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The biggest fights in MMA history

7 min read
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When it comes to listing fights, biggest and best reside on two very different planes.

Any fight can turn out to be a great or even classic bout whether it’s a part of the prelims or main card, highly touted and advertised or flying under the radar.

However, bigger fights have a certain feel, energy and buzz that build into an undeniable groundswell that detonates upon impact when the fighters finally throw hands and feet. The fight doesn’t even have to pan out to being a great one for it to be considered one of the biggest.

That being said, DAZN News tabbed the biggest fights in MMA history, capping the number at 15 in no particular order. Knuckle up.

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor; UFC 229 — Oct. 6, 2018

Stewing in utter vitriol, McGregor had chucked a metal loading dolly through a bus window at Barclays Center in Brooklyn aiming to hit his bitter rival Nurmagomedov. That and plenty of trash talk turned into quite frankly the biggest buzz for a fight that the mixed martial arts world has ever seen. And when it came to UFC 229 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the actual Khabib vs. McGregor fight translated into a solid fight before Nurmagomedov eventually cinched in a neck crank that made the MMA sensation tap out in the fourth round as "The Eagle" retained his lightweight title. Extracurricular fireworks sparked between the fighters’ camps thereafter but when it finally settled, the UFC had generated a record 2.4 million pay-per-view buys for its biggest fight yet.

Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz; UFC 40 — Nov. 22, 2002

This rivalry had turned bitter before these two were ever locked up in the Octagon and MMA fans can thank inflammatory exchanges between Ortiz and Shamrock's Lion's Den camp for that. When they finally clashed, Ortiz got the better of his rival via third-round TKO (corner stoppage).

Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz; UFC 47 — April 2, 2004

Ortiz sure found himself embroiled in heated feuds, didn't he? His rivalry with Liddell wasn't any different as each man planted his respective flag in the soil, proclaiming dominance. This time, however, Ortiz found himself on the short end thanks to a second-round KO from "The Ice Man."

Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture 2; UFC 52 — April 16, 2005

Liddell was handed a stinging third-round TKO loss to Couture at UFC 43 back in June 2003. "The Ice Man" won three out of his next four, defeating Alistair Overeem, Ortiz and Vernon White before getting the chance to run it back with Couture. That generated more than enough interest toward Liddell blasting Couture via a first-round KO in one of MMA's biggest fights ever. Certainly had the big feel to it.

Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 2; UFC 257 — Jan. 24, 2021

When it comes to biggest fights in MMA history, get used to seeing McGregor’s name. “Notorious” is a cash cow of mixed martial arts for a reason. And the buildup toward McGregor-Poirier II in Abu Dhabi made it one of the biggest to date as well. McGregor had produced a first-round clinic in pasting Donald Cerrone the year prior, while Poirier had bounced back from a loss to Nurmagomedov to defeat Dan Hooker by unanimous decision that June. Poirier had lost to McGregor via first-round TKO (punches) back in September 2014 and was seeking revenge, while the Irish superstar was aiming to reassert his dominance and climb back atop the MMA mountain. That set the stage for what felt like a huge fight and that intrigue only burst into Poirier shocking McGregor with a second-round TKO (punches) which paved the way for a trilogy scrap as well.

Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 2; UFC 202 — Aug. 20, 2016

You can't talk McGregor rematches and not evoke Diaz-McGregor 2. Diaz had scored a second-round submission via rear-naked choke just five months prior to snap McGregor's UFC win streak at seven, prompting the Irish superstar to run it back with urgency. The initial result, top-tier trash talk and booming interest culminated into one of the UFC's biggest fights ever — one that generated 1.6 million pay-per-view buys just like McGregor-Poirier II.

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen; UFC 117 — Aug. 7, 2010

Sonnen had vowed to leave the UFC if he lost to Silva. That injected instant intrigue into this fight and gave the middleweight title tilt a feeling of being big. Silva then took that feeling and a game effort from Sonnen and turned it into a fifth-round submission (triangle armbar).

Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm; UFC 193 — Nov. 15, 2015

Rousey had laid every fighter to waste in brutal fashion with all but one (Miesha Tate) avoiding first-round devastation entering this fight. The 12-0 Rousey also touted the women's bantamweight championship at the time. The buildup to this fight was simple: Could Holm use her extensive boxing experience to not only survive Rousey but possibly beat her? Well, Holm responded with a resounding yes, as she landed punches at will, before finishing Rousey with a wicked head kick that she never saw coming to pull off the shocking victory.

Ronda Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes; UFC 207 — Dec. 30, 2016

Could Rousey bounce back from her first loss? Nunes ensured that the answer was no and did so in savage fashion with a first-round TKO (punches), giving her own star power a sonic boom into the stratosphere.

Amanda Nunes vs. Cyborg; UFC 232 — Dec. 29, 2018

Cyborg, the most destructive force in women's MMA history, would certainly be an obstacle in Nunes' path was a consensus entering this mega bout. But Nunes had other ideas and used clubbing overhand rights from hell to dispose of Cyborg in a jaw-dropping 51 seconds, letting the world over know that there's levels to this and her own power comes with consequences as well.

Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir 2; UFC 100 — July 11, 2009

Lesnar crossed over from WWE to mixed martial arts and made his UFC debut in February 2008 with the veteran Mir needing only 90 seconds to submit him in a kneebar. But "The Beast" got his MMA bearings under him enough to score wins over Heath Herring and Randy Couture to be crowned the new heavyweight champion. That paved the way for a Mir-Lesnar rematch at UFC 100 in Las Vegas. And boy did Brock not disappoint. Lesnar figured Mir out enough to maul him and produce a second-round stoppage on punches for the big TKO. Big fight, bigger results.

Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo; UFC 194 — Dec. 12, 2015

Check the facts — Aldo was an absolute monster, having tallied 18 straight victories — seven of which in the UFC — entering this featherweight championship clash with McGregor. "Notorious" doused gasoline into the fire with colorful faceoffs with the Brazilian leading up to the fight. And then when it came time to be locked in the Octagon together, McGregor took a big fight and made sure it ended with befitting explosive results as a sneaky left hand was used to sleep Aldo in 13 seconds.

Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier 2; UFC 214 — July 29, 2017

Jones vs. Cormier had every ingredient to make it a larger than life fight. The two light heavyweights had a distinct disdain for each other and that was only ramped up with animated exchanges building up to the bout. Oh, yeah, they're two of the best to ever don the UFC gloves and this was a rematch, as "DC" was trying to avenge a unanimous decision defeat. All that combined into a hell of a fight that Jones won with a rather surgical performance only for the result to later be overturned thanks to Jones testing positive for a banned substance. Still, there's no denying how big this fight was and their rivalry as a whole.

Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar; Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale — April 9, 2005

Situation-wise, Griffin vs. Bonnar spoke for itself in terms of urgency and magnitude. The gauntlet laid out for the bout was simple — the winner gets a contract with the UFC. Not only did the fight deliver in fireworks as Griffin edged Bonnar by unanimous decision after three rounds, but the bout sparked another season of "The Ultimate Fighter" which helped snowball the UFC into help making MMA a booming global sport.

Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal; UFC 251 — July 12, 2020

Don't you dare sleep on this welterweight championship run that Kamaru Usman is on. A driving force for it was his initial bout with Masvidal. Usman had just defeated Tyron Woodley to become the champion and made his first defense by delivering a rousing fifth-round TKO (punches) of Colby Covington in 2019. Then, the pandemic hit, changing the world as we knew it but Usman remained undeterred lining up a title defense against Gilbert Burns. However, when Burns tested positive for COVID-19, Masvidal took his place on short notice and there was instant curiosity from fans. Masvidal had just been crowned "BMF" the previous November and was riding a three-fight winning streak, generating scintillating stoppages each time. That perfect storm and the captive audience due to the pandemic resulted in 1.3 million pay-per-view buys, putting it right up there with Lesnar-Mir, Eddie Alvarez-McGregor and McGregor-Diaz in terms of sheer eyes turned into buys for the fight. Of course, Usman sleeping Masvidal in their rematch turned the violence up a big notch, but this big fight was the catalyst.

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