With UFC 264 now on the horizon and having the Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor trilogy comes to a close, we wanted to take a look back in the fight history archives and discuss the five greatest UFC trilogies in history. In MMA there have been many trilogy fights and mostly they surround a title and much drama. We’ll be counting down the top UFC trilogies due to their story, drama, or how amazing their fights were.
The Five Greatest UFC Trilogies in Fight History
5. BJ Penn vs Matt Hughes
Of the UFC trilogies, this one may have the most drama involved in it due to a contract. BJ Penn had attempted to win the UFC lightweight title twice. He lost once to Jens Pulver, then had a draw with Caol Uno.
Penn went home to Hawaii to defeat Takanori Gomi in K-1 before returning to the UFC to fight welterweight great Matt Hughes at UFC 46. Hughes, at this point, had already defended the welterweight title five times, Penn was coming in smaller and making his welterweight debut. Impressively, the smaller Penn would choke out the welterweight king in the very first round. At just age 26 Penn had lived to up his nickname “The Prodigy’.
Now that BJ Penn had won coveted UFC what was his next move? He was stripped of the title due to a contract dispute and then began fighting overseas. Penn would fight four more fights with K-1 (including fighting Renzo Gracie and Lyoto Machida) before returning to the UFC.
In 2006, Hughes and Penn would begin the second fight in their UFC trilogy. At UFC 63 Hughes was able to get a crucifix mount on Penn and begin raining down unanswered punches. This trilogy was now tied 1-1, and Hughes had successfully defended his title seven times.
Most UFC trilogies surround a title picture, and for two fights Penn and Hughes did also. Their third fight was not complete until 2010. The two would meet in a non-title bout at welterweight. Penn would win this trilogy 2-1 by knocking out his foe in just 21-seconds into their third fight.
4. Cain Valesquez vs. Junior Dos Santos
Of UFC trilogies the heavyweight title picture will have three total, and two will make this list. Cain Valesquez vs. Junior Dos Santos holds an auspicious place in fight history as it was the first fight on a FOX broadcast.
Cain Valesquez, the UFC believed, would hold the key to the Mexican-American demographic. He was an undefeated champion and fresh off of his emphatic TKO victory over Brock Lesnar.
The UFC, in an attempt to draw new eyes, put their young and new champion headlining on FOX television. Junior Dos Santos was a soft-spoken Brazilian but had won 80% of his victories via KO/TKO. And Dos Santos only needed one punch to upset the UFC brass, KO Valesquez, and begin their trilogy.
Valesquez would take his revenge though. He would win their next two meetings closing this trilogy out 2-1, and along the way re-claimed his heavyweight title against Dos Santos. In those two bouts, combined, Valesquez would out-land with significant strikes by 234 to Dos Santos’ 103.
3. Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier
Keeping our UFC trilogies in the heavyweight division, we would be remiss not to include Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier. Miocic was the reigning champion who, by this time, broke the record for the most consecutive UFC Heavyweight title defenses with three. Cormier, the Olympian, had just defended his light heavyweight title and now would make his return to heavyweight after five years.
And what a return to heavyweight Cormier would make. Cormier would fight back and forth for four minutes before the Olympian had been able to knock out Miocic with an in-clinch punch. To strengthen his mantlepiece Cormier could add UFC heavyweight champion, alongside his light heavyweight championship, and Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Stipe Miocic would not take another opponent on his quest for revenge. He would meet Cormier a second time and finishing the Olympian via TKO by mixing body strikes. Miocic would win this trilogy 2-1 by defeating his rival via decision in 2020.
2. Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes
The welterweight great Matt Hughes had now defended his title seven times. He had carved himself a place amongst the MMA all-time greats. He had already previously vanquished a young and nervous Georges St-Pierre at UFC 50. Unknowingly, Hughes would now be passing the torch to the next great at UFC 65.
St-Pierre had lost to Hughes in 2004 at just age 23, via first-round armbar. St-Pierre, now with nearly the fight experience he previously had, would finish the welterweight great with an incredible head kick and punches knockout in just the second round. St-Pierre, the young Canadian, dominated the entire fight, he gave up no takedowns and scored two knockdowns.
Similar to others in the UFC trilogies series, every match in their trilogy would have title picture consequences. However, this one would include an interim title. At UFC 79, the two would meet again but with neither as champion. St-Pierre had lost his title to Matt Serra in a massive upset.
To complete their trilogy, St-Pierre would dominate Hughes. Before finishing his rival via armbar submission, St-Pierre would out-strike Hughes 28 to 5, and control seven minutes on the ground, compared to Hughes’ seventeen seconds.
The young Canadian St-Pierre would re-claim his welterweight title and earn his place among all-time MMA greats. He would defend his championship nine times, defeat reigning lightweight champion BJ Penn, and eventually move up to middleweight and claim another title against Michael Bisping.
1. Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture
One cannot tell a history of MMA without the Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture series. Of the UFC trilogies, this one not only surrounded a title but also brought the UFC to mainstream audiences.
Randy Couture, a former Olympian, and former UFC heavyweight champion would make his light heavyweight debut against heavy-handed champion Chuck Liddell. In their first meeting Couture, a wrestler, would use pressure and out-strike the Kenpo striker en route to a third round KO/TKO victory.
Couture and Liddell would meet a second at UFC 52 however under much different lights. The two had coached against each other on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter. This was the first showing on American television of the sport of MMA. New viewers were now entering the sports.
‘The Iceman’ Liddell would tantalise these new viewers with a dominant first-round knockout over Couture. The power-puncher only needed 13 significant strikes to reclaim his title and tie this series 1-1.
Their third match would be in front of a now even more impressive 400,000 buys at UFC 57. Chuck Liddell now defending his light heavyweight strap against Couture. Despite a successful takedown, Liddell could not be stopped. With his signature mohawk and power strikes, Liddell would win the series 2-1 finishing his foe with a second-round KO.
UFC 264 is not far away. The Irish-born McGregor will look to take revenge for his loss earlier this year to Poirier. Will this trilogy be able to add to all-time great UFC trilogies?
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