UFC 226 And The History Of Superfights

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Stipe Miocic UFC
Stipe Miocic Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

UFC 226’s main event is a superfight between the heavyweight champion and the light-heavyweight champion, but this is far from the first superfight in the UFC.

UFC 226’s main event between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier is the classic example of a superfight. The light-heavyweight champion Cormier moving up to fight the heavyweight champion Miocic in the biggest UFC event of the year. Daniel Cormier, the Olympic wrestler who has been the UFC light-heavyweight champion for three years with wins over Anthony Johnson, Alexander Gustafsson, Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson at 205 most notably.  That’s not including heavyweight wins over Bigfoot Silva, Frank Mir and Josh Barnett — which are some of the biggest victories of his career. He’s cemented himself as one of the best fighters of all time, and a victory at UFC 226 could put him as the greatest of all time.

Stipe Miocic on the other hand, is looked at as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. With three title defenses, he also holds the UFC heavyweight title defense record. Miocic is also trying to put his name in the hat for greatest fighters of all time, and this fight could cement that. Miocic vs. Cormier is without a doubt, an absolutely incredible superfight. But it’s far from the first.

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane, and look back at the UFC’s history of superfights.

UFC 60: Matt Hughes (Welterweight champion) vs. Royce Gracie (Tournament champion)

“The greatest welterweight champion of all time battles THE legend.”

The tagline for the poster of UFC 60 said all it needed to. Matt Hughes was the welterweight champion and had defended the title twice after losing it to BJ Penn a couple of years prior. Hughes was considered the greatest welterweight of all time and the pound-for-pound number one best fighter on the planet. On the other hand you had Royce Gracie. Gracie was the UFC 1, 2, and 4 tournament winner. He hadn’t fought in the UFC since UFC 5, and his only loss had come to Sakuraba in PRIDE a few years earlier in a 90 minute classic.

The fight was a 175-pound catchweight fight, and despite no title being on the line was a superfight. It was the UFC’s biggest fight in it’s history by that point, both a clash of history and a clash of stars. The card had over 600,000 buys and had everyone from David Spade, to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in attendance for the fights.

The fight itself was an absolute domination by Hughes, getting to back mount and raining down heavy blows on the hall of famer Gracie, before the fight was stopped. The fight itself while disappointing made history as one of the first superfights in the promotion’s history.

UFC 94: Georges St-Pierre (Welterweight champion) vs. BJ Penn (Lightweight champion)

GSP and BJ Penn in 2009 made history with one of the first legitimate superfights that was marketed as such. There have been other big fights before, but none both between champions and marketed as superfights. The two had fought before in 2006 but neither were champions at the time. At this time, GSP was fresh off his third title defense and had just dominated Jon Fitch months earlier. Penn on the other hand just had his first title defense where he knocked out Sean Sherk with one of the most brutal knees in MMA history.

Going into the bout there was an insane amount of excitement surrounding the fight, with tons of MMA media proclaiming it to be the most hyped fight of the year, and in some time. Journalists such as Dave Meltzer proclaimed it to be “one of the true epic matches in the history of the sport.” The hype was unprecedented for this fight, and the UFC treated it as such, introducing the show UFC Primetime to raise excitement even more.

The fight took place at UFC 94, where GSP won via a dominating TKO, where Penn’s corner stopped the fight between rounds. There was some controversy involving GSP greasing but nothing came of it. GSP would go on to defend his title seven more times, where Penn would defend his twice, before going on a downswing and retiring a couple of times.

UFC 156: Jose Aldo (Featherweight champion) vs. Frankie Edgar (Lightweight)

There may be some debate on if this fight was a superfight, but you could absolutely argue it is and it was marketed as such by the UFC. Jose Aldo had not been defeated for eight years by this point and was just coming off a victory over Chad Mendes which was his third title defense in the UFC. Frankie Edgar was coming off of two, very controversial losses to Benson Henderson where he lost his lightweight championship. The fight was originally meant to take place at UFC 153 after Aldo’s original opponent Eric Koch fell out of their main event slot. The shot was then given to Edgar, but after Aldo got into a motorcycle accident the fight was postponed.

While there was some controversy about giving Edgar a title shot off of two losses, many fans and Dana White himself defended the decision. “This is not only a world title fight but also a super fight that has long been a dream match for many fans,” White said at the time. Despite Edgar’s losses the fight was very anticipated.

The fight itself was competitive but a clear decision win for Jose Aldo. He would go on to defend his title three times before losing to Conor McGregor at UFC 189. Edgar would go on a long winning streak at featherweight that actually led the two to a rematch at UFC 200 for the interim featherweight championship, which Aldo also won by decision.

UFC 205: Eddie Alvarez (Lightweight champion) vs. Conor McGregor (Featherweight champion)

UFC 205’s main event was probably the most anticipated superfight in the UFC’s history but it’s also the most strange. When looking at superfights, the typical thing that they all have in common is recent success and multiple title defenses. Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez had a combined zero title defenses between them, and McGregor had just lost to Nate Diaz in the same calendar year. Nonetheless when the fight was announced by the UFC, it was immediately looked at as a supefight and became one of the most hyped fights of the year.

For months preceeding the fight we saw a war of words between Alvarez and McGregor, at press conferences, on social media we saw the two constantly bickering. Trash talking being McGregor’s strength and something also likely helped him get the fight itself. The fight also had the excitement of being the first UFC card to happen in New York; being the main event of such a historical card was a major deal.  The weigh-in’s for the event were jam packed full of Irish fans that helped set the scene. McGregor and Alvarez faced off, talking trash in each other’s faces in a spectacle that only built hype for the fight the day following.

In a moment that seemed too big for Eddie Alvarez, Conor McGregor won via TKO in the second round, in a fight where Alvarez found very little success. Conor McGregor made history as the first ever simultaneous double weight champion in the UFC’s history. He’d fail to defend either belt, and would be stripped of the lightweight title in March of 2018. Eddie Alvarez would go on to have back to back wars with Dustin Poirer and Justin Gaethje. Alvarez is currently scheduled to have a rematch with Poirer later this year.

At UFC 226, Daniel Cormier will attempt to join Conor McGregor as the only men in UFC to hold two championships at the same time. Think he can pull it off? Sound off in the comment section below!

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