Since UFC’s beginnings in 1993, there have been hundreds of events and thousands of incredible fights.
Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming to absorb so much fighting history. So if you’re looking for the very best of the bunch, then I’ve got you covered!
The best UFC events of all time are UFC 1, UFC 49, UFC 81, UFC 100, UFC 129, UFC 189, UFC 194, UFC 200, UFC 202, UFC 205, UFC 217, UFC 229, and UFC 239.
This article will feature more details about these most iconic and key events of UFC history that you must watch. Let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
- 1 UFC 1 (1993)
- 2 UFC 49: Unfinished Business (2004)
- 3 UFC 81: Breaking Point (2008)
- 4 UFC 100: Lesnar vs Mir II (2009)
- 5 UFC 129: St-Pierre vs Shields (2011)
- 6 UFC 189: Mendes vs McGregor (2015)
- 7 UFC 194: Aldo vs McGregor (2015)
- 8 UFC 200: Tate vs Nunes (2016)
- 9 UFC 202: Diaz vs McGregor 2 (2016)
- 10 UFC 205: Alvarez vs McGregor (2016)
- 11 UFC 217: Bisping vs St-Pierre (2017)
- 12 UFC 229: Khabib vs McGregor (2018)
- 13 UFC 239: Jones vs Santos (2019)
UFC 1 (1993)
The Ultimate Fighting Championship started to pit fighting styles against one another to find the Ultimate Fighter. And In UFC 1, we see it unashamedly put fighters of entirely different skills and completely different weights and heights against one another to see what would happen.
Not only that, but fights at the time had NO rules, NO judges, and NO time limit. So in effect, it was a brutal fight until someone either got knocked out or submitted to their opponent (or just gave up).
UFC 1, of course, shook the world with this madness. The event saw a giant Sumo wrestler go up against a Boxer and get knocked out within a minute. A Karate master wailed on his opponent until his exhaustion ended with him getting stomped.
The highlight of the events early fights was the Royce Gracie vs. Art Jimmerson which saw Gracie’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu go up against Jimmerson’s Boxing. Royce successfully took down Jimmerson and went straight into full-mount, submitting him quickly. It probably wasn’t until this moment that the entire world finally understood the disarming power of BJJ.
For me, what’s most entertaining about the fights is how there was barely any protection. Fighters seem to have worn mouthguards and wraps around their wrists, but no cup protection in the groin or around their fists.
Except for Art Jimmerson, who for some reason chose to wear one boxing glove on his jab hand only – perhaps he was at least somewhat aware that he might need a hand to grip onto his opponent, yet it still didn’t help very much.
This event also included the infamous Ken Shamrock with his “Shootfighting,” who went against Taekwondo with Patrick Smith. Shamrock took Smith down to the mat and submitted him with an ankle lock, showing even further how grappling skills in fighting can dominate any striking proficiency.
Shamrock went on to face Gracie in the semi-finals and get submitted. Then Gracie submitted his opponent in the final and wrote his name in the history books forever.
UFC 49: Unfinished Business (2004)
The event also surpassed $1 million in revenue on the gate for the first time, making it their most successful event to date. And by this point, the now hugely popular Joe Rogan had become a commentator for the fights themselves.
The entire UFC event had a much-improved level of show-business and razzle-dazzle by this point. The octagon style and size had a format, fighters are wearing MMA gloves that are still similar to the modern version, and more rules are in place.
Of the fights at UFC 49, we saw a young (21-year-old) and upcoming Nick Diaz on the Prelims card against a very tough ground-and-pound in Karo Parisyan.
And on the main card, we saw Chuck Lidell fight Vernon White at Light Heavyweight and Randy Couture fight Vitor Belfort for the Light Heavyweight Championship belt.
UFC 81: Breaking Point (2008)
UFC 81 “Breaking Point” featured one of the first cross-over deals in MMA history as the WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar came into the UFC on only his second professional MMA fight against Frank Mir.
Although he lost to Mir by submission, Lesnar’s presence in the UFC attracted a whole new level of attention to the sport bringing new combat sports fans into the fold.
After this event, Brock Lesnar kept fighting in the UFC and went on a winning streak, making his brand and that of the UFC keep climbing in popularity.
Aside from Brock’s fight, the primary title fight of Minotauro Nogueira vs. Tim Sylvia was for the (first ever) Interim Heavyweight belt. Nogueira won the contest by submission in the third round, and the matchup won the fight of the night.
