You might want to think about giving these fights a second look.
6. Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz
A while back the UFC broadcast a special of their “100 Greatest Fights” on Spike TV. In typical fashion of the Zuffa regime, the historical significance of the SEG era fights was downplayed and fighters who had a disfavorable relationship with the promotion were either grossly misrepresented or not included at all. Case in point: Tito Ortiz, who has the most Light Heavyweight title victories in UFC history, had four of losses featured on the list but no victories. Frank Shamrock, perhaps the greatest MMA fighter of the 90’s, was not even acknowledged.
That was a shame. Both champions have scored some stellar victories over the years, and in a non-biased list they would’ve been featured multiple times. Undoubtedly, the best fight between the two was their clash at UFC 22 on September 24, 1999. A Superfight in every sense of the term, the two warriors battled for the Light Heavyweight (Then Middleweight) crown. For four rounds, both fighters challenged each other with a wide range of skills and pushed each other to their physical limit. Ortiz controlled much of the action with his impressive power and wrestling ability, but the champion Shamrock would not let himself be taken out. Utilizing superior finesse and conditioning, he eventually managed to wear down the challenger and get him to submit via a barrage of strikes. A truly shining moment during the UFC’s early years.
5. Lennox Lewis vs. Frank Bruno
The People’s Champion of Britain did his best to put on a show for his ever-loving fans. Not exactly one of Lewis’ best performances, but a significant moment in British boxing history.
4. Rashad Evans vs. Rampage Jackson
This is kind of considered the Phantom Menace of MMA fights. There was a profound amount of build up, but in the end a lot of people were left disappointed. In truth, the fight itself wasn’t bad. People were just expecting Rock Em’ Sock Em’ Robots because of the heat between the two. What everyone forgot is that fighters won’t always go out and fight full-retard even if they dislike their opponent.
The fight had some good moments. Both Rashad and Rampage landed some hard shots on each other, and Evans worked some decent ground-and-pound in round three. I’ll admit the fight would’ve been better if Evans approached every round like he did the third, but over all I think both men put on a solid show.
3. Tiki Ghosn vs. Bob Cook
Tiki Ghosn is known for a few things in the MMA world: Being Rampage’s assistant coach on TUF, fucking Arianny Celeste, and never having a win inside the Octagon. Despite that somewhat dubious resume, his career has produced at least a few awesome moments. Case in point: His Octagon debut against one Bob Cook in UFC 24.
If this fight occured in the modern era of the UFC, it would possibly be heralded as a classic in a similar vein to Leonard Garcia vs. The Korean Zombie. Unfortunately, it happened during the “dark ages” of the UFC, the period between events 22 and 30 when events were not available on home video. Both fighters battled at a lightning pace with Cook eventually finishing his opponent off by RNC in the second round. The AKA representative Cook promptly called it a career after this fight with an undefeated overall record of 5-0, with all wins coming by knockout or submission.
2. Muhammad Ali vs. Karl Mildenberger
There are many Ali fights which are heralded as legendary. His 1966 bout with Karl Mildenberger is not one of them. Still, the south-paw German put on a gutsy enough show with the prime champion for the fight to warrant a watch. Mildenberger, perhaps the second best heavyweight to ever come out of Germany behind Max Schmeling, used his jab and awkward style (He was the first left hander to ever fight for a world heavyweight title) to win at least a few round against the incomparable Ali. The champ battered the ever-stalking German’s eyes shut over the course of the fight and knocked him down several times, but Mildenberger never ceased to press the action. Finally, in round twelve, Ali was able to finish off his gritty opponent with a barrage of looping uppercuts and a straight right lead to the head.
“Mildenberger gave me my toughest fight,” stated Ali after the bout.
Following the fight, many journalists ranked Mildenberger as the second best heavyweight in the world and regarded him as the front-runner to win the vacant title after Ali had been stripped of the belt in 1967. He ended up losing to Argentinean fight Oscar “Ringo” Bonavena in the first round of the elimination tournament, however, in a bout that was deemed “Upset of the Year” by Ring Magazine. The German stud retired in 1968 with a record of 53-6-3 after losing his European heavyweight title to Britain’s Henry Cooper.
1. Royce Gracie vs. Keith Hackney
When you think of Royce Gracie’s great early UFC fights, you think of his battles with Kimo, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, and his comedy fight with Art Jimmerson. If you remember Keith Hackney, the fights that come to mind are his kickass David vs. Goliath match with Emmanuel Yarborough and mind-blowing testicle destruction of Joe Son. The best fight between the two, however, is the one they had with each other. Unfortunately, not many people seem to bring it up.
Hackney represented a fighter rarely witnessed in the juvenile MMA scene: A striker who actually knew how to sprawl. A state champion wrestler in high school, Hackney had enough grappling experience to repel the notorious “Gracie Tackle” and keep the fight standing longer than any of Royce’s previous opponents were able to. It wasn’t a cake walk from there on out, though. Despite smacking Royce with some hard rights, the karateka ended up getting clobbered with a few knee strikes to the head up against the fence. It was evident that the young Gracie’s preparation, although not quite up to par with modern MMA training, was geared to fighting other styles and not just pure BJJ.
Still unable to take Hackney down, Royce was eventually forced to pull guard. The zealous Hackney might’ve been able to get away, but he elected to keep the pressure on Royce and strike him several more times with his heavy right hand. This left him open for Royce to apply an armbar and make him submit at the 5:32 mark. A TRUE unsung classic that deserves to be recognized amongst Royce’s other old school battles, both for historical significance and action.