. Diaz welcomed the opportunity to take things to the ground and quickly sunk in the rear-naked choke. It was the first loss of McGregor’s career and a defining moment in the UFC’s history. 

Many people were caught off guard by Diaz’s performance. But Diaz had a message for those people.

“I’m not surprised motherf**kers.” 

7. Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard 2

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Donald Miralle / Getty Images

UFC 125. January 1st, 2011. 

Frankie is one of those fighters who have the God-given ability to weather the storm. His second scrap with UFC veteran Gray Maynard is the perfect example of that. 

The two of them were just destined to fight each other. Only one time wasn’t going to be enough. 

Edgar lost to Maynard before Edgar winning the title. After Edgar defended his 145-pound title against B.J. Penn, the only option was for him to take on Maynard. 

The bout ended in a draw, which allowed Edgar to retain his title. 

The decision probably took away attention from the fight itself, which is a shame. The two-faced each other in a trilogy, where Edgar bested Maynard. Maynard and Edgar are both well-respected fighters, and each holds significant places in the sport’s history.

10. Robbie Lawler vs Rory McDonald 2

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Christian Petersen / Getty Images

UFC 189. July 11th, 2015. 

WARNING: This is not a sport for the faint of heart. And this fight will test even the strongest of stomachs. 

When Lawler took on McDonald for a second time, the expectations from fight fans were high. Lawler had been a fan favorite in the sport for almost two decades. McDonald skipped out on the trash talk; he’s known for showing a tremendous amount of respect for his opponents. 

These two men are savages. Through the first four rounds, neither gentleman backed down. And that carried through the bell after round four. 

With both warriors bloodied, bruised, and battered, the bell rang at the end of round four. Instead of going back to their corners, the two men stood there. Facing each other with a stoic stance, the intensity was so palpable that it could be felt at home by the viewers on their couch. 

In the fifth round, Lawler landed a devastating straight punch that busted open the nose of McDonald. The referee had no choice but to stop the fight. 

12. Pat Barry vs Cheick Kongo

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Josh Hedges / Getty Images

UFC Live: Barry vs Kongo. June 6th, 2011. 

For people who aren’t die-hard fight fans, you may not have heard of this fight. And that’s ok. Barry and Kongo both had very solid careers in the MMA sphere but never were quite able to reach mainstream status. 

When the two faced each other in 2011, the action began right away. Following a successful kickboxing career, fans weren’t surprised to see those skills translate well in the octagon. Barry landed numerous shots early in the first round. He dropped Kongo multiple times with heavy blows in the opening minutes of the bout. 

But what makes this sport so damn fun, is just how unpredictable it can be. 

After being wobbled and hurt terribly, Kongo connected. He dropped Barry and completed the seemingly impossible comeback. Just moments prior, Kongo was unable to stand. His demise appeared inevitable. 

Good thing Kongo didn’t think so. He just kept on fighting.

13. Amanda Nunes vs Cris Cyborg

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MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

UFC 232. December 29th, 2018.

The unstoppable force meets the immovable object. 

I think what made this fight so damn exciting was that leading up to the event, Cyborg didn’t really have any competition. I don’t mean that as any disrespect to any of her previous opponents, just when you consider her size AND skill… she looked damn near impossible to beat. 

But… if there was a woman to do it. It would be Amanda Nunes. You want to wrestle her, you will lose. You want to kickbox with her, you will lose. She has almost no holes in her game. 

When the fight started, if you blinked, you might have missed it. Nunes landed numerous power punches, ultimately finishing Cyborg in less than a minute. It was a barrage of punches, all with perfect timing, that did the job. 

Nunes captured her second title. One of only a few fighters to ever do so. And when her name is mentioned in the pound-for-pound list, this is the fight that could stand at the top of her resume. 

14. Ronda Rousey vs Meisha Tate 2

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Josh Hedges / Getty Images

UFC 168. December 28, 2013. 

It is not uncommon for people to talk ill of Rousey’s MMA career nowadays. The former champion suffered two difficult losses to quality opponents before heading over to the WWE for a career in wrestling. 

Y'all must have forgotten. 

Rousey was a badass. She had an Olympian pedigree with a strong run in the fighting promotion, Strikeforce, before ultimately coming to the UFC. 

In her first fight with the company, she showed pure dominance. She secured an armbar, her iconic finishing move, in the opening round against Liz Carmouche. 

Her matchup with Tate provided a little more drama. Tate and Rousey had faced each other previously in Strikeforce, and the bad blood was still there. 

After some back and forth action, with multiple reversals in the grappling exchanges, eventually, Rousey got what she wanted. She secured a lock on Tate’s left arm and forced a submission from “Cupcake.” 

15. Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor 2

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Steve Marcus / Stringer via Getty Images

UFC 202. August 20th, 2016. 

RUN. IT. BACK. 

I don’t care about the decision. Who won/lost this fight means nothing. This fight was one of the greatest battles the sport has ever seen. Both fighters showed so much toughness and endured so much pain. 

The lead up was phenomenal. This battle wasn’t about a belt. It wasn’t about rankings. And although both men scored a nice payday… I don’t think this fight was about money. This fight was for pride. 

Conor’s first loss in the UFC at 196 left a sour taste in his mouth. And rightfully so. 

The only way to describe this fight is that it crossed off all the boxes. 

Conor made adjustments from his first fight with Nate. He realized Diaz has some wicked cardio to go behind that iron chin and a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Conor looked sharp early on. He dropped Nate on multiple occasions with strong, counter left-hands. 

But Nate loves and lives in the deep water. 

He answered back with a few strong rounds of his own. At times, he forced Conor to retreat and jog away from Diaz. Some argue Conor was in serious trouble at the end of round three. 

Following the decision that went in his favor, Conor delivered one of his infamous post-fight one-liners. 

“Surprise, surprise, motherf**kers. The king is back.” 

Honorable Mentions:

16. Robbie Lawler vs Carlos Condit

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Brandon Magnus / Getty Images

UFC 195. January 2nd, 2016. 

17. Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje

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Josh Hedges / Getty Images

UFC 218. December 2nd, 2018. 

18. Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker

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Handout via Getty Images

UFC on ESPN: Poirier vs Hooker. June 27th, 2020. 

19. Mark Hunt vs Antonio Silva

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Bradley Kanaris / Stringer via Getty Images

UFC Fight Night 33. December 7th, 2013. 

20. TJ Dillashaw vs Cody Garbrandt 1

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Mike Stobe / Stringer via Getty Images

UFC 217. November 4th, 2017.

21. Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov

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Harry How / Getty Images

UFC 229. October 6th, 2018. 

22. Gilbert Melendez vs Diego Sanchez

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Josh Hedges / Getty Images

UFC 166. October 19th, 2013. 

23. Forrest Griffin vs Tito Ortiz

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UFC 59: Reality Check. April 15th, 2006. 

24. Anderson Silva vs Forrest Griffin

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UFC 101: August 8th, 2009. 

25. Israel Adesanya vs Kelvin Gastelum

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Josh Hedges / Getty Images

UFC 236. April 13th, 2019. 

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