UFC 100: Lesnar vs Mir II (2009)
With the drama of UFC 81 and Lesnar’s submission by Mir in an ankle lock, the hype was confirmed for a rematch at UFC 100. This was Brock Lesnar’s chance to overcome Frank Mir and prove himself a true challenger in the Heavyweight division.
But this event wasn’t just about Brock Lesnar, as the UFC didn’t disappoint, bringing out all the stops for the 100th main event of the UFC.
An extra special occasion required memorable fights, and the event featured also:
- Georges St-Pierre vs Thiago Alves
- Dan Henderson vs Michael Bisping
- Yoshihiro Akiyama vs Alan Belcher
- and even a younger Jon Jones vs Jake O’Brien
UFC 100 had it all. On this list, UFC 100 has to be one of the top 5 if you were to rank them!
UFC 129: St-Pierre vs Shields (2011)
UFC 129 has a special place in many people’s hearts because it was the first sanctioned MMA event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The event also had a strong lineup alongside the main fight of Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields.
Other great names on this card were:
- Jose Aldo vs Mark Hominick
- Lyoto Machida vs Randy Couture
- Nate Diaz vs Rory MacDonald
This was a highly anticipated fight as GSP commonly uses his grappling and takedown ability to move his opponents to the ground for finishes. Still, Jake Shields at the time was also considered one of the best Jiu-Jitsu grapplers of his weight class.
Despite a pretty brutal battle and the fight going to a decision, GSP proved himself as an expert striker and manager of the tempo of his fights as he kept everything inside his game plan.
Nate Diaz wasn’t victorious for this event, as he struggled against the distance management, leg kicks, and wrestling throw-takedowns of Rory MacDonald.
UFC 189: Mendes vs McGregor (2015)
UFC 189 goes down in the history books for the beginning of the true notoriety of Conor McGregor. While it was expected to be the original face-off between the then UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and McGregor, Aldo pulled out due to injury.
Then steps in the alternative, Chad Mendes, for the Interim title. McGregor had an extra barrier put in his place before obtaining that Featherweight belt.
McGregor had undoubtedly trained hard for this event as he was expecting to go up against Jose Aldo, who is still considered one of the most diverse fighters of MMA and was in his prime back in 2015. He went in hard against Mendes in this fight, opening with spinning back kicks and wild taunts.
But Mendes put up a fight early on, taking down McGregor to the mat with ease and getting in a fair few significant strikes of his own as history shows us with McGregor, while an expert clinical striker, he’s not impervious to receiving heavy hits himself.
Conor and Chad went at it hard with heavy strikes, and the Irishman had to defend himself off his back on the ground late in the first round and well into the second. But late into the second round, McGregor recovered to his feet with a couple of intelligent submission reversals and met an exhausted Mendes on the feet to quickly finish him with punching strikes.
UFC 189 also featured a slugfest between legend Robbie Lawler and Rory Macdonald. We also got to see Gunnar Nelson and a young Cody Garbrandt.
UFC 194: Aldo vs McGregor (2015)
McGregor’s rise to elite fame was fully realized after his swift knockout of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 to win the Featherweight belt. Conor had been waiting and preparing for this moment for some time after beating Chad Mendes for the interim belt at UFC 189.
Finally, Conor McGregor took his moment to catapult himself into stardom by doing something no one ever expected; knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds.
This colossal event surpassed $10 million at the gate, with potentially plenty more revenue to come in online streaming.
The attraction wasn’t just Conor and Jose, though, as many other great fights took place in the main and preliminary cards:
- Luke Rockhold vs Chris Weidman
- Yoel Romero vs Ronaldo Souza
- Demian Maia vs Gunnar Nelson
- Max Holloway vs Jeremy Stephens
- Urijah Faber vs Frankie Saenz
Overall, it was a blockbuster event that excelled not just Conor McGregor but also the UFC as a recognized sport across the globe. Since this event, the UFC has seen more remarkable strides in viewership and revenue.
UFC 200: Tate vs Nunes (2016)
The 200th UFC main event had plenty of bells and whistles, which didn’t disappoint. While the top fight was initially intended to be the rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor at Welterweight, we saw Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate throw down, becoming one of Nunes’ iconic victories that sent her into a dominating winning streak.
The card also featured a return of Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt, a surprising matchup of Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva at Light Heavyweight, and Jose Aldo going up against Frankie Edgar.
