Top 10 Best UFC Fights Of All Time
Defining what it means for a fight to be great, or the best, is no easy task. It’s obviously unbelievably subjective, but for the most-part, it can at least be narrowed down to a handful of factors, that are generally accepted as key criteria for instant classics.
Fights can be great because of the technicality and high-level skills put on display. Rivalries and raw emotion can elevate good fights into being great, simply because the two combatants can bring about a level of intensity that carries through every exchange. Comebacks and shifting dynamics are perhaps the strongest benchmark for a great fight, as the unpredictability keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. And of course, there’s the sheer violence factor. For some non-MMA fans, it can be a turnoff, but for hardcore and casual fans alike, it stirs up a visceral desire to see carnage unfold. All-time great bouts will often hit a number of these standards, and by my estimation, one actually manages to firmly check all the boxes.
There have been many great fights outside of the UFC (largely within Pride, Strikeforce, WEC, and Bellator), but for the purposes of this list, I’m going to solely be looking at the greatest UFC fights in history.
In the interest of avoiding spoilers for newer fans looking for a shortlist of great fights to watch for the first time, I will leave some ambiguity to each of my summaries, and seek to avoid the results entirely (at least to the best of my ability).
So, let’s get into it, here is my list for the top 10 UFC fights of all-time:
10. Clay Guida vs. Diego Sanchez
The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale (June 20th, 2009)
The intensity between Guida and Sanchez as they make their way to the cage is incredible, and it only builds until they come face-to-face just before the fight starts. Sometimes all this pent-up energy and emotion simmers away as the fighters settle into their groove, but not on this occasion.
Right from the off, both men start trading with reckless abandon. It’s a sight to be seen, in large part due to one of the most insane opening rounds you’re ever going to see, but also because of the ridiculous pace they’re able to maintain throughout the fight.
9. Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk
UFC 248: Adesanya vs. Romero (March 7th, 2020)
Women got a late start in the UFC, and unsurprisingly this has had an effect on the number of truly great men’s fights we’ve seen, in comparison to the number of women’s fights. That said, this fight has completely earned its place on this list, and hopefully it will be one of many WMMA fights in the all-time debate moving forward.
It is an absolute barn-burner, and the technical ability, and eye-watering volume of strikes both Zhang and Jedrzejczyk throw, is simply a marvel to watch.
8. Pat Barry vs. Cheick Kongo
UFC on Versus 4: Barry vs. Kongo (June 26th, 2011)
This fight is infamous for having one of the best moments in UFC history, so much so, that you actually have to question if this is a great fight, or a great moment.
For me, it comes down to the fact that we did see both guys get on offense, and although the fight might not have gone long, it is pound-4-pound one of the most electrifying fights you’re going to see, and that makes it worth of a place on this list.
7. Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar 1
The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale (April 9th, 2005)
The historical significance of this fight is huge, but putting that aside for the sake of subjectivity, this is still an incredible war of attrition.
Technically and tactically, it wasn’t the finest display you’ll ever see in the octagon, but Griffin and Bonnar’s heart and desire to sling leather is almost unrivaled.
When people speak of this fight, they often talk about the knock-on effect it had for the UFC, and the MMA world as a whole, but let’s not overlook the fact that it was an absolute banger that has stood the test of time, at least in terms of entertainment value.
6. Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero 2
UFC 225: Whittaker vs. Romero 2 (June 9th, 2018)
To be an all-time great fight, it doesn’t necessarily have to be all-action all the time, and this bout proves it.
Granted, it does take a little while to get going, and there are periods where Yoel Romero’s reluctancy to throw strikes does slow the fight a little, but his sporadic flurries and unorthodox movement, does make for some intense watching.
Then, of course, there is the big moments in the fight. The kind of moments that make you jump out of your seat as insanity starts to unfold.
This is a rollercoaster, and although it might have a few lull, the anticipation and chaos it packs is enough to make it an all-timer.
5. Kelvin Gastelum vs. Israel Adesanya
UFC 236: Holloway vs. Poirier 2 (April 13th, 2019)
At one point during this fight, in between rounds, you can see Adesanya looks directly at Gastelum across the cage, and says, “I’m prepared to die”, and that statement alone epitomizes what was running through both fighters’ mind at that moment.
It was a battle for the ages, there was adversity on either side, yet neither fighter was able to establish their own gameplan for any length of time.
4. Mark Hunt vs. Antônio “Bigfoot” Silva 1
UFC Fight Night 33: Hunt vs. Bigfoot (December 6th, 2013)
This fight is absolutely absurd. There’s a number of big moments that get you through the tense early stages, but before too long, it just goes completely off the rails.
It’s back-and-forth war with both men taking turns to put the other in serious jeopardy of being finished. Early on it’s not all action all the time, but it builds to a wonderful, albeit bloody, crescendo.
3. Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi
UFC 206: Holloway vs. Pettis (December 10th, 2016)
This bout goes a little under the radar in the all-time great discussion, and it’s kind of understandable given it wasn’t a main event, and there were a number of huge fights in 2016. But after looking back, wow, what a fight, and how is this not held in a higher regard!?
The first round is fun and competitive, but after that, it gets wild. Both guys start swinging for the bleachers, putting the other in constant trouble, and then they maintain that incredible pace and total uncertainty until the fight’s conclusion.
2. Maurício “Shogun” Rua vs. Dan Henderson 1
UFC 139: Shogun vs. Henderson (November 19th, 2011)
All the fights in this list have momentum switches, but none are quite as polarizing as what we get in this fight.
If it wasn’t for the old way of scoring, we’d have seen a lot of 10-8 scorecards being handed out left, right, and center, and that speaks volumes about how dominant each fighter was for spells in this fight.
1. Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald 2
UFC 189: Mendes vs. McGregor (July 11th, 2015)
This fight is the only one, at least by my estimations, that ticks all the boxes I outlined in the intro.
It’s by no means a tactical masterclass, but it’s a highly technical brawl. Lawler and MacDonald have a rivalry, but unlike most, it is not formed out of hate, it stems from each of their raw intensity when fighting, and you see this boil over as the fight wears on. And as for the fight dynamic and violence, it really is a one of a kind.
People often ask, “if you had to show someone who doesn’t watch MMA one fight to get them into it, which fight would you choose?”. Well, this would be the one. It may not match some of the others on this list in terms of total chaos, but it is high-level MMA, combined with unbridled violence.