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4/5/16: Top fighter feuds in UFC history
The continued back and forth between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier has them embittered, their eventual second fight likely to bring out the worst in each before they get in the cage. To that end, it makes this week as good as any to look at some of the other major feuds in UFC history to see what the two must do in their rematch to stack up. Note: this is far from a definitive or exhaustive list, and there are numerous other potential feuds worthy of inclusion. Send your thoughts in to MMATorchEditor@gmail.com to take part in the discussion!
5. Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos: Less a feud based on hatred and more on skill and accomplishment, the Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos trilogy nevertheless deserves a high spot on any top feud list by virtue of it’s historic nature. Their first fight headlined the UFC’s first ever network television event, and drew more eyeballs – peaking at 8.8 million viewers – than any other MMA fight in North American MMA history. That Velasquez came back from his TKO loss in that fight to absolutely decimate dos Santos in their next two matchups doesn’t detract from that, and indeed adds only to what Velasquez was able to do at that time. Both are very different fighters in 2016 and are struggling to get back to the top, but for that sliver of their careers they put on a special series of fights.
4. Tito Ortiz-Ken Shamrock: Now here’s a trilogy that has little to do with what happened in the cage, and much more to do with the animosity between the two that led to ridiculous business in the Octagon. The first fight between the two was one of the early turning point events for the UFC under relatively new management in Zuffa; based on years of dislike between Ortiz and Shamrock’s Lion’s Den, Ortiz’s win in that first fight would set the stage for two more fights bringing massive business which were centered around the third season of The Ultimate Fighter. Ortiz won all three fights, but the legitimate hatred between the two of them fueled some major business at a time it was needed.
3. Brock Lesnar-Frank Mir: Speaking of big business, before Conor McGregor turned into the behemoth at the box office that he’s become, the UFC set their pay-per-view record on the strength of more legitimate bad blood between Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar. Pro wrestling star Lesnar worked his damnedest to convince the UFC to give him a shot despite only one professional fight under his belt, and they finally obliged with a fight against former champ Frank Mir. Lesnar showed some raw ability early on, but wound up getting submitted early in the first round. That loss wound up leaving Lesnar seething, and after he wound up capturing the Heavyweight Title from Randy Couture, while Mir took the Interim Title from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. From there, the rematch came together in serendipitous fashion at UFC 100, and became one of the most memorable fights in UFC history.
2. Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen: Another of the “big money” feuds, this time with as much drama and trash talk as we’d ever seen to date. Sonnen had been little more than a journeyman when his second UFC run began, and a loss to Demian Maia in his return out of the WEC didn’t inspire any ideas of him as a title challenger. Then he railed off three legitimately good performances against Dan Miller, Yushin Okami, and Nate Marquardt, and took on a more out-spoken persona, shamelessly aping from pro wrestling to build up his first shot at Anderson Silva. Little attention was paid at first, but it continued, and continued, and when he wound up winning four rounds and most of the fifth in that UFC 117 matchup, only to have Silva take him out with a late submission, everyone took notice. The rematch came together two years later with even more bombast, more genuine dislike on the part of Silva, and much more attention, and with a then-record gate at UFC 148. A theme in many of these feuds has been how one-sided they were, but Sonnen’s performance and near-win in the first fight made the second possible.
1. Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz: Culminating in the UFC’s first-ever million-buy pay-per-view event, the Liddell-Ortiz feud began in the pre-Zuffa era with two friends under the same management – Dana White. Liddell felt Ortiz ducked the fight after a falling out, but they wound up finally facing off at UFC 47. Liddell knocked Ortiz out, the first fighter ever to do so. A follow up win that summer put him in line for a title fight with Randy Couture and a spot on the inaugural Ultimate Fighter as coach. The exposure that season brought skyrocketed Liddell’s popularity, and when Ortiz boosted his back with a five fight winning streak and the already discussed second two fights against Shamrock, it led to the huge 2006-year-end UFC 66 event. Liddell added a second TKO win, stopping Ortiz this time late in the third round. They almost had another chapter in the feud in 2010 with the 11th season of TUF; unfortunately for their plans at the time, an injury to Ortiz took him out, and Liddell got knocked out by replacement Rich Franklin in his final career fight.
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