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Interestingly, it was reported that Brock Lesnar pocketed $2.5 million for this event. Five times more payout than any other name on the card. It’s likely a reason that Lesnar kept coming back for more in the UFC; he brought a big audience from WWE wrestling and could claim a hefty pay packet for himself for that.
This event had plenty of other great fights, including a stacked undercard:
- Julianna Peña vs Cat Zingano
- Kelvin Gastelum vs Johny Hendricks
- T.J. Dillashaw vs Raphael Assunção
- Joe Lauzon vs Diego Sanchez
UFC 200 gained their most significant revenue at the gate to date, amassing over $10 million and setting the new record for an MMA event in the USA.
UFC 202: Diaz vs McGregor 2 (2016)
The stage for UFC 202 was set well before it took place as Conor McGregor went up against Nate Diaz just a few main events previous at UFC 196 due to a rear-naked choke. On top of that, the two were set to rematch for the big UFC 200, but it was delayed on account of McGregor’s busy media schedule.
In any case, McGregor outdid himself by being exceptionally well prepared in his return fight against Diaz. Nate has always displayed a diverse ability on the ground and on his feet. He’s a black belt in BJJ and has consistently shown that he can out-box almost anyone on his best day.
In their previous fight, Conor took a battering on the feet and was then out skilled with ground control by Nate and eventually submitted.
In the rematch, Conor opened early with solid leg kicks to affect Nate’s balance and wait for accurate strikes to the head. A tactic that has worked against Nate in previous fights, and undoubtedly the entire McGregor team was well aware of leading into this one.
Where Conor usually enters fights with a burst early on to baffle his opponents, he came into the second matchup between them with a lot more patience, tactical precision, and keeping the fight where he wanted it; fighting off the center of the octagon and delivering crippling leg strikes until the left hand met the chin and dropped Diaz on multiple occasions.
Late into the second round, Conor’s gas tank started to deplete (as it usually does) when Nate began to display a second wind despite already being knocked down several times.
As Dominick Cruz said about the matchup:
“I don’t know if Conor McGregor has a fighting style that can go for five rounds.”Dominick Cruz
Diaz brought McGregor into a heavy beat ’em up against the cage in the third round, pushing the Irishman to his absolute limits. He constantly becomes out of breath and is seen taking heavy breaths between rounds three and four.
But the fourth round sees McGregor start to overtake Diaz in striking ability, cutting open Nate’s eyebrow and forcing him to push up against the cage to grapple.
The fight pushes into the fifth and final round, where Conor has rarely entered during his career. Both fighters are drained, panting and walking around the cage to catch a breather (mostly Conor).
But Conor is still delivering combination shots to Nate in the fifth round and slipping plenty of attacks. Nate continues to push Conor against the fence and try to complete takedowns, unsuccessfully, as Conor’s training camp has prepared him to stay up and win on the feet.
Despite everything Nate brought against Conor on the feet and up against the cage, it wasn’t enough. Nate lands a takedown in the final seconds of the fight, and the two are covered in blood to end one of the most exciting fights in UFC history. Conor wins the rematch by majority decision and recovers his status.
UFC 202 and this electrifying main fight made me a huge fan of Conor McGregor and deepened my passion for this sport. But there wasn’t just these two legends slugging it out. There were a few other great fights to note:
- Anthony Johnson vs Glover Teixeira
- Donald Cerrone vs Rick Story
- Mike Perry vs Lim Hyun-Gyu
- Cody Garbrandt vs Takeya Mizugaki
- Artem Lobov vs Chris Avila
- Colby Covington vs Max Griffin
This was just one of the most significant events in UFC history, and there are many more on this list, but it sure was one of my personal highlights.
UFC 205: Alvarez vs McGregor (2016)
Within the same year of his war against Nate Diaz, McGregor is back in action to go up against Eddie Alvarez.
At the time, Conor was the UFC Featherweight Champion. Eddie Alvarez was the UFC Lightweight Champion. This was the second time in UFC history that two champions of different divisions would fight for the same title.
This was a chance for Conor McGregor to hold his Featherweight belt and weigh up to fight Alvarez for his Lightweight title.
The previous cross-division competitor failed (BJ Penn vs. Georges St-Pierre back at UFC 94). Conor McGregor was the first to succeed by beating Eddie Alvarez to claim his title and became UFC’s first two-division Championship belt holder.
Not only did Conor break records with the UFC, but the UFC promotion themselves also broke several too.
