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Zhang Weili of China punches Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland in their UFC strawweight championship fight during the UFC 248 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 07, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
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Desert Island Fights | Part 4

If You’re Trapped On An Island And Had To Choose A Handful Of Fights You Couldn’t Live Without, What Would You Choose?

When I was first tasked with choosing 10 fights to take with me on a “desert island” scenario,” my first thought was, “Oh, God. Oh, no.”

Plainly, there are too many choices for too many moods. For every technical chess match, there is a wild barnburner as fit for a backyard melee as it is for the Octagon. For every jaw-shattering knockout, there is a display of grappling wizardry. And for every one-sided masterclass, there is a back-and-forth war with momentum shifts so jarring which perhaps only a March Madness thriller could match. 

But like any person who one, loves sports and two, grew up with the Internet, I love a well-constructed list, and so I sifted through my memory to come up with 10 fights that would best tell the story of both my time as a UFC fan, as well as a UFC employee. Although I appreciated the method by which my co-workers Thomas Gerbasi and Gavin Porter operated, I couldn’t limit myself to fights I had attended because, frankly, there are a few here that are burned into my brain, so I followed suit with E. Spencer Kyte's all-time approach.

I’m almost certain I’ll regret choosing one of these fights over another a million times from publishing to the time you are reading this, but alas, here are my all-time, “desert island” fights (for now).

Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva 

UFC 79 — December 29, 2007

Chuck Liddell (blue shorts) def. Wanderlei Silva (white shorts) - Unanimous Decision during UFC 79 at Mandalay Bay Events Center on December 29, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Chuck Liddell (blue shorts) def. Wanderlei Silva (white shorts) - Unanimous Decision during UFC 79 at Mandalay Bay Events Center on December 29, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)


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I cannot remember exactly at what age I watched Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva’s long-awaited duel, but I know it was at least a few years after it happened via a replay of UFC Unleashed on Spike TV well past my bedtime. What I do remember, however, was my general astonishment watching two guys bludgeon one another for 15 minutes. 

It wasn’t until a few years later that I actually learned the context of the fight and why the bout was held in such high esteem well before the two finally entered the Octagon across from one another. I did understand that I was into this whole mixed martial arts thing, though, especially if it included a couple of legends going at it the way Liddell and Silva did.

Dan Henderson vs Michael Bisping 1

UFC 100 — July 11, 2009

Dan Henderson (white shorts) def. Michael Bisping (black/white shorts) - KO - 3:20 round 2 during UFC 100 at Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 11, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Dan Henderson (white shorts) def. Michael Bisping (black/white shorts) - KO - 3:20 round 2 during UFC 100 at Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 11, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)


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Although I watched my fair share of replays and episodes of The Ultimate Fighter to this point, UFC 100 was the first pay-per-view I watched live. I was spending the summer with my eldest sister in the Outer Banks in North Carolina and, like any cool older sibling, she (probably with some convincing of others in the house) let me stay up and watch the fights.

I didn’t know much about Dan Henderson or Michael Bisping at this point of my life. In fact, I’m almost certain I was only going off the pre-fight promo played right before the two men walked, but the beef between the two built on The Ultimate Fighter had my fully invested. I waited with bated breath as I watched Bisping consistently cycle toward Henderson’s heavy right hand. When “Hendo” uncorked that massive overhand to shut Bisping’s lights out, I jumped out of my seat and stood shocked when he landed the iconic follow-up shot. To this day, neither moment grows old. 

Anderson Silva vs Forrest Griffin

UFC 101 – August 8, 2009

Anderson Silva (black/yellow shorts) def. Forrest Griffin (tan shorts) - KO - 3:23 round 1 during UFC 101 at Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Anderson Silva (black/yellow shorts) def. Forrest Griffin (tan shorts) - KO - 3:23 round 1 during UFC 101 at Wachovia Center on August 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)


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Everyone remembers the first time they watched Anderson Silva, and mine just so happened to be the performance that arguably paints the clearest picture of “The Spider” at his masterful best at UFC 101.

