The Ultimate Fighter
With the Octagon set to return to London on Feb. 27 for a UFC FIGHT PASS event headlined by former middleweight champion Anderson Silva and England’s top UFC export, Michael “The Count” Bisping, it only seemed fitting to comb the record books to come up with a list of the top UFC fights to take place on British soil.
Fourteen fight cards have taken place in England to date – seven in London, three in Manchester, two in Birmingham and one in both Nottingham and Newcastle upon Tyne – resulting in some iconic moments and memorable finishes. Here’s a look at the best of the bunch.
This is The 10: The Best of the UFC in England.
Matt Hughes def. Carlos Newton at UFC 38 (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Eight months and one successful title defense after claiming the welterweight title from Newton at UFC 34 in Las Vegas, Hughes squared off with the former champion in a rematch atop the UFC’s inaugural show in England, UFC 38: Brawl at the Hall.
While their first encounter ended somewhat controversially – Hughes powerbombed Newton to the canvas while trapped in a triangle choke, with many believing the slam came as a result of Hughes losing consciousness from the submission attempt – the rematch was far more cut and dry. Midway through the fourth round, Hughes trapped Newton in a modified crucifix position and unleashed a torrent of unanswered blows that brought the fight to an end.
Gabriel Gonzaga def. Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 70 (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
One of the most feared heavyweights in MMA history, Cro Cop made his successful UFC debut 10 weeks earlier with a first-round TKO victory over Eddie Sanchez and his matchup with Gonzaga was viewed as a title eliminator and a bit of a formality. All the former PRIDE standout needed to do in order to secure a shot at newly crowned champion Randy Couture was defeat the Brazilian.
Easy, right? Not so much.
This will forever be remembered as the night Cro Cop got “Cro Copped,” as Gonzaga collapsed the Croatian standout with a right high kick out of nowhere that was reminiscent of the knockout blows the UFC sophomore used to finish so many foes in Japan.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson def. Dan Henderson at UFC 75 (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Four months after unseating Chuck Liddell atop the UFC light heavyweight division, Jackson welcomed PRIDE 83kg and 93kg champion Dan Henderson back to the Octagon in a “Champion vs. Champion” clash at the O2 Arena.
Henderson, who had previously competed at UFC 17 before enjoying an outstanding career in Japan, had earned his second title seven months earlier with a knockout win over Wanderlei Silva to become the first person to hold titles in two divisions simultaneously in PRIDE. Despite his own extensive run with the Japanese promotion, Jackson and Henderson’s paths never previously crossed, which upped the ante on this one.
In a close, thoroughly entertaining scrap, Jackson waded through a rocky start to gain the advantage down the stretch and unify the two titles with scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46. He’d drop the title to Forrest Griffin in his next appearance, while Henderson went on to unsuccessfully challenge for the middleweight title against Anderson Silva.
BJ Penn def. Joe Stevenson at UFC 80 (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
A month after Sean Sherk was stripped of the lightweight title, Penn and Stevenson squared off for the vacant belt in Newcastle and it produced one of the signature performances in the storied career of the Hawaiian standout.
Stevenson, who won the welterweight competition on Season Two of The Ultimate Fighter, was on a nice little roll heading into the contest, having won four straight, including finishes of Yves Edwards and Melvin Guillard, but he was no match for Penn.
“The Prodigy” dropped him right out of the gate with a short, clean uppercut and split him open along the hairline with a precise elbow from top position. In the second, Penn advanced to back mount late in the frame and choked out “Joe Daddy,” allowing the Hawaiian to celebrate becoming only the second man in UFC history to win titles in two weight classes.
Demian Maia def. Chael Sonnen at UFC 95 (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Maia rolled into the UFC as one of the best jiu-jitsu players to ever grace the Octagon and he collected four straight submission wins in 13 months to push his record to 10-0 heading into this showdown with Sonnen, who had yet to morph into “The Gangster from West Linn.”
This was a master class in “The Gentle Art,” as midway through the opening round, Maia hit a sneaky little trip on Sonnen and advanced to mount with his right leg up over his opponent’s shoulder, the perfect setup for a triangle choke. Maia recognized the opening, rolled into position as Sonnen tried to escape, locked up the hold and collected the tap.
Five straight submission wins and four Submission of the Night bonuses – not a bad way to start your tenure in the UFC, Mr. Maia.
