When it comes to combat sports nothing grabs the public’s attention more than a rivalry, and there have certainly been some classic ‘feuds’ during the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s existence. From the ‘glory days’ of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz to the more recent rivalries involving the likes of Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson, the UFC has always had those feuds that made for must-watch fights. Here we take a look at some of the most important rivalries in the history of the UFC…
1) Tito Ortiz v Ken Shamrock
Never has a feud been more personal than this one. It all started at UFC 18 when Tito Ortiz beat Lions Den fighter Jerry Bohlander and – in what became a tradition – unveiled a t-shirt that read “I just f**ked your ass” while acting like he was shooting at the men in his opponent’s corner – including Ken Shamrock. A couple of months later the tension exploded as Ortiz beat Guy Mezger at UFC 19 and flipped off the Lions Den team while wearing a “Gay Mezger is my Bitch” t-shirt. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was carried across the Octagon by referee ‘Big’ John McCarthy as Shamrock went nuts and the feud was well and truly born. However, Shamrock was out of mixed martial arts at that time and it would take four years for the two men to finally square off in the Octagon – and when it happened Ortiz brutalised his opponent. Shamrock’s team threw in the towel at the end of round three – but that would not be the last time these two would do battle. Shamrock would have two more shots at Ortiz, but by this point the man once dubbed “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” was out of his depth. Ortiz stopped Shamrock in the first round of their showdowns at UFC 161 and UFC Fight Night 6.5, bring an end to their long-running rivalry.
2) Brock Lesnar v Frank Mir
When Brock Lesnar decided to take up prize-fighting there were no shortage of fighters who wanted to send the former professional wrestler back to the world of ‘fake’ fighting. Former heavyweight champion Frank Mir was at the front of the queue and he got his wish at UFC 181. An amateur wrestling stand-out during his collegiate days, Lesnar wasted no time in taking Mir to the mat where he began to unleash some ground ‘n’ pound on the former champion. A reckless shot to the back of Mir’s head saw the referee stand up both fighters, but they were soon back on the canvas as Lesnar dropped his opponent and once again exploded with strikes on the ground. However, Mir showed all his experience as he withstood the barrage from Brock and locked on a kneebar that forced the UFC newcomer to tap out. Lesnar would gain his revenge though, destroying Mir when the two men collided in a UFC heavyweight title match at UFC 100.
3) Chuck Liddell v Randy Couture
The first meeting between Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture took place amidst a contract dispute between the UFC and its light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. With “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” on the sidelines, UFC officials decided Liddell and Couture would meet to determine an interim champion at 205lbs. Couture ran out the winner at UFC 43 as he stopped Liddell in the third round, making history by becoming the first fighter to win UFC titles at two different weights, but the “Iceman” would get another shot at “The Natural” almost two years later when the two men fought for the light-heavyweight title at UFC 52. Liddell knocked out Couture in the first round of their rematch and that set up a mouth-watering rubber match. The trilogy concluded in the main event of UFC 57, and once again Liddell had his hand raised after stopping the two-weight world champion in the second round.
4) Anderson Silva v Chael Sonnen
Anderson Silva spent many years at the top of the UFC’s middleweight division, and during his run at the top of the 185lb division “The Spider” never had a bigger rivalry than the one he had with the brash and outspoken Chael P. Sonnen. Many believed Sonnen was not in Silva’s league when the two men fought for the first time at UFC 117, but the challenger used his biggest asset – his big mouth – to grab the public’s attention. Once he had it, he came agonisingly close to claiming the middleweight crown. Sonnen repeatedly took Silva to the bout and looked set for a lop-sided decision win – but then it happened. With less than two minutes remaining the challenger gave the champion an opening, and Silva took it by locking in a triangle choke that forced Sonnen to tap out. Sonnen would get another crack at the belt two years later, but this time there would be no more questions as Silva stopped his rival with a brutal knee to the body in the second round of their main event clash at UFC 148.
5) Ronda Rousey v Miesha Tate
While Gina Carano brought some eyes to women’s mixed martial arts during her time in EliteXC and Strikeforce, it was the heated rivalry between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate that took the female fighting game to a whole new level. The two women engaged in a war of words prior to their first meeting in the now-defunct Strikeforce promotion, and that verbal battle was enough to make them the headline attraction on the card. With all eyes on them it was Rousey who came away the winner, dislocating Tate’s arm after “Cupcake” refused to tap out. The new champion praised her beaten opponent’s courage after the fight, but it would not be long before the two women were at each other again. Now in the UFC, the long-awaited rematch took place at the UFC 168 event and challenger Tate made history by becoming the first fight to take Rousey into the third round. However, she could only claim that moral victory as once again Rousey took the win via armbar – with Tate tapping on this occasion.