Having watched and rewatched Griffin’s Hall of Fame bout against Stephen Bonnar, I was pulling for the former light heavyweight champ. I had run across Griffin a couple of times and even have a picture with him somewhere in the archives, so my teenaged self was a big fan. Little did I know what I was in for when Silva moved up to fight him. I hadn’t seen anyone move like that, hit like that and stand with so much swagger like that before, and even though I was a little bummed to see Griffin outclassed like that, it was hard not to feel that magnetic pull prime Silva had on every fight fan. 

Israel Adesanya vs Robert Whittaker 1 

UFC 243 — October 6, 2019

Robert Whittaker of New Zealand and Israel Adesanya of Nigeria trade punches in their UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 243 event at Marvel Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Robert Whittaker of New Zealand and Israel Adesanya of Nigeria trade punches in their UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 243 event at Marvel Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)


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We’ve now moved into the portion of the list that takes place during my time with the company. I had a little more than a year under my belt when I hopped on a plane to Australia for the first time to work the middleweight title unification bout between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker in Melbourne. 

A couple hours before the first fight, my boss and fellow UFC.com writer Steve Latrell heard Adesanya had a special walkout planned – something about a dance routine. Before the biggest fight of his life? It sounded like a questionable idea when most figured he’d need every ounce of energy and focus channeled toward “The Reaper,” and when Adesanya, flanked by childhood friends, took to entertaining the record-setting crowd by performing a number featuring a voiceover lifted from the movie Taken, I thought to myself: “This is cool, but man, he better pull through here.”

More Desert Island Fights: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Of course, he did in typical fashion for “The Last Stylebender.” He controlled the range, pounced on Whittaker’s mistakes, and broke the champion down in less than two rounds to start his championship reign in earnest, and it’s a performance I enjoy rewatching from walkout to knockout.

Stipe Miocic vs Daniel Cormier 2 

UFC 241 — August 17, 2019

Stipe Miocic punches Daniel Cormier in their heavyweight championship bout during the UFC 241 event at the Honda Center on August 17, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Stipe Miocic punches Daniel Cormier in their heavyweight championship bout during the UFC 241 event at the Honda Center on August 17, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

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Nothing beats a good heavyweight title fight, and nothing beats a good grudge match, so when those two elements combined in Anaheim, everyone expected something special. The shock factor that came with Cormier’s first-round knockout of Miocic in their first duel added some extra steam because so many questions remained unanswered in terms of how the fight could play out between the two, and anyone who interacted with Miocic in the time since the first fight could sense the Ohioan’s irritation with how things went. 

The pace at which the fight took place was something to behold. It’s hard to imagine two heavyweights pushing that hard with very little breathing room, but it became a mark of what would become an iconic trilogy between them. Cormier walked Miocic down with regularity, clocking Miocic with strikes from the clinch and scoring emphatic takedowns, but Miocic’s chin held up much better. With all the momentum in Cormier’s corner, Miocic finally got his feet under him in the third round, and watching that momentum swing turn into a tidal wave fueled with body shots in the fourth round was a sight to behold, as was his celebratory river dance after the fact. 

Joanna Jędrzejczyk vs Zhang Weili 1 

UFC 248 — March 7, 2020

Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland punches Zhang Weili of China in their UFC strawweight championship fight during the UFC 248 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 07, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland punches Zhang Weili of China in their UFC strawweight championship fight during the UFC 248 event at T-Mobile Arena on March 07, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)


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If we had to pick one, this would be The One. 

Despite the highly anticipated headliner between Adesanya and Yoel Romero, anyone who knew anything about fighting was eager to see Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Zhang Weili throw down, and the two delivered what is still probably the best fight of the decade so far. 

In what would be a perfect preface, the epic battle between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame right before the two women made the walk, and every adjective used to describe that legendary fight applied to what we were about to see. For 25 minutes, Zhang and Jędrzejczyk exchanged flurry after flurry with very little between the two of them, and when the final bell rang, I felt genuine chills reserved for those moments when you just know you’ve seen something special. When the scorecards were read and revealed a split decision, I sincerely thought, “Good. That seems right.” Zhang was well-deserving of the win, but neither woman lost on that night.

