Ultimate Fighting Championship: Trilogy
I’d love to give Matt Serra his second chance at being Rocky and challenging welterweight king Georges St-Pierre for their third bout, but that is as likely as Transformers III being any good. There are, however, some trilogies available on the UFC’s current roster that need to be made for the sake of fans, fighters and facial reconstructive surgeons alike.
Spencer Fisher vs. Sam Stout III
Spencer Fisher is the type of fighter who creates dynamite with anyone who’s across the cage from him—even if he has to cut roughly 20-pounds in two days as he did against Sam Stout at UFC 58 in Las Vegas back in 2006.
Stout barely pulled away from a visibly tried Fisher to win the split decision. The fight was so good it took them from the unaired portion of the card to a headlining slot on at “UFC Fight Night 10” 15 months later. The second bout was also a standing war of attrition with a prepared Fisher winning a unanimous decision. The two won their last fights, but have largely seen mixed results thanks to each other. The UFC should give the two lightweights a chance to pull off a Gatti-Ward of MMA or at least see a finish for once.
Mark Coleman vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua III
Mark Coleman asserted he won his PRIDE 31 bout with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in 2006 because Rua didn’t know posting up on an arm to stop a takedown snaps the arm—rudimentary wrestling. Rua claimed it was a freak injury and the former Ohio State University and Olympic wrestler had nothing for the PRIDE 205-pound 2005 Grand Prix winner. The two settled it in the Octagon at UFC 93 in Dublin, Ireland roughly three years later.
The rematch was so atrocious—both tired hard and fast—popular sentiment was neither had anything left in the sport. However, the rebound has been kind to Coleman and Rua. Rua returned to form, viciously knocking out newly minted UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell at UFC 97 in Montreