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Ten Best: The Rematches

On Saturday, September 5, Demetrious Johnson defends his UFC flyweight title against the only man to threaten his nearly three-year reign at the top, John Dodson. The UFC 191 main event in Las Vegas is one of the most highly anticipated bouts to ever take place in the 125-pound weight class, and it certainly ranks among the best rematches to be inked for resolution in the Octagon.

Rematches are a funny animal though. In combat sports, many believe that the rematch never lives up to what was produced the first time two particular fighters squared off. And that can be true, but as the list below proves, sometimes a rematch doesn’t just equal the first fight, it surpasses it. Here’s hoping we need to make some room for Johnson-Dodson II in a couple weeks.

Urijah Faber punches Dominick Cruz during their bout at UFC 132 on 7/2/11 in Las Vegas, NV (Photo by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC)10 - Dominick Cruz-Urijah Faber II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
The grudge between bantamweight stars Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber was real, so before their UFC 132 main event in July of 2012, there was a fear that the fighters
wanted so badly not to lose to their rival that they would be too cautious. Not a chance. Instead, Cruz and Faber fired off all their tricks at one another, fought at the insanely high pace 135-pounders are known for, and gave the fans a 25-minute fight to remember that Cruz won by unanimous decision. In the process, he evened the score with the only man to ever beat him. Here’s hoping we eventually see a rubber match.

Frank Mir secures an arm lock against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira during UFC 140 on Dec.10, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC)9 - Frank Mir-Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
As two of the greatest heavyweights in MMA history, Frank Mir and “Minotauro” Nogueira were going to draw attention from the hardcore fanbase whenever they met, simply for historic reasons. And while a rematch between the two didn’t exactly seem warranted after Mir stopped the Brazilian icon in the second round of their first meeting in December of 2008, giving Nogueira a chance to avenge the only (to that point) knockout loss of his career was something he definitely earned. And early on at UFC 140 in December of 2011, Nogueira looked like he was going to get some payback, as he put Mir in deep trouble with his striking. But Mir cleared the cobwebs and locked on a kimura that ended the fight, breaking Nogueira’s arm in the process.

Mauricio Rua & Dan Henderson trade punches in their bout during the UFC Fight Night event on March 23, 2014 in Natal, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)8 - Dan Henderson-Mauricio "Shogun" Rua II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
There was no way this March 2014 rematch between two of the sport’s legends was ever going to compare to their epic first battle in 2011, but the fact that it was still a Fight of the Night war showed that whenever Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua met up, fireworks would ensue. In this one, “Shogun” started fast and had Henderson on the ropes, but in the third round, Hendo’s “H-Bomb” detonated, sending the Brazilian down and out and giving Henderson a 2-0 advantage over his friendly rival.

Anderson Silva punches Chael Sonnen during their bout at UFC 148 on July 7, 2012 in Las Vegas, NV (Photo by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC)7 - Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
For pure drama, the rematch between middleweight boss Anderson Silva and number one contender Chael Sonnen at UFC 148 in July of 2012 was hard to top. The build up to the fight was epic, and as soon as Sonnen took Silva down seconds into the bout, the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena erupted and the fans didn’t stop until the end came in the second round with Silva on top via TKO. Between those two moments, Sonnen dominated on the mat in the opening frame before Silva rebounded in the second like only he can. Nearly two years of anticipation preceded this championship match, and the end result lived up to the expectations.

BJ Penn fights against Matt Hughes during their bout at UFC 123 on 11/20/10, in Auburn Hills, MI (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)6 - Matt Hughes-BJ Penn II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
More than two years after BJ Penn shocked the world and took the UFC welterweight title from Matt Hughes, the two met again at UFC 63, with Hughes holding the belt and Penn looking to snatch it from him. And like their first bout, Penn dominated early, nearly submitting Hughes a second time in round two. But Hughes, who later brushed off the hole he was in by saying he knew he had three rounds left, needed only one more stanza, as he caught Penn on the ground and pounded away until the fight was stopped in the third.

Jose Aldo punches Chad Mendes in their bout during UFC 179 on October 25, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)5 - Jose Aldo-Chad Mendes II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
After watching featherweight champion Jose Aldo take just one round to halt Chad Mendes in their first bout in January of 2012, hope for the rematch being any better weren’t exactly high. But “Money” had earned his second crack at the belt with five consecutive wins, four by knockout, so there was no denying him. As for the fight, which took place in October of 2014, it blew the first one out of the water and became the best featherweight title bout of all-time. Both fighters were forced to dig deep throughout, but in the end, it was Aldo retaining his crown by way of a close, but unanimous, decision.

Gray Maynard punches Frankie Edgar during UFC 136 on October 8, 2011 in Houston, TX. (Photo by Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC)4 - Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
After a 2008 decision loss to Gray Maynard, UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar was thrust back into the underdog role for their 2011 rematch, and in the opening round, the oddsmakers looked to be right on the money as Edgar was dropped multiple times and seemingly on the verge of being finished by the heavy-handed Maynard. But with the heart of a champion, Edgar not only battled his way back, but arguably won the next four rounds. A draw verdict was the one rendered at the end of the fight though, allowing Edgar to retain his crown.

Robbie Lawler punches Rory MacDonald in their title fight during UFC 189 on July 11, 2015 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)3 - Robbie Lawler-Rory MacDonald II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Once Robbie Lawler won the UFC welterweight title in December of 2014, it was inevitable that “Ruthless” would meet Rory MacDonald (who he defeated via decision in November of 2013) a second time. At UFC 189 in July of this year, that rematch took place, and what a fight it was. Featuring numerous twists and turns before Lawler scored a fifth round TKO in a bout he needed to finish if he was going to retain his belt, the main takeaway from the bout wasn’t the skill shown by both men, but the heart and determination. And if you didn’t get chills watching champion and challenger staring each other down in the center of the Octagon after round four, you’re watching the wrong sport.

Spencer Fisher def. Sam Stout during UFC Fight Night 10 on June 12, 2007 in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)2 - Spencer Fisher-Sam Stout II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
A fight doesn’t always have to have a title up for grabs, a legacy on the line, or a compelling pre-bout storyline to be great. Sometimes, pride and bragging rights are enough, and in their 2007 rematch, Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout bit down on their mouthpieces and slugged it out for three intense and unforgettable rounds. How these two lightweights took heavyweight-level power shots and kept moving forward still amazes to this day, and though it was “King” Fisher evening the score with the Canadian via decision, “Hands of Stone” Stout was no loser.

Matt Hughes battles Frank Trigg during UFC 52 on April 16, 2005 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)1 - Matt Hughes-Frank Trigg II (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Despite beating Frank Trigg in 2003, UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes was almost destined to have the brash contender as a foil, and in 2005, they would meet again. This time, Trigg would seemingly be seconds away from victory after an inadvertent low blow allowed him the time he needed to get a rear naked choke around Hughes’ neck. But in one of the most memorable sequences in UFC history, Hughes broke free, picked up Trigg, marched him across the Octagon, and then slammed him. Hughes then sunk in his own choke, producing a tap out, a win, and an instant classic. All in four minutes and nine seconds. This fight is in the UFC Hall of Fame for a reason – not just the greatest rematch in the promotion’s history, but one of the best fights ever.
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