9 Greatest Las Vegas UFC Fights of All Time
Low blows. Epic comebacks. Name-making showdowns. Controversial decisions. They’re all here, and they all happened in Sin City.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Las Vegas are synonymous now, but it wasn’t always that way. UFC 33, the first mixed martial arts event in the state of Nevada, is regarded as having one of the worst main cards ever, and UFC President Dana White occasionally references the event as a benchmark for suckiness. Fortunately, the partnership improved from there. Vegas has become the unofficial home of the UFC, having hosted more events here than any other city, and shows no signs of slowing down. In anticipation of UFC 175, we look back at some of the promotion’s most memorable Vegas fights of the past 13 years.
9. Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber (UFC 132, MGM Grand, 7/2/11)
Old foes from their cagefighting days, Cruz and Faber had to wait four years for a rematch of their WEC showdown. Cruz came out looking for retribution and, although felled by Faber on a number of occasions, proved resilient with his kicks and ultimately took the close match. A third fight was on the books at least twice, but Cruz’s knees prevented him from challenging his only vanquisher.
8. Georges St-Pierre vs. BJ Penn (UFC 58, Mandalay Bay, 3/4/06)
Penn was already anticipating a title rematch with Matt Hughes when upstart St-Pierre met him in the Octagon. Penn lowered the first blow, but St-Pierre kept it close in round two with a takedown and a head kick that turned two judges’ cards in his favor. With both fighters gassed by the end of the deciding round, it was St-Pierre who notched the final takedown, denying Penn an outright shot at Hughes.
7. Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida (The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Finale, The Pearl at Palms, 6/20/09)
What do you get when two of the sport’s most relentless fighters hit the Octagon? A nearly breathless fight, with momentum changes at every turn. Sanchez came out swinging and landed a head kick in round one, but Guida kept Sanchez pinned to the canvas for most of round two. In the deciding round, both kept the pressure on till Sanchez emerged with the split decision victory.
6. Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin (UFC 116, MGM Grand, 7/3/10)
Undefeated heavyweight Carwin seemed to be cruising to another win with his first-round ground-and-pound of Lesnar, but the ex-pro wrestler and NFL lineman was just biding his time. Taking advantage of his fatigued opponent, Lesnar leveled Carwin in the second round, then submitted him with an arm triangle choke to take the championship.
5. Quinton Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin (UFC 86, Mandalay Bay, 7/5/08)
Up until St-Pierre-Hendricks, Jackson-Griffin was one of the most talked-about championship fight decisions in UFC history. Jackson’s uppercut put Griffin on the canvas in round one, but Griffin’s low kick in round two was the difference-maker, and he exploited Jackson’s left leg throughout the five-round skirmish. As late as 2012, Jackson was talking up a rematch that likely will never come.
4. Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva (UFC 79, Mandalay Bay, 12/29/07)
The long-awaited matchup between an aging Liddell and ex-Pride fighter Silva, making his UFC return, started slowly, but things picked up in the second half of round two. Silva showed remarkable perseverance, surviving a furious Liddell rally, a pair of takedowns and a crafty spinning back fist, but it was The Iceman who came out on top with a unanimous decision win.
3. Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg (UFC 52, MGM Grand, 4/16/05)
The second installation of Hughes-Trigg is on the tip of White’s tongue when listing his favorite fights. Rarely has a fight’s momentum swung this wildly, from Trigg’s low blow and near-relentless rear choke to Hughes carrying his opponent across the length of the Octagon for a thunderous body slam. Hughes eventually sealed the win in one of UFC’s greatest comebacks.
2. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard (UFC 125, MGM Grand, 1/1/11)
Maynard had Edgar scrambling early on, but Edgar persevered enough to land several takedowns. What had looked like a surefire Maynard win ended in a draw, leading White to call for a rematch just nine months later. Edgar’s eventual knockout win had the fireworks, but this matchup was a wire-to-wire battle.
1. Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar (The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Finale, Cox Pavilion, 4/9/05)
It wasn’t even the main event—that belonged to Ken Shamrock and Rich Franklin—but the battle for a six-figure UFC contract became one of legend almost right off the bat. The evenly matched fighters went toe-to-toe for three rounds, a twice-gashed Griffin bleeding all over himself and Bonnar en route to a close but unanimous win. White rightly awarded contracts to both fighters as a result of this instant classic.