Justin Gaethje vs Tony Ferguson

UFC 249 — May 9, 2020

Justin Gaethje punches Tony Ferguson in their UFC interim lightweight championship fight during the UFC 249 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Justin Gaethje punches Tony Ferguson in their UFC interim lightweight championship fight during the UFC 249 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)


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Although most people (me included) would rather forget large swaths of time of 2020, it did provide several unforgettable fights sans crowds, which made for particularly artistic performances to take on a different kind of brutality. 

“Artistic brutality” is what comes to mind when thinking of what Justin Gaethje did to Tony Ferguson in an empty arena in Jacksonville, Florida. With the interim lightweight belt on the line, “The Highlight” combined his usual, all-action style with a patience that had been brewing over his last few fights. On top of the excellence on display, Gaethje’s interactions with Trevor Wittman between rounds were a particularly fun look into their war-forged relationship. Although it was sad to see “El Cucuy” falter and have his legendary winning streak snapped, the fight was still a sight to behold.

Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker

UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Hooker — June 27, 2020

Dustin Poirier punches Dan Hooker of New Zealand in their lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 27, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Dustin Poirier punches Dan Hooker of New Zealand in their lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 27, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)


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There might have not been a better distillation of the energy that reverberated in the UFC APEX during 2020 than the main event bout between Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker. Without a crowd, each of the thudding shots Poirier and Hooker landed on one another felt all the more impactful.

If there was one round I had to take with me on the proverbial desert island, the second frame between “The Diamond” and “The Hangman” would probably be my pick. The back-and-forth violence on display was as good as any you’ll see in combat sports, a la the first round between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns or the ninth between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, unless, as Jon Anik so aptly put it, you like defense. 

Max Holloway vs Calvin Kattar

UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Kattar — January 16, 2021

Max Holloway taunts Calvin Kattar in a featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 17, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Max Holloway taunts Calvin Kattar in a featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 17, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

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I’ll never forget the look in Max Holloway’s eyes as he waited to walk out for his main event bout against Calvin Kattar in Abu Dhabi. “Blessed” was coming off back-to-back losses to Alexander Volkanovski, and some were wondering if his title-contending days were finished. Kattar, more so to build the fight than to disrespect the champ, added some fuel to that doubtful fire when he suggested he was the “senior” when it came to boxing whereas Holloway was the “freshman.” With all that in mind, and while Holloway waited for his cue, he kept a steely stare in my direction, but you could see there wasn’t anything behind his eyes other than complete focus. 

What followed was one of the most incredible performances we’ve seen inside the Octagon. Over the course of five rounds, Holloway threw more than 700 strikes, including a no-look right hand after which he slipped five of Kattar’s punches all while talking to the commentary team cageside. To Kattar’s credit, he stayed in the fight and swung for the fences any chance he got, but the Hawaiian was at his overwhelming best that night. It was one of the more adamant “Y’all must’ve forgot” performances in recent memory. 

Molly McCann vs Luana Carolina

UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall — March 19, 2022

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Molly McCann of England knocks out Luana Carolina of Brazil in a womens flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena on March 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by John Barry/Zuffa LLC)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Molly McCann of England knocks out Luana Carolina of Brazil in a womens flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena on March 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by John Barry/Zuffa LLC)


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This might be seen as the most random of selections on the list, but I can’t help but enjoy the experience of a Molly McCann fight. From the build up to the walkout to the actual fight, the Scouser embodies her home city of Liverpool, and as someone who is partial to Liverpool Football Club, I am a bit of a mark for what transpired in London when McCann faced Luana Carolina. 

In the midst of what felt like a landmark night for UK MMA, McCann came out of a cannon in the first round and nearly got the Brazilian out of there. The crowd, who had to wait three years for the Octagon to return to England, ate up every second of it, but in the third round, Carolina was starting to find her feet and make a fight of it. McCann was doing her best to hold onto what was surely a fight scored in her favor, but still, “Dread” was more threatening by the second. Then, out of nowhere, “Meatball” uncorked a spinning elbow that secured her first finish in the Octagon and set the O2 on fire. The card turned out to be one of the most memorable European fight nights ever, and McCann’s knockout might have been the apex of a night full of highlights.