A technical master-class is a dream for hardcore fans of mixed martial arts. True fans appreciate the hardships that fighters go through during fights and in the training camps. We also want the athletes to be as safe as possible in there. However, everyone loves to see a barnstormer. The most simply enjoyable matches are the kind where two mixed martial artists leave everything in the octagon. This list will compile battles that were exactly that. It would be too easy to chronicle the best matches of all time, that has been done before. So here are some of the most hair-raising showdowns in recent years.
1. Diego Sanchez vs Gilbert Melendez - UFC 188
It is quite telling that Dana White, president of the UFC, said that this fight was one of the best he has ever seen. In the lead up to this battle people said that Diego Sanchez did not even belong in the same octagon as Gilbert Melendez. Sanchez clearly took this to heart as he showed up on fight night ready to absolutely throw down. The pace of this fight is absolutely unparalleled. Diego Sanchez went after Gilbert Melendez like a man possessed.
Melendez has great hands though and managed to drop Sanchez as well as open him up pretty badly. Sanchez refused to be beaten, pulling Gilbert into an all out brawl. These two threw everything they had at each other for the entire fight, on a number of occasions Diego stood before his opponent and said "bring it on" beating his chest. This led to a number of wild exchanges, much to the delight of commentators: Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg as well as the fans in attendance. The two warriors concluded the fight like every round: swinging for the fences. You know it is an impressive fight when the referee applauds and pats the combatants on the back after the final bell.
2. Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald- UFC 189
This match was an all out war with the welterweight championship on the line. The first round was fast paced but cautious. Both fighters wanted it bad but were feeling each other out at first. Things really started to take off from the beginning of the second round as both men started to let the shots go. As the rounds progressed the exchanges got more and more frequent, both fighters became increasingly more bloody as a result. Both men were an absolute mess by the end of the fight.
The champion Robbie Lawler was resilient and broke MacDonald down progressively over the course of 5 rounds. Although many people maintain that MacDonald would have won the decision had Lawler not gotten the stoppage. Oddly enough, the most dramatic moment of the fight was not the conclusion, it came at the end of the penultimate round. The instance in question occurred before the two men walked back to their corners to prepare for the final round. Both MacDonald and Lawler were covered in blood, the champion spits out a red spray and they both stand there for a second staring at each other. An unspoken dialogue occurs between two Spartans. In that moment UFC fans around the world knew that when they came back out, it's on! Lawler's arm was later raised, he pointed down at the octagon with the other hand, making the statement that he just put his mark on the welterweight division and MMA as a whole.
3. Daniel Cormier vs Alexander Gustafsson - UFC 192
This match was DC's first light heavyweight championship defence since winning the vacant title against Anthony Johnson. The champ went into this fight with something to prove, he wanted to show the world that he deserves to be the champion, that he belongs at the top of the light heavyweight division. Gustafsson was out to claim the championship that had eluded him for quite some time. Both fighters brought their unique fighting styles and incredible desire to win, creating a modern classic. Daniel Cormier is known for his ridiculous wrestling throws, this match demonstrated why that is perfectly.
Early in the first round Daniel performed an amazing takedown in which he hooked the swede through the legs, hoisting him into the air and flipped him in mid-air. That is why Cormier is one of the best wrestlers in UFC. Gustafsson brought the fight to the champion as the rounds progressed though, he actually dropped DC in the third but Cormier was able to stay alive. The light heavyweight champion also hurt Alexander on a number of occasions forcing the challenger to retreat from the punches. By the closing seconds of the fight, both combatants were exhausted, throwing as many punches as possible to score enough points to take the decision.
4. Carlos Condit vs Robbie Lawler- UFC 195
Robbie Lawler graces this list a second time in another of his welterweight title defences. Lawler will no doubt go down in history for having some of the most exciting championship matches in the company. His match against 'The Natural Born Killer' Carlos Condit was no exception. Condit's ability to create highlight reel fights with his fun fighting style has quickly made him a fan favourite. Lawler was also known for his never say die attitude and desire to make dramatic match-ups, so there were high expectations for this match going in. The fight did not disappoint, Lawler's tenacity against Condit's innovative offence made for some wild exchanges. Amazingly, the fight ended with Condit on wobbly legs but managing to survive and actually throw punches back at the champion. Both fighters left so much of themselves in the octagon that as soon as the final round ended, they both just put their arms over the top of the cage, gassed out with their heads against the cage.
5. Mark Hunt vs Bigfoot Silva - UFC Fight Night 33
Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva lost via knockout in the first round to 'Super Samoan' Mark Hunt at UFC 193. Although it was their encounter back in 2013 on a UFC Fight Night card that was the real rumble. Two of the hardest hitting powerhouses in MMA went at it in this brutal five round fight. The entire fight consisted of gigantic looping blows, with both fighters getting rocked on a number of occasions. Hunt proved in this fight that he has an iron jaw as well as the ability to lay people out with his vicious hooks. The most clear display of this toughness came with about 1 minute 40 seconds left of the final round. Silva was reigning down big shots on the Samoan, who was backed up against the fence. Hunt cut off the momentum of this potential stoppage with a single venomous left hand that forced Antonio to take a couple of steps back and probably re-evaluate a few life choices.
The Australian native survived a number of moments in which Silva potentially had him beat to inflict some damage of his own. The judge's decision was ultimately a draw, a result with which both athletes were pleased. No doubt the judges didn't like the sound of coming face to face with one of these giants having told them they just lost a fight. As soon as the final bell sounded both warriors hugged each other, this is a testament to the true sportsmanship of mixed martial artists.