Every now and again, two UFC athletes hit the main stage and deliver a performance that fans around the world come back to time and again to relive its excitement. As we approach the holidays, sit back, relax and enjoy some of those fights that we’re thankful for:
Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson 1
UFC 165 – Sept. 21, 2013
What made this matchup so compelling was that Gustafsson’s style matched Jones’ as well as anyone else up until that point in Jones’ already illustrious career. Throughout the fight, Gustafsson gave Jones a run for his money, forcing the champion to dig deeper than he had to his whole career en route to a decision victory in a must see five-round battle.
Yair Rodriguez vs The Korean Zombie
UFC Fight Night: The Korean Zombie vs Rodríguez – Nov. 10, 2018
In the main event at UFC Fight Night: The Korean Zombie vs Rodríguez at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, two of the featherweight division’s best squared off in a five round thriller that saw each athlete have their fair share of success on the feet.
Despite both athletes displaying their heart and resilience, the ending of this bout left fans around the world awestruck by the tenacity and unpredictably of Yair Rodriguez’s last second knockout. The finish earned Rodriguez Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night, but both main event athletes walked away with an additional Fight of the Night bonus for the show they put on in Denver.
Rodriguez is currently scheduled to face Josh Emmett for the interim UFC featherweight championship in the co-main event at UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski on February 12 in Perth, Australia.
Justin Gaethje vs Michael Johnson
The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale – July 7, 2017
A list of UFC’s most exciting fights wouldn’t be complete without including “The Highlight” himself Justin Gaethje. Gaethje closed out an epic night of fights in The Ultimate Fighter 25 season finale, that saw Jesse Taylor defeat Dhiego Lima to become The Ultimate Fighter, in a Fight of the Night earning bout against Michael Johnson.
10 seconds into the opening round, Johnson already landed a huge left hand stunning Gaethje, and from there on out, both athletes slugged it out until only one man was left standing. Only lasting less than two rounds, these nine minutes of fireworks earned the UFC Fight of the Year honors, an award Gaethje has since won a second time in 2021 for his battle against Michael Chandler at Madison Square Garden.
Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar
The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale – April 9, 2005
Another one of the greatest light heavyweight fights to come out of the UFC was the finale of The Ultimate Fighter Season 1, which saw Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar put their bodies on the line in action-packed battle to see who’d become the inaugural Ultimate Fighter.
The pace, damage and toughness displayed in this bout made it an instant UFC classic. Although there was only one winner on paper that night, both athletes earned UFC contracts for their memorable performances and have forever cemented their place in UFC history.
Maurício Rua vs Dan Henderson 1
UFC 139: Shogun vs Henderson – Nov. 19, 2011
Inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame Fight Wing in July 2018, UFC 139’s main event delivered one of the craziest back-and-forth battles to ever grace the UFC Octagon. Scoring a knockdown in the first round, Dan Henderson got out on the front foot early, forcing Rua to try and mount an epic comeback in the later frames. Which he did.
Rua out struck Henderson while securing five takedowns, but in the end, it wasn’t enough to get past the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion. Although Henderson came out victorious, both fighters earned a well-deserved Fight of the Night bonus for the ever-lasting impact their 25-minute battle left on UFC fans.