When it comes to this top 10 MMA
fights of the decade list, the criteria are easy. First, there's the status or stakes. When it comes to any best of the decade list, status means a lot because the majority of the fights need to have stayed with you; they should be bigger than the moment, which is why it's possible for you to remember them 10 years later. But that shouldn't allow us to forget the actual competition, which is another big time factor. Fights that were back and forth and competitive will stand a much better chance of making this list than blowouts, no matter what the stakes.
So let's get to it.
10. Eddie Alvarez defeats Joachim Hansen by decision at DREAM 3Who won? Hard to say. Early in this one, Alvarez dropped Hansen with strikes and took him down several times. In sum, Hansen took a beating. But in the second round, the fighter they call "Hellboy," dominated on the ground and nearly pulled off an armbar. A late Alvarez high kick followed by a flurry seemed to sway the judges toward seeing things his way. But this was a two round fight that was as competitive as you'll ever see.
9. Fedor Emelianenko defeats Mirko Filipovic by decision at PRIDE: Final ConflictFedor
was better inside on his feet all night long and managed to get the battle to the ground eventually, making the fight obviously his for the majority of the night. But the fact that this Final Conflict 2005 bout went the distance- anyone that has been watching Fedor fight lately knows that his bouts don't tend to- coupled with the notion that it was probably the most highly anticipated heavyweight MMA battle in history lands it on the list. People still talk about this fight today, and that says volumes.
8. Roger Huerta defeats Clay Guida by rear naked choke at the TUF 6 Finale
Clay Guida was dominating this fight. Through two rounds he took Huerta down and pound on him like pizza dough. But Huerta, who is much tougher than the masses gave him credit for at the time, nailed his opponent with a knee in the third and followed it up with some punches before taking his adversary's back. Eventually, Guida was forced to submit from a rear naked choke
. If this fight had more stakes attached to it, it would have been even higher on the list. It was that good!
7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defeats Bob Sapp by armbar at PRIDE: Shockwave
Sapp, a 350 pound behemoth, started this fight off by pile driving his adversary into the canvas and throwing him around like a rag doll. For a moment, most onlookers were pretty concerned that his opponent might get hurt. But then Nogueira
did what Nogueira does- he persevered. And in the second round, Sapp looked a lot less intimidating, falling victim to fatigue. That's when Nogueira slapped the armbar
on him and called it a day. Big Nog was a legend before this fight and was an even bigger one afterwards.
6. Chuck Liddell defeats Wanderlei Silva by decision at UFC 79
Back when PRIDE and the UFC were rivals, if fans could've picked a dream match up to see it almost certainly would've been Chuck Liddell
(the UFC 205 pound champion at the time) vs. Wanderlei Silva
(the PRIDE 205 pound champion). Several years later after both had seen their primes come and go, the fight finally went down. This was a striking battle that won't be forgotten for a long time. Liddell landed big shots; Silva landed them too. The difference was that Liddell just connected more often, netting him a deserved decision victory in one of the most highly anticipated bouts in MMA history.
5. Matt Hughes defeats Frank Trigg by rear naked choke at UFC 52Trigg hit Hughes in the groin. Huges turned to a referee that didn't see it to complain. And because of that, got hammered with strikes and nearly stopped by a rear naked choke on the ground. But instead of losing, Hughes survived as he always seemed to do back then, escaped the choke, picked Trigg up, walked him over to his own corner before slamming him into the canvas. Moments later, he caught Trigg with the same medicine he had nearly lost the fight with- a rear naked choke. This was one of the most sudden comebacks in MMA history.
4. Nick Diaz defeats Takanori Gomi by gogoplata at PRIDE 33 (later overturned)At the time, many thought Gomi was unbeatable and he started the fight looking that way by dropping Diaz with a huge punch. But Diaz, who is one of the toughest guys you'll ever see, survived. In fact, he started winning the brawl. With both fighters exhausted and throwing as much leather as possible in the second round, Diaz found himself on his back, eventually working in a gogoplata for the victory. Later, the fight was overturned to a no-contest when it was announced that Diaz had tested positive for marijuana. No matter. This was an outstanding fight that will be remembered for a very long time for a rare gogoplata, a great brawl, the fall of a superstar, and then a failed drug test.
3. Matt Hughes defeats BJ Penn by TKO at UFC 63
Many believed that Penn
was the best pound for pound fighter in the world at the time and had taken the title from Hughes at UFC 46 before relinquishing it. On the flip side, Hughes, the most dominant champion in UFC history, still had the lingering stigma of having lost to Penn. Penn dominated his opponent on his feet early and nearly caught him in a triangle choke in the second. But Hughes survived, and in the third round found himself up against a fatigued and injured Penn that he was able to dominate on his feet, takedown and eventually pound out while maintaining the crucifix position. The win left Hughes the greatest welterweight champion in UFC history at the time.
2. Kazushi Sakuraba defeats Royce Gracie by TKO at PRIDE: Grand Prix 2000The argument for this one making the all decade list is easy. First, both fighters nearly took this one home with submission attempts, making it competitive. But the really impressive part of this fight was how the two managed to battle for over 90 minutes. That's right, an hour and a half. Eventually, Sakuraba's solid leg kicks over time coupled with his ability to use Gracie's gi against him compelled Gracie's brother to rightfully throw in the towel. And with that, the idea that the Gracie's could not be beaten was over, which left an indelible mark on mixed martial arts.
1. Forrest Griffin defeats Stephan Bonnar by decision at the TUF 1 FinaleWas this a bout that demonstrated a high level of ground warfare? Nope. Was there a ton of technically advanced stand up? Not exactly. But it was one of the greatest displays of heart ever seen on any fighting stage, MMA or otherwise. There was a time when I thought that there was a better fight in MMA's history. But now looking back, this is the fight that brought MMA to the mainstream. This was the bout that introduced new fans to MMA. This was the contest that ushered in the TUF era. And with that legacy, who can argue with it being the greatest fight of the decade and possibly all-time?