The event totaled over $17 million at the gate, making it their highest-grossing fight event since UFC 129. These same earnings broke the record for the venue, Madison Square Garden.
It was also the first sanctioned MMA event in New York City – ever! Which came after the ban on MMA was lifted in 2016 partly due to bold moves by Dana White and the UFC to declare Madison Square Garden as their venue before even being officially accepted the law lifted which forbade it.
While Conor McGregor was making world records, there were plenty of other amazing fights on the card that are well worth watching, including:
- Tyron Woodley vs Stephen Thompson (Fight Of The Night)
- Joanna Jędrzejczyk vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz
- Yoel Romero vs Chris Weidman
- Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Michael Johnson
UFC 217: Bisping vs St-Pierre (2017)
At UFC 217, we got to see two legendary fighters go at it for three rounds until the perfect choke with Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre. Britain vs. Canada. The cockney vs. the French-accented genius.
Michael Bisping held the Middleweight Championship belt at the time. And after a break of four years from competitive action, GSP returned to take on Bisping at the demands of the fans and MMA community to create this dream fight a reality.
Georges proved himself once again as one of the most diverse mixed martial artists on the planet, sparring with Bisping for the majority of three rounds before changing tactics suddenly to take Bisping down to the mat and submit him.
We also enjoyed seeing many other great names on the card. It really was STACKED when you consider how key some of these names are in today’s MMA landscape.
Some of the other great fights for UFC 217 were:
- T.J. Dillashaw vs Cody Garbrandt
- Rose Namajunas vs Joanna Jędrzejczyk
- Stephen Thompson vs Jorge Masvidal
- Paulo Costa vs Johny Hendricks
- Ovince Saint Preux vs Corey Anderson
- Curtis Blaydes vs Alexey Oleynik
UFC 229: Khabib vs McGregor (2018)
Dana White pitted UFC 229 as “the biggest in UFC history.” And he wasn’t far wrong as the event generated gate revenue over $17 million, and it set the record for the biggest MMA pay-per-view event with 2.4 million buys.
The drama, hype, steam, build-up – whatever you want to call it! – was extremely high for this event.
When he became the Champ Champ Champ, Conor McGregor had already woken the entire sporting world by holding two Championship belts in two weight divisions and Khabib Nurmagomedov, his opponent, had a 26-0 undefeated fight record.
The title fight was to crown, once again, either as the new Lightweight champion. While McGregor previously won the belt back at UFC 205, it became vacated as he took time off fighting around his first child being born and taking on Floyd Mayweather in a boxing exhibition.
As you’ll likely already know, McGregor fought off takedowns and ground control attempts from Khabib deep into the fourth round but inevitably succumbed to the lossless submission expertise of Khabib as he made McGregor tap with a neck crank.
There was plenty more action on this card worth watching, including:
- Tony Ferguson vs Anthony Pettis
- Dominick Reyes vs Ovince Saint Preux
- Derrick Lewis vs Alexander Volkov
- Michelle Waterson vs Felice Herrig
UFC 239: Jones vs Santos (2019)
UFC 239 was set to see two heavyweight storm breakers face-off, and although Bones (Jones) and The Sledgehammer (Santos) pleased the fans with a five-round split decision fight, UFC 239 will likely always be remembered for one of the fastest knockouts in UFC history.
Jon “Bones” Jones threw down hard with Thiago Santos. Jones commented in a post-fight interview how Santos pushed him to his limits with heavy shots; there’s a reason they call him “The Sledgehammer.”
Even as a Light Heavyweight bout for the belt, both fighters displayed a flexible variety in their skills, not only to throw heavy strikes but plenty of head kicks, knee attacks, and spinning back kicks.
Jorge Masvidal knocked out Ben Askren in 5 seconds. As a wrestling champion, Askren drove straight at Masvidal’s mid-section to take him down. Unfortunately for him, Masvidal went straight back with a flying knee, meeting Ben Askren right on the chin and knocking him out cold.
We saw many amazing fights this night, such as Amanda Nunes proving she was the deserving undisputed Bantamweight champion by taking out Holly Holm and becoming the GOAT of women’s MMA.
More great fights on this card that are worth seeing are:
- Jan Blachowicz vs Luke Rockhold
- Michael Chiesa vs Diego Sanchez
- Song Yadong vs Alejandro Pérez
That’s been our list of the best UFC events of all time! I hope by now you’ll have an ideal hit-list to go back in time and relive some of these great moments in UFC history. Do you think I missed any events that should be here? Let me know in the comments!