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Champion vs. Champion: A UFC History

Next month, when Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit enter the Octagon at UFC 154, it will be the first time in more than two years that both men will make the walk to the cage with championship gold in their possession.

Their bout to unify the welterweight titles will be followed in 2013 by a similar battle in the bantamweight division. Interim champion Renan Barao has elected to wait patiently for the return of Dominick Cruz, the injured 135-pound titleholder who was forced to the sidelines by a torn ACL earlier in the year.

With those two “Champion vs. Champion” bouts in our future, we thought it was only fitting to look back at the previous “Champion vs. Champion” encounters that have taken place in the UFC.

Tito Ortiz vs. Randy Couture – UFC 44 (September 26, 2003)

The bout between the two UFC Hall of Famers was a light heavyweight title unification bout.

Couture entered as the interim champion, having won the title three months earlier in his first of three battles with Chuck Liddell. Ortiz, meanwhile, had been champion since April 2000, having successfully defended the belt five times prior to going on hiatus following his UFC 40 win over Ken Shamrock.

What looked like a great battle on paper turned into a one-sided drubbing in the cage, as Couture dominated the action, and earned a unanimous decision win with scores of 50-44, 50-44, and 50-45.

“The Natural” spanked Ortiz, literally, humiliating “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” with a few playful taps on the backside in the closing seconds of the bout.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Dan Henderson – UFC 75 (September 8, 2007)

Henderson returned to the UFC as both the PRIDE welterweight (183-pound) and middleweight (205-pound) champion, and walked right into a light heavyweight championship match with Jackson, who had won the belt four months earlier at UFC 71.

In an entertaining and competitive bout, “Rampage” cemented himself as the top light heavyweight in the world, defeating Henderson by unanimous decision. Jackson would go on to lose the belt in his next fight, dropping the title to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86, while Henderson would move down the scale and into another title unification bout.

Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson – UFC 82 (March 1, 2008)

Six months after losing to Jackson, Henderson found himself standing across the cage from another UFC champion. This time, his PRIDE welterweight title was on the line against Silva’s UFC middleweight belt.

Silva was just three fights into his reign atop the 185-pound weight class, and many believed Henderson had the right style to defeat the Brazilian striking specialist. Henderson controlled Silva on the ground during the opening round, riding out most of the frame from half-guard, doing little from top position while Silva was content to clinch from the bottom.

In the second round, Silva solidified his standing as the best middleweight in the world by forcing Henderson to tap to a rear naked choke with just 10 seconds left in the frame. The victory gave Silva six straight wins in the UFC (he’s up to 16 after his win over Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153) and gave Henderson his second consecutive championship defeat since returning from Japan.

Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre, Part II – UFC 83 (April 19, 2008)

After losing the title to Matt Serra at UFC 69, St-Pierre earned an interim title by defeating Matt Hughes for a second time at UFC 79 when Serra was unable to defend his belt.

Four months later, Serra marched into hostile territory at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec for his rematch with the French-Canadian superstar. Much to the delight of the then-record crowd, this was a one-sided affair in favor of St-Pierre, who dominated Serra throughout the first round before earning a stoppage late in the second.

The two rivals buried the hatchet after the bout, and St-Pierre hasn’t looked back since, defending the welterweight title six times, including once against another champion.

Georges St-Pierre vs. BJ Penn – UFC 94 (January 31, 2009)

BJ Penn was UFC lightweight champion at the time, having most recently left former champion Sean Sherk crumpled against the cage at UFC 84. But the proud Hawaiian was still frustrated by his controversial split decision loss to St-Pierre at UFC 58, and so the UFC lined up the two title holders in the first true battle pitting champions from two different divisions against one another.

The second fight was nothing like the first. Where their initial encounter was a closely contested affair people still debate to this day, St-Pierre dominated the second bout, punishing Penn on the ground for 20 minutes before the lightweight champion’s corner said, “No Mas” after the fourth round.

Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir, Part II – UFC 100 (July 11, 2009)

Frank Mir welcomed Brock Lesnar to the UFC by catching the former NCAA Division I National champion in a kneebar midway through the first round at UFC 81. Over the next few months, both would earn titles.

After a win over Heath Herring, Lesnar was tabbed to welcome Randy Couture back to the Octagon, and became heavyweight champion after earning a second-round TKO win over “The Natural” at UFC 91. Meanwhile Mir parlayed a successful turn as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter into an interim title victory over his fellow coach Antonio Rodrigio “Minotauro” Nogueira, setting the stage for their epic rematch.

The bout became the main event of UFC 100, and the biggest fight on the biggest card in UFC history delivered. Lesnar avenged his prior loss with a dominant performance, stopping Mir in the second round.

Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin – UFC 116 (July 3, 2010)

Following his win over Mir, Lesnar was slated to defend his title against Shane Carwin, first at UFC 106, and then at UFC 108. Both were postponed as Lesnar later came down with a mysterious illness that was later diagnosed as diverticulitis.

With the champion sidelined, Carwin bested Lesnar’s nemesis Frank Mir at UFC 111 to become the interim heavyweight champion. The recovering Lesnar congratulated him in the cage, and the two were once again slated to face each other.

The two behemoths took to the cage at UFC 116, almost a year to the day after Lesnar had first unified the titles against Mir. Carwin dominated the first round, pummeling Lesnar to the point that many believed a new champion was about to be crowned. But the fight continued, and when the second round began, Carwin was spent, and Lesnar quickly took him down, clamped on an arm triangle choke, and earned what proved to be his only successful title defense.