In a week without an event from a major MMA promotion, we look back on an iconic card: UFC 100.
In a rare week without major MMA action, Cageside Press decided to revisit an evening from one of the biggest night’s in MMA history. With such an opportunity, we opted to revisit the seminal UFC 100. While the card carried plenty of historical importance, there were also stories outside the cage that made it the event against which so many others are judged.
Before any fighters ever set foot inside the cage on July 11, 2009, the UFC had already made the card different from any they had put on before. That weekend, the company held the inaugural UFC Fan Expo. The convention was the biggest collection of fighters ever put together to greet fans and would eventually evolve to become what is now known as International Fight Week.
Keep in mind, Fight Nights were nowhere near as frequent then as they are today. The sport was in the critical formative years of having a cult following and moving toward the more mainstream recognition. Numbered pay-per-views in the years leading up to UFC 100 were headlined by names like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and others. In 2009, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and BJ Penn were regarded as the best in the world. Their multi-faceted skills were seen as a testament to the sport’s evolution.
Numbered events back then moved along at about 10 per year. As 2008 rolled around, there was growing anticipation for what the company would do when they finally hit the triple-digit 100th event. The company also took steps to set up the card for success. A year before the took place, the UFC debut of one of the biggest stars ever in the sport of MMA took place when Brock Lesnar entered the Octagon. The former WWE superstar competing at the highest levels of MMA was groundbreaking to be sure. Why would a star so established in their realm leave it to compete in a brutal competition? One that literally carried the tag-line “As real as it gets.”
His debut, however, led to the perfect storm for UFC 100. Lesnar would be submitted by Frank Mir in his debut, but go on to later defeat Randy Couture for the undisputed heavyweight championship that fall. Mir, by comparison, defeated interim champion Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira after coaching The Ultimate Fighter. The rematch was a no-brainer to headline the card.
The bout itself was billed as the physicality of Lesnar against the technique of Mir. Instead, the Octagon was the setting for one of the most disconcerting beatings ever to take place. Lesnar took Mir down and delivered some of the most violent ground-and-pound ever seen. In less than 10 minutes, Lesnar left Mir a nearly unrecognizable bloody mess. He followed it up with a post-fight interview pulled right out of the WWE playbook; he taunted Mir, insulted UFC sponsor Bud Lite, and closed with a crass comment about his wife. He was the sport’s biggest star and most detestable villain, and it made him a pay-per-view lightening rod.
In the co-headliner, welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was not yet the living legend he is today. He was a dynamo still in the process of crafting his legacy, and he was facing arguably the most dangerous challenger in his title run not named Johny Hendricks. Thiago Alves was on a seven fight win-streak that included five finishes. He was also coming off back-to-back performances where he had mangled Josh Koscheck with leg kicks and obliterated former champion Matt Hughes with a flying knee.
GSP put on a clinic, as would soon become his signature. For five rounds he neutralized the striking of Alves and used his dominant wrestling to control the fight. The drama came late in the fight where St-Pierre told his corner about a torn groin before going out to win the final round, never allowing the spectators in the arena to know anything was wrong.
That alone would have made for a successful night, but the card also played host one of the most famous knockouts in UFC history. Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping had just come off a coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter that had developed a healthy amount of animosity between the two. Their entire confrontation was billed as “USA vs UK” and Bisping was walking into enemy territory when he entered the cage that night in Vegas.
Bisping would put his footwork and striking to work in round one, but was beginning to fall into a habit of circling towards the right hand of Henderson. When “Hendo” finally connected, it was the dramatic moment the public had been waiting for. Bisping was unconscious before he even began his fall to the canvas, but it did not stop Henderson from following up with a huge elbow on the ground before the referee intervened. To this day, it remains a staple on lists of the most memorable knockouts in MMA. The combination of animosity, styles, and personalities all came together in the violent sequence. Even today, in an era when Francis Ngannou delivered an all-time violent KO to Alistair Overeem, it didn’t have anywhere near the same impact, due in large part to the lack of heat in the build-up.
Today, Fourth of July weekend in the MMA world is all about replicating the same magic of UFC 100. In subsequent years, the approach has been focused making it bigger and better. The Fan Expo features more fighters than ever before, and International Fight Week has even featured up to three consecutive fight cards in recent years. Of course, not all cards deliver, no matter how hard the UFC may push them. But, one thing has become clear: the UFC makes every effort to make sure the biggest stars available fight on Independence Day weekend. Because of UFC 100, that may never change, as the promotion continues to try and recapture that glory.