The 5 Biggest Fights We Never Got


NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 04: Georges St-Pierre of Canada celebrates after defeating Michael Bisping of England of their UFC middleweight championship bout throughout the UFC 217 occasion inside Madison Sq. Backyard on November 4, 2017 in New York Metropolis. (Photograph by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC through Getty Photographs)

MMA has a repute for sometimes having the ability to ship the fights the followers need at a better clip than most fight sports activities. This repute is just not fully deserved as a result of there are definitely some all-time nice matchups that would have been made, however weren’t.

We are going to solely be taking a look at fights that would have probably been made – prime Georges St-Pierre versus prime Robbie Lawler is a probably fascinating battle however chronologically may by no means have occurred.

Neither will this be a dialogue as as to whether a battle would have been extra fascinating if one fighter had been in higher situation, reminiscent of if MauricioShogun” Rua would have been a way more fascinating opponent for Jon Jones had he been extra like his 2005 self.

This record is only for fights between fighters who by no means fought. It will likely be ranked by the standards of significance to the game, how large an occasion it might have been and the way fascinating the battle would have been. We may also focus on who we’d have thought would win and why.

The 5 Largest Fights We By no means Bought: Quantity 5.

Matchup: John Dodson vs. Joseph Benavidez

Yr: 2014

Division: Flyweight

Cause for battle not being made: UFC refusal to make it

The UFC struggled for an extended period of time to market its 125-pound flyweight division. The most important concern by far was easy; Demetrious Johnson was its first champion and the UFC marketed every little thing round him. The consequence, nonetheless, was that the division appeared to be within the shadow of its kingpin. And whereas this impact might need been mitigated if Johnson was changed by a brand new champion, he resolutely saved on profitable. The UFC tried desperately to seek out extra challengers for Johnson, however within the course of left the remainder of 125 to rot.

The consequence, then, was that one of many probably all-time best flyweight fights in MMA historical past managed to slide via the cracks. Of their haste to seek out one other competitor for Johnson, the UFC in some way uncared for the chance to e book a conflict between two of his best opponents: Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson.

The 2 males’s careers couldn’t have been extra completely different. Benavidez had swiftly made his technique to the WEC and fought at bantamweight the place he shortly managed to determine himself as second to none other than one Dominick Cruz. After the UFC established its flyweight division, the identical story re-occurred with Demetrious Johnson. Benavidez may seemingly overcome everybody he fought however the prime variations of the best fighters within the two respective divisions he fought in.

Dodson, however, had a extra checkered previous. The place Benavidez was constant Dodson was everywhere, going 3-3 in his first six fights. However he additionally confirmed moments of legit greatness early on, together with ending a younger T.J. Dillashaw. Dodson’s velocity and energy had been legendary. In a division missing in heavy hitters, Dodson scored a knockdown over Jussier Formiga with a shot that hit Formiga’s glove.

Each fought in vastly alternative ways, too. Benavidez’s type emphasised his wrestling; his headlong prices typically setups for takedowns and his scrambling type eschewing jiu-jitsu fundamentals in favor of an inexorable rise to his toes each time. Dodson however was a traditional southpaw counterpuncher, pounding in photographs straight down the center on overextended opponents.

If the 2 had fought, each would have had a possibility to show the opposite’s weaknesses. Benavidez was removed from incapable of excellent hanging on the toes however particularly earlier in fights, over-relied on linear rushes, typically throwing his head ahead of his toes. Towards a fast and highly effective counterpuncher like prime Dodson, the very best 125 lb matchup we by no means noticed may have very nicely led to a spherical or perhaps a minute.

However whereas Dodson was harmful he was removed from invincible. He gave Johnson hell of their first battle however because the 5 rounds wore on Johnson began to seek out one among his key weaknesses. Whereas Dodson’s steadiness and takedown protection appeared to defy physics at occasions, his skill to get off the cage was mediocre; if he was trapped in a clinch his wonderful footwork and hand velocity can be roughly neutralized. His risk degree would additionally drop off within the championship rounds.

Whereas Dodson may stylistically be thought-about the favourite then, if he didn’t get Benavidez out of there early, he may very nicely have been floor to mud as soon as Benavidez bought his bearings.

