- The Light-weight division has given us some traditional title fights over time – however these are the 5 best.
- BJ Penn, Frankie Edgar and Khabib Nurmagomedov have all been concerned in traditional title fights.
High 5 / High 10
Modified 26 Mar 2020, 02:42 IST
The UFC’s Light-weight division may’ve taken some time to heat up – it was even scrapped for some time, between August 2004 and March 2006 because the promotion struggled financially previous to the TUF growth. However for the previous decade or so, it’s arguably been MMA’s finest and most talent-filled division.
Since Jens Pulver received the UFC’s Light-weight title again at UFC 30 in 2001, we’ve seen loads of traditional title fights between the perfect fighters at 155lbs, with names like BJ Penn, Conor McGregor and present champion Khabib Nurmagomedov all concerned in some true classics.
Whereas we’re all ready – and hoping – that the subsequent title struggle between champion Nurmagomedov and prime contender Tony Ferguson can occur subsequent month, right here’s a have a look at the perfect 5 UFC Light-weight title fights we’ve seen up to now, in chronological order.
#1 Jens Pulver vs. BJ Penn – UFC 35
The UFC’s inaugural Light-weight champion, Jens Pulver, made two defenses of his title earlier than departing the UFC after some contract points. The primary was an absolute stinker towards Dennis Hallman at UFC 33, however the second was a forgotten traditional towards BJ Penn at UFC 35 in January 2002.
Penn got here in because the hot-favorite, surprisingly sufficient. ‘The Prodigy’ had debuted lower than a yr earlier than his title shot however had ran by his first three opponents like a knife by butter and had taken out Caol Uno in a matter of seconds in his most up-to-date struggle.
Pulver, however, was extra workmanlike; he’d solely completed one opponent – John Lewis – in his UFC profession and his struggle with Uno, though he received, was an in depth one to name.
However on this struggle, it was Pulver’s gritty model that received the day. Positive, Penn had him in bother on a few events, most notably with an armbar within the second spherical that had ‘Little Evil’ tapping out, however solely after the buzzer had sounded to finish the stanza.
Total although, Pulver outwrestled the Hawaiian, taking him down on a few events, and customarily outboxed him too, even beautiful him within the fifth spherical – one thing that’d show tough for any fighter to do to Penn in later years.
Was the struggle stuffed with fast-paced motion? Not precisely, however this was a back-and-forth, tactical struggle that confirmed Pulver at his finest – a gritty, super-tough fighter who wouldn’t again down even towards probably the most harmful opponent he’d ever confronted.
The truth that it additionally launched a feud that fueled the perfect season of The Final Fighter – TUF 5 – makes it nicely price watching, too.
#2 BJ Penn vs. Sean Sherk – UFC 84
After two years on hiatus, the Light-weight division returned to the UFC in 2006 and the promotion quickly topped a brand new champion, as Sean Sherk outpointed Kenny Florian for the vacant title at UFC 64.
It didn’t take lengthy for the 155lbers to endear themselves to the followers. The likes of Tyson Griffin, Clay Guida, and Frankie Edgar placed on sufficient enjoyable fights to make sure that, nevertheless it rapidly turned clear that what the Light-weight division actually wanted to get again on the map was a blood feud.
That’s what we bought in 2008, within the type of BJ Penn vs. Sean Sherk. To briefly recap the feud, Penn returned to 155lbs in 2007 and beat his outdated rival Jens Pulver, however earlier than he might problem Sherk for the title, ‘The Muscle Shark’ examined optimistic for nandrolone and was suspended, vacating his title within the course of.
Sherk denied ever utilizing the drug, however by the point he got here again, Penn had captured the title by defeating Joe Stevenson – and was gunning for the previous champion, who he noticed as an outright cheat. Immediately, UFC 84’s subtitle – ‘Unwell Will’ – made excellent sense.
The struggle was a wonderful one, too, and would stand as the one time that somebody actually pushed Penn at 155lbs till he was dethroned by Frankie Edgar two years later.
Sherk – at all times at an obstacle in a hanging match on account of his quick arms – really took the struggle to ‘The Prodigy’ together with his boxing and tagged him with some combos and leg kicks within the early rounds, regardless of the group being firmly towards him – even chanting “steroids” at factors.
Slowly however certainly although, Penn – and his ramrod jab – started to take over the struggle, bloodying Sherk up and stopping him in his tracks.
By the latter a part of the third spherical, ‘The Muscle Shark’ was clearly struggling, and with seconds to go, Penn caught him with an uppercut that staggered him – and adopted with a flying knee that despatched him crashing to the bottom earlier than touchdown some follow-up photographs.
The buzzer then sounded to finish the spherical, however in a wierd flip of occasions, Penn appeared to name the struggle off himself, yelling “he’s performed” – and certain sufficient, referee Mario Yamasaki agreed and stopped issues there.
Penn would go onto have extra dominant title defenses – towards Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez – in 2009, however this was the struggle that basically launched him as a famous person, and it stands as among the best title fights at 155lbs in UFC historical past.
