The Ultimate Fighting Championship would debut in the 1990s but would take many years to really find its footing. The promotion would struggle for survival as many states banned the matches as they sought an active audience. Eventually, the financial troubles would end and the company would become a phenomenon.
The promotion tries to load each of their cards with interesting match-ups across all weight classes. Obviously, championship bouts take on an added significance. The UFC, now on card 241, has had a number of amazing championship bouts. Below is a list of the greatest title fights in the promotion's history.
Ortiz/Shamrock UFC 40
After years of middling financial results, UFC 40 was the card that really improved the company's financial standing. And the fight that drove that card was the one between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz.
The two men sold the fight well and anticipation was high for the bout. After a spirited fight, Shamrock's corner stopped the fight in the 3rd round. The fight was a major success for the UFC and each event seemed to get bigger as the years went on.
Hughes/Trigg UFC 52
With many years of fights, it takes quite a bit to catch the eye of company President Dana White. The 2005 fight between Frank Trigg and Matt Hughes did the trick, though. White considers this fight to be one of his all-time favorites.
The fight was a rematch from UFC 45 where Hughes submitted the trash-talking Trigg with a rear-naked choke. Fittingly this fight ended the same way. Four minutes into the first round, Hughes caught Trigg in the same exact submission move.
Hughes/St. Pierre UFC 65
This fight, which happened in the still reasonably early days in the UFC featured two all-time legends in the company. The highly anticipated fight between Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre had been building up for months.
The fight began badly for Hughes as he took two unintentional shots to the groin in the first round. During the second round, St. Pierre was able to catch Hughes with a head kick and landed a flurry of punches that ended the fight.
Liddell/Ortiz UFC 66
UFC 66 was a major event for the burgeoning company. Champion Chuck Liddell had previously defeated Ortiz, but Tito claimed that Liddell had gotten a thumb in his eye earlier in the fight and that had thrown him off his rhythm.
Liddell went into the fight injured as he had torn his MCL training for the fight. The injury did not stop Lidell from defeating Ortiz, though, won by a TKO in the third round of the fight.
Couture/Sylvia UFC 68
Randy Couture was an important figure in the history of the UFC. By 2007, though, the former Champ had been retired for close to a year. The 43-year-old fighter felt the itch, and came out of retirement to fight Sylvia.
Couture hammered the 6-foot-8 Sylvia with a hard punch in the first round and continued to batter the Champion throughout the fight. The bout went five rounds and all three judges declared Couture the winner on the scorecard.
Jackson/Henderson UFC 75
UFC 75 did not only feature a massive unification bout between Rampage Jackson and Dan Henderson, but it also took place in London, proving the company had the potential for a global reach.
The fight did not disappoint as Jackson won a unanimous decision over challenger Henderson. And with the win, Jackson unified both the UFC belt and the Pride fighting belt. The card also set a record for the company's viewership as it drew a total of 5.9 million viewers.
Penn/Sherk UFC 84
Sean Sherk had been a terrific fighter in the UFC for many years prior to his steroid suspension in 2007. He returned to the promotion in 2008 and was immediately given a title shot again BJ Penn.
The fight was billed as the biggest fight in the history of the UFC's Lightweight division and it was everything it was built up to be. Penn landed a flying knee late in the third round. While Sherk made it through the round, he did not come out for the fourth and Penn was declared the winner.
Griffin/Jackson UFC 86
By 2008, things were going so well for the UFC that the company had created their own reality show. The two coaches featured on The Ultimate Fighter were Forrest Griffin and Rampage Jackson. The two squared off in UFC 86.
Griffin was a former police officer in Georgia before becoming a full-time professional fighter. He had a roller coaster of a fight with Jackson and the bout went five rounds. In the end, Griffin won a unanimous decision and became the new Light Heavyweight Champion.
Evans/Machida UFC 98
Brazilian fighter Lyoto Machida had been pushing Dana White for a Light Heavyweight Championship title shot for a while. He got his chance thanks to an injury to Rampage Jackson. White made a match between Machida and Champion Rashad Evans.
Machida made the most of his opportunity scoring a knockdown in the first round. the Brazilian continued the onslaught and eventually finished Evans with a flurry of punches in the second.
Lesnar/Carwin UFC 116
Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin had been matched up before. The fight didn't happen, though, due to Lesnar's issues with diverticulitis. By the time they squared off, Carwin had captured the Interim Heavyweight Championship from Frank Mir.