Since their heyday, each fighters have sadly fallen on robust occasions. Benavidez has earned the unenviable standing of being the fighter with probably the most undisputed title photographs with out ever getting a belt (4) and is presently on a three-fight dropping streak, whereas Dodson’s unsuccessful try to maneuver as much as bantamweight resulted in a string of disappointing fights and an eventual departure from the UFC. It’s arduous to not really feel each males’s careers are lesser for having by no means fought one another.

The 5 Largest Fights We By no means Bought Quantity 4:

Matchup: Urijah Faber vs. Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto

Yr: 2006-2007

Division: Bantamweight or Featherweight

Cause for battle not being made: signed to completely different promotions

Some of the constant criticisms leveled on the smaller weight lessons of fight sports activities is an absence of drama. In case your photographs can’t knock somebody out, why trouble watching? So it’s acceptable that the 2 largest trailblazers for the smaller weight lessons on each side of the Pacific had been each ending machines. Urijah Faber was tearing up each King of The Cage and the WEC whereas the late, nice Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto would run rampant in Hero’s.

Each continuously had been prepared to tackle all comers in a bid to make their names. Faber would battle a complete of 10 occasions throughout 2006 and 2007, even going up from his pure weight class of bantamweight to featherweight. Yamamoto – who at 5’4” may have conceivably made flyweight this present day – fought as far up as Hero’s distinctive 165-lb weight class, even profitable a match the place he defeated Royler Gracie, Caol Uno and Genki Sudo in succession, all by end.

Neither males had been well-known for significantly nuanced skillsets – they’d just a few good instruments on the toes, Faber’s proper overhand and Yamamoto’s leaping hooks, and had been excellent wrestlers with Faber additionally possessing a deadly guillotine. However what set them aside was their pure skills. Each had been extremely quick, sturdy, and explosive to a level nearly by no means seen in MMA even these days. Even on the ripe previous age of 40 Faber was nonetheless capable of knock the bantamweight prospect Ricky Simon unconscious. Yamamoto, however, would tackle the Japanese kickboxing legend Masato underneath Ok-1 guidelines, managing to attain a knockdown within the first spherical in addition to going the gap in a dropping effort.

Sadly, a matchup between the dual stars of east and west by no means materialized. Maybe if each had saved their success going they’d have ultimately collided. However in 2008, Faber can be knocked from his throne by Mike Thomas Brown whereas Yamamoto’s prime was without end ended by a knee harm that set him out of the game for years.

So as to add insult to harm, each would truly briefly occupy the bantamweight division within the UFC on the similar time. However whereas Faber nonetheless had sufficient moxie and recognition to beat some elite opposition and get title photographs, a shot Yamamoto went on a three-fight dropping streak earlier than being minimize.

Each fighters by no means rose to their previous heights once more, though each left an indelible mark on the MMA panorama, not solely with their fights however with their gyms. Faber’s Crew Alpha Male remains to be a fixture of the UFC’s decrease weight lessons, whereas Yamamoto’s Yamamoto Sports activities Academy would assist produce such luminaries as Kyoji Horiguchi. The untimely lack of Yamamoto to most cancers was an enormous blow to the MMA world.

As to who would have received if the battle would have occurred when each had been on the heights of their powers? Tough to say. As with Dodson/Benavidez, KID would have been favoured for an early end, whereas the legendarily robust Faber possible would have taken the nod in an extended battle. Nonetheless, whereas Faber’s profession was undoubtedly grander, evaluating peak skill versus peak skill, KID’s sheer pressure would possible have been too nice for even Faber to outlive.

The 5 Largest Fights We By no means Bought Quantity 3:

Matchup: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture

Yr: 2007

Division: Heavyweight

Cause for battle not being made: Tsuyoshi Kohsaka’s elbow, managerial squabbling

Fedor Emelianenko has had an distinctive profession, and one of the vital spectacular bits about it’s what number of UFC heavyweight champions he has fought and crushed with out ever having to battle within the UFC. He defeated Mark Coleman and the late, nice Kevin Randleman in PRIDE FC, Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski in Affliction and Frank Mir in Bellator. Alongside along with his victories over Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fedor vanquished nearly notable heavyweight of his period – save two. Josh Barnett and Randy Couture.