#three Frankie Edgar vs. Grey Maynard – UFC 125 and UFC 136
Frankie Edgar’s reign as UFC Light-weight champion isn’t remembered fondly by most UFC followers. Not solely did he dethrone a vastly common champion in BJ Penn, however regardless of holding the title for the perfect a part of two years, he solely fought three fighters throughout that point interval.
If you happen to keep in mind the rematch he was given with Benson Henderson after shedding the title to him, it felt like his total reign was encompassed by unending rematches.
Nevertheless, that’s doing a large disservice to his two fights with Grey Maynard in 2011; both one might’ve made this checklist nevertheless it’s simpler to debate them in a single slot, as the primary resulted in a draw, that means the second felt extra like a continuation of the primary.
Extremely, each fights adopted an identical sample; the bigger, extra highly effective Maynard got here out of the gates like a bull in a china store, destroying Edgar with strikes and seemingly having him near being completed on quite a few events.
In some way although, in each fights, ‘The Reply’ was in a position to will himself again from the lifeless, and within the first – regardless of being battered from pillar to submit within the opening spherical – he did simply sufficient to safe a cut up draw.
The second struggle began in precisely the identical manner. ‘The Bully’ completely destroyed the champion within the opening spherical, knocking him down on two events and busting his nostril up badly.
Regardless of this, he couldn’t put Edgar away, and evidently determined to preserve power, he slowed down dramatically within the second spherical.
That turned out to be an enormous mistake; Maynard had allowed Edgar far an excessive amount of time to get better, and by the third spherical, he gave the impression to be again within the struggle.
The fourth spherical noticed ‘The Reply’ trying extra assured, and with simply over a minute to go, when Maynard defended a takedown, Edgar noticed a chance and took it, touchdown a thudding uppercut that put the challenger down.
‘The Bully’ popped up, however Edgar was rapidly on him, and a sequence of follow-up punches put him down for good, ending the rivalry as soon as and for all.
The primary title struggle between the 2 was maybe the higher one by way of general high quality, however the second someway managed to prime it by way of drama, and when you have been ever unconvinced by Edgar’s title credentials, watching these fights would positively be sufficient to vary your thoughts.
#four Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor – UFC 229
This one was, after all, probably the most highly-anticipated struggle in UFC historical past – till Khabib vs. Ferguson after all – because it pit the reigning, defending, unbeaten champion in Nurmagomedov towards the person who by no means really misplaced the title – in addition to the most important star within the historical past of the game – in Conor McGregor.
The present that the struggle headlined – UFC 229 – ended up drawing 2.4m buys on pay-per-view, blowing away the UFC’s earlier document, however did the motion dwell as much as the hype?
Nicely, sort of. As a lot as a largely one-sided struggle can, at any fee. The final consensus getting into was that ‘The Infamous One’ would have a shot at successful if he might forestall Nurmagomedov from taking him down, however that proved to be not possible.
The Dagestani took him down within the first spherical and beat him up, and within the second, he outright knocked him down with an enormous proper hand earlier than hammering him with ground-and-pound.
‘The Eagle’ largely took the third spherical off, permitting McGregor followers some hope, however by the fourth spherical he put the strain again on the Irishman, took him down once more, and this time he was in a position to take his again and apply a neck crank, forcing him to faucet out.
The struggle has, after all, gained way more notoriety for what occurred after the end. Nurmagomedov leaped into the group to assault McGregor’s grappling coach Dillon Danis, whereas the Dagestani’s teammates brawled with ‘The Infamous One’ contained in the Octagon, however in all honesty, even earlier than that debacle, the struggle mainly delivered the products anyway.
Was it pretty much as good as Edgar vs. Maynard or Pulver vs. Penn? Actually not, however as an enormous struggle it’s positively price seeing if someway, you haven’t seen it already.
#5 Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway – UFC 236
Okay, so this struggle was technically for the interim UFC Light-weight title somewhat than the “actual” title – which was nonetheless held by Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was suspended following the UFC 229 debacle – nevertheless it’s too good of a struggle to be left off an inventory like this.
When the UFC put it collectively – pitting prime contender Poirier towards the reigning UFC Featherweight champ Holloway – it gave the impression of we’d be assured fireworks, and the 2 positively didn’t allow us to down.
The struggle turned out to be a brawl for the ages, as each males got here out swinging for the fences, buying and selling overtly actually from the primary second of the primary spherical till the final second of the fifth.
The story of the struggle turned out to be all about energy; Holloway arguably landed extra quantity than Poirier, however ‘The Diamond’ – a a lot bigger man – clearly landed the more durable blows.
Every spherical noticed each males land some enormous photographs, however ‘Blessed’ was the one who regarded extra damage when Poirier was touchdown, and by the top of the struggle, he was visibly worse off, trying like he’d been slashed with a machete throughout his brow.
Even so, it was a troublesome struggle to attain; the fourth spherical really ended with the Hawaiian firing combos at Poirier whereas screaming abuse at him.
Ultimately, although, the judges awarded Poirier the struggle, all three scoring it 49-46 to award him the interim title.
And though he would go onto lose in his try at unifying the titles when he was defeated by Nurmagomedov later in 2019, followers of ‘The Diamond’ can nonetheless console themselves with one factor: Khabib had by no means placed on a struggle this good in his profession.
Revealed 26 Mar 2020, 02:42 IST
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