Carwin almost captured the fight in the very first round as he delivered Lesnar a beating that included a knockdown. Lesnar, seemingly better conditioned, was able to turn the tables in the second round and caught Carwin in a triangle choke to capture the match.
Sliva/Sonnen UFC 117
UFC head Dana White has referred to Anderson Silva as the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time. The Brazilian built that reputation on an incredible 16 match win streak. His fight against Chael Sonnen in 2010 was part of that streak.
Sonnen has gotten the better of Silva for the majority of the fight after he caught him with a stunning punch in the first round. In the fifth round, though, Silva was able to get his hands on Sonnen and lock in a triangle armbar for the submission.
Aldo/Hominick UFC 129
UFC 129 was at that time the largest UFC event in North American history. The bill, held in Toronto featured two high profile Canadian fighters in Georges St. Pierre and Mark Hominick. Hominick took on Jose Aldo for the Featherweight Championship.
Aldo and Hominick engaged in a five-round battle that saw the Brazilian win in a unanimous decision. St. Pierre was able to give the hometown fans something to cheer for as he defeated Jake Shields.
Cruz/Faber UFC 132
Dominick Cruz had spent much of his career battling in World Extreme Cagefighting. That organization was merged with the UFC and Cruz moved over to that promotion. His first fight for the UFC was against Urijah Faber.
The two men were very evenly matched and the closely contested fight went for all five rounds. Cruz had been able to take Faber down multiple times and the judges awarded him the win in a unanimous decision.
Velasquez/dos Santos UFC On Fox 1
This card was the first time a UFC match aired over the Fox Network. With Dana White wanting to create an impressive bill, a Heavyweight Championship match was made between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez.
The Brazilian dos Santos did not find American Velasquez to be much competition. The fight would only last for 64 seconds as dos Santos caught Velasquez with an overhand right and landed a flurry of punches to end the fight early.
Edgar/Henderson UFC 144
Benson Henderson was another fighter who came over to the UFC via the merger with World Extreme Cagefighting. Henderson impressed with his first few fights with the promotion and was given the opportunity to face Frankie Edgar for the Lightweight Championship.
The two fighters were very evenly matched and had a close and spirited match. Henderson won the fight via unanimous decision but both combatants were recognized by the UFC with the Fight of the Night honors.
Johnson/Dodson UFC On Fox 6
Demetrious Johnson, who fought both in the Bantamweight and Flyweight divisions, is considered one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the history of the sport. One of his best-remembered matches was against John Dodson at UFC on Fox 6.
Dodson had a tremendous chance at defeating Johnson and taking the belt as he knocked him down twice in the fight. In the latter rounds, though, the champion was able to turn the fight his way and won the bout via unanimous decision.
Silva/Weidman UFC 162
Chris Weidman walked into this fight undefeated and as the top contender. He was also a 2-1 underdog. His opponent, Anderson Silva, had never before lost a fight in a UFC ring and had won 16 straight bouts.
Not only did Weidman hand Silva the loss, but he also did it in dominating fashion knocking out the champ in the second round. He also proved the win was no fluke as he again defeated Silva a mere six months later.
Jones/Gustafson UFC 165
Jon Jones walked into this fight as an absolute prodigy. His record was 18-1 with his only loss coming via disqualification. Alexander Gustaffson had earned this title opportunity by winning the six fights that preceded it.
Gustaffson gave Jones everything he could handle and the fight went all five rounds. The Swede became the first fighter to take Jones off of his feet in a fight. Jones was able to rally and win a decision but referred to the fight as the hardest of his professional career.
St. Pierre/Hendricks UFC 167
Georges St. Pierre was a legendary fighter for the UFC who was nearing the end of his mixed martial arts career. Johnny Hendricks came into the fight as the number one contender following a six-fight winning streak.
The fight went the full five rounds and ended in a controversial split division. The company president, Dana White, claimed that he though Hendricks had won the fight. Both St. Pierre and the challenger were awarded with fight of the night honors.
Hendricks/Lawler UFC 171
While he had lost his initial title opportunity to Georges St. Pierre, he had performed so well that Johny Hendricks was given another title shot at UFC 171. Veteran fighter Robbie Lawler was his opponent in a bout for the vacant Welterweight belt.
The back and forth fight made it clear that both of these challengers were evenly matched. In the end, Hendricks won his first championship via unanimous decision. Both fighters were awarded Fight of the Night honors.