Couture himself would make a reputation as somebody who at all times carried out his best feats after being seemingly counted out. After an extended stint at heavyweight, Couture dropped to gentle heavyweight after two knockout defeats, solely to then vanquish the up-and-coming Chuck Liddell and a reigning champion Tito Ortiz. When a resurgent Liddell knocked out Couture twice he appeared executed for good once more, solely to rise to heavyweight as soon as extra and take the belt once more from Tim Sylvia and defend it towards Gabriel Gonzaga. Couture’s report belied what he was able to.

Particularly galling is that their matchup almost occurred in RINGS Preventing Community. Each had been entered within the RINGS King of Kings 2000 match and would have met within the second spherical if each had received their matches. Couture defeated Jeremy Horn, however in a match towards JMMA pioneer Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Fedor was scraped by an elbow from a slipped punch within the opening minute and was minimize so badly the battle was stopped. Elbows had been unlawful in RINGS however, bafflingly, the bout was declared a loss for Fedor as an alternative of a no contest.

Nonetheless, this may not have been probably the most fascinating interval for the 2 to battle, since Fedor was removed from on the peak of his powers but, having solely barely been victorious over the longer term gentle heavyweight nice Ricardo Arona. After PRIDE began to crumble post-2006 and Fedor left for greener pastures elsewhere, the UFC appeared to be a doable vacation spot, and he definitely may have ended up combating Couture there. However the UFC and Fedor bitterly fought over pay, and he ended up going to the extra profitable alternative of the short-lived Affliction promotion.

Any luster the matchup may have had was swiftly dissipated post-2007 as Couture’s remaining UFC heavyweight reign was ended by an ascendant Brock Lesnar whereas a shopworn Fedor broke his streak by dropping three in a row to Fabricio Werdum, Bigfoot Silva and Dan Henderson

As for who would have received the battle again within the day, as with all elite heavyweight matchups each fighters definitely had an opportunity. Fedor possible would have been unprepared for Couture’s use of the fence as a part of his wrestling system; PRIDE FC used a hoop, not a fence. However however, Couture’s wrestling typically revolved across the clinch, an space the place Fedor was much more adept in because of his immense judo expertise and unimaginable steadiness. Mixed with Fedor’s unimaginable handspeed, mixtures and floor and pound, this possible would have been an excessive amount of for Couture to outlive.

The 5 Largest Fights We By no means Bought Quantity 2:

Matchup: Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre

Yr: 2011

Division: Welterweight/Middleweight/Catchweight

Cause for battle not being made: Completely different divisions

It’s uncommon for 2 all-time greats to go on division-defining streaks on the similar time. Rarer nonetheless for his or her divisions to be proper subsequent to one another. So it was that the UFC discovered itself with Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva. St-Pierre’s march to greatness was sluggish and methodical – albeit with just a few hiccups, notably within the type of Matt Serra. However by 2011, he had established himself a pressure to be reckoned with as the very best offensive and defensive wrestler within the firm in addition to being somebody who labored tremendously in transitions.

Silva’s path to the highest was extra circuitous. Beginning out within the Japanese scene as a welterweight – who would notch a victory over the nice Hayato Sakurai early on – Silva would regularly hone a set of large hanging abilities in PRIDE and Cage Rage after transferring as much as middleweight. When he lastly made it to the UFC, he would shock American audiences along with his destruction first of the iron chinned banger Chris Leben after which the long-reigning champion Wealthy Franklin.

Whereas St-Pierre’s weapons had been a ceaseless jab, an explosive double leg and unimaginable prime management, Silva’s arsenal was stuffed with extra unique hanging strategies. Silva was a grasp counterpuncher who was improbable at drawing his opponents into fight-ending photographs after they gave him the chance – and infrequently struggling to steer when they didn’t.

Each would ultimately obtain such dominance of their divisions that the corporate began to wrestle to place collectively respectable fights for them. St-Pierre would find yourself combating the scrappy however comparatively unproven Dan Hardy after he cleared out his division of legit contenders, whereas Silva would batter Forest Griffin and Steven Bonnar at gentle heavyweight non-title fights.

Whereas the battle was mooted for some time, it by no means materialized. The precise particulars are unclear, however Silva in his late 30s, having actually grown right into a middleweight body, possible may by no means have made 170 once more, whereas St-Pierre was possible reluctant to surrender a lot weight to a person who had confirmed to be such a pressure.

