Over the last two decades, MMA fighting has taken the world by storm and gained many fans in both casual audiences and the betting crowd. Here we’re going to go through some of the matches that changed the UFC and the entire sport of MMA as a whole.
If you’re here as part of the betting crowd and you want to get in on the next history-changing UFC match, you can find predictions at fanduel.com/ufc-predictions.
Royce Gracie VS Everybody
When looking at the greatest events in MMA, we have to start at the beginning. UFC 1 happened on November 12th, 1993, in Denver, Colorado. Fighters of many different disciplines walked in but only one walked out as the ultimate victor.
This was Royce Gracie, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter who was much smaller than many of the other combatants. He spent less than five minutes in the cage yet took home the big prize through multiple ironclad round-one submissions. It was Gracie’s unstoppable fighting in UFC 1 that put BJJ on the map.
Tito Ortiz VS Ken Shamrock – I
While Royce’s win started the UFC, this is the fight that was said to save the UFC. In 2002, UFC was nearing its fortieth major event but had been flagging and bleeding money. The media fanfare around the rivalry of Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock is often credited with getting fresh eyes on MMA. There would be three fights in total, all won by Ortiz, but it all started with their first fight in 2002.
Chuck Liddell VS Randy Couture – I
The revival of the UFC’s popularity was a one-two punch of both the Ortiz/Shamrock fight and this one, Chuck Liddell versus Randy Couture. This match happened at UFC 43, where Ortiz was initially asked to fight Liddell. Ortiz refused and so Randy Couture was subbed in. Crowds liked them both, wanting Liddell to secure the win but not wanting to see Couture lose. Couture won and two more fights were later scheduled.
Forrest Griffin VS Stephen Bonnar – I
This was one of the most popular matchups to happen in The Ultimate Fighter, the reality TV show created by the UFC to improve ratings and earnings. During the season 1 finale, Griffin and Bonnar clashed in a fifteen-minute fight that reached 3.3 million watchers, a crazy figure for the 2005 television landscape. This solidified UFC’s home at Spike TV for many years to come.
Brock Lesnar VS Frank Mir – III
The UFC would reach some of its highest pay-per-view figures with Lesnar VS Mir. Lesnar had left the WWE and became an MMA fighter, bringing a lot of media attention with him. He lost his first fight to Frank Mir and then worked through multiple victories, including one against Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight champion title.
For UFC 100, a reunion was on the cards for Lesnar and Mir in Las Vegas, 2009. Brock won this rematch with a brutal second-round TKO. The spectacle brought in 1.6 million pay-per-view purchases, smashing every earning record beforehand.