Michael Bisping def. Denis Kang at UFC 105 (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Bisping has delivered more dominant performances in the Octagon, but this fight showcased the heart and perseverance of the perennial middleweight contender. This was Bisping’s first fight since his highlight reel loss to Dan Henderson at UFC 100, while Kang had rebounded from a loss in his UFC debut with a strong performance at UFC 97.
Kang dominated the opening round, dropping “The Count” with a clean right hand just over a minute into the frame before controlling the action on the canvas and forcing the hometown favorite to play defense for the duration of the first. Fending off advances and not absorbing too much damage from the bottom, Bisping made it through the round and came out in the second looking to even things up.
Instead, Bisping got the finish.
After swinging Kang to the canvas with a single less two minutes into the frame, the Manchester native postured up and unloaded with ground-and-pound, opening up the former PRIDE Bushido standout. Though Kang got back to his feet, Bisping quickly put him back on the canvas and continued connecting with lefts and rights. A third takedown proved to be the beginning of the end, as Bisping poured on the offense and earned the stoppage.
Carlos Condit def. Dan Hardy at UFC 120 (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
This fight was a homecoming of sorts for Hardy, who had come up short in his bid to claim the welterweight championship seven months earlier, turning in a gutsy effort opposite Georges St-Pierre. Though he had held gold in the WEC and was coming off a thrilling come from behind win over Rory MacDonald at UFC 115, Condit hadn’t yet established himself a top contender in the eyes of the UFC faithful, turning this into a pivotal contest for both parties.
Throughout the first, Hardy found a home for his left hand, connecting with stinging hooks on multiple occasions. Condit continued to answer and press forward, but you could see “The Outlaw” was feeling comfortable and confident, going back to the wide left hook numerous times.
Condit clearly noticed as well and countered Hardy’s next offering with one of his own that arrived quicker and sent the former title challenger crashing backwards to the canvas. While “The Natural Born Killer” was stiffened by Hardy’s punch, Hardy was put to sleep by the one Condit connected with and just like that, a new contender was born.
Cub Swanson def. Dustin Poirier at UFC on Fuel TV: Barao vs. McDonald (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Two months after submitting Jonathan Brookins, Poirier jumped at the opportunity to get right back into the thick of the title chase, stepping up on short notice to replace an injured Dennis Siver opposite Swanson in this matchup of top featherweight contenders. Unfortunately for “The Diamond,” things didn’t go as planned.
Swanson, who entered the contest on a three-fight winning streak, controlled the action throughout, outworking Poirier over three rounds to earn the unanimous decision win. There was nothing spectacular about this fight; rather, it was a clean, technical, methodical performance from the Palm Springs, California native, who would run his winning streak to six with wins over Siver and Jeremy Stephens before ultimately having his march towards a title shot halted by Frankie Edgar.
Renan Barao def. Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel TV: Barao vs. McDonald (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Right after Swanson and Poirier went toe-to-toe for 15 minutes, Barao defended his interim bantamweight title against the young challenger McDonald.
Wary of McDonald’s power, the Brazilian opted to wrestle more than he had during his previous four UFC appearances. After a close first round where the champion controlled the wrestling, but the challenger connected with a sharp right hand that stung Barao late, the champion slowly started distancing himself more and more with each successive round.
In the fourth, Barao avoided a counter from McDonald and dragged the Californian to the canvas, looking to take the back, but opting instead to lock in an arm triangle choke instead. McDonald gave the thumbs up to indicate that he was okay, but Barao adjusted and tightened his squeeze, forcing “Mayday” to tap with just over a minute remaining in the frame.
Barao would go on to defend the title twice more before losing the belt to TJ Dillashaw, while McDonald would split a pair of fights with Brad Pickett and Urijah Faber before injuries forced him to the sidelines for two years.
Lyoto Machida def. Mark Munoz at UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Munoz (Watch it on UFC FIGHT PASS)
After coming out on the wrong side of the scorecards against Phil Davis at UFC 163, former light heavyweight champion Machida made the move down to middleweight, debuting on short notice against his friend and occasional training partner Mark Munoz when Michael Bisping was forced out of the contest with an eye injury.
The idea of Machida competing in the 185-pound ranks had been a favorite topic amongst fans for some time and his debut in the division proved why many had longed to see him drop down.
Machida pitched a shutout against “The Filipino Wrecking Machine,” putting him on the defensive early and finishing him with a swift head kick just beyond the three-minute mark of the opening round. “The Dragon” would follow up his performance in Manchester with a unanimous decision victory over Gegard Mousasi to earn a title shot, ultimately coming up short against Chris Weidman in his quest to claim a second UFC belt at UFC 175.