Had the battle occurred although, it’s possible that St-Pierre’s type would have massively compensated for the scale drawback. Silva struggled most with wrestlers who had been prepared to combine in hanging to get takedowns and conservative strikers who may use feints to disrupt his sense of anticipation. St-Pierre ticked each of these bins extra decisively than anybody within the historical past of the game, however as with each battle on this record, we are going to by no means actually know and we’re poorer for that.

The 5 Largest Fights We By no means Bought No 1:

Matchup: Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov

Yr: 2018

Division: Light-weight

Causes for battle by no means occurring: Coaching accidents, lung concern, tiramisu, a TV cable, as soon as in a century international pandemic

It’ll possible be one thing incomprehensible to future MMA historians, however there was as soon as a time when the 2 finest fighters in probably the most aggressive division in the very best promotion on the planet each held consecutive win streaks of 12 victories in that promotion and but neither would ever battle the opposite. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will stay an everlasting MMA thriller.

For many followers this example – and why it ranks simply as primary on this record – hardly wants explaining. However for many who want a proof, right here it follows: all through each males’s careers within the UFC they had been booked towards one another a number of occasions. Every time it fell aside, normally due to accidents. To the UFC’s credit score, whereas they did be happy to kick the can down the street every time they needed, in addition they saved making an attempt to make the battle. 

Most gallingly was after they had been booked to battle one another for the vacant light-weight strap and only a week earlier than, on April Idiot’s Day 2018, Ferguson – an avid fan of carrying sun shades indoors – tripped and fell over a cable, critically damaging his knee. 

By 2020 it had been booked and canceled an astonishing 4 occasions, alongside the way in which giving beginning to one of many funniest (and in hindsight, most tragic) MMA fan movies of all time.

The big quantity of curiosity typically derived from whether or not Ferguson’s eccentric type composed of a grindy excessive tempo and Jiu-jitsu from the notoriously esoteric tenth Planet system would overcome the undefeated Nurmagomedov’s cage wrestling. The longer a fighter goes on for with out dropping, the increasingly individuals begin paying consideration, anticipating a second of cathartic defeat.

It appeared that destiny had been actually defied when in 2020 the battle was booked for the fifth and remaining time. Some thought-about it previous its expiration date, Ferguson having seemingly misplaced a few of his edge in performances towards actually post-prime variations of Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone. Nurmagomedov however seemed as dominant as ever after smashing Dustin Poirier. Nonetheless, it was extensively agreed that Ferguson was owed the chance. However it might not come to cross.

The coronavirus pandemic scattered all plans for the battle. Nurmagomedov was shuttled round by the UFC until he ended up again in Russia, which locked down its borders. In the meantime, determined to salvage the state of affairs, the UFC sacrificed Ferguson’s remaining undisputed title shot on the altar of its ESPN commitments by reserving him into the second interim title bout of his profession, this time towards Justin Gaethje.

Whereas Ferguson had his moments of success within the battle, by the point Herb Dean waved it off deep into the fifth it was clear that Gaethje had nicely and actually shattered the legend of “El Cucuy.” Ferguson struggled to navigate Gaethje’s lightning-fast counter punches and was by no means capable of construct up his regular momentum.

When Gaethje met Nurmagomedov later within the 12 months, he was unable to repeat his efficiency and the Dagestani dragged him down and submitted him early within the second. With Nurmagomedov retiring from skilled competitors at his mom’s request following the demise of his father, the hope of a long-awaited showdown was lastly lifeless for good.

It’s definitely doable to dismiss even a main Ferguson’s possibilities. For all of the speak of his vaunted guard, Nurmagomedov is probably going the very best guard passer in MMA historical past and up to date losses towards Charles Oliveria and Beniel Dariush have known as into query how sound Ferguson’s grappling fundamentals ever had been, now that they’re shorn of a lot of his velocity and tempo. But when we may merely sit down and work out with a pen and paper the results of any battle then we’d scarcely want the game in any respect.

MMA is really the game the place the unattainable is feasible and the sudden should be anticipated. The solutions to Dodson versus Benavidez, Faber versus Yamamoto, St-Pierre versus Silva, Emelianko versus Couture and Ferguson versus Nurmagomedov will at all times be one thing we will guess at, however by no means know for certain. That’s the reason it’s such an indictment on our sport that they by no means occurred, and a reminder of why the fights we do get are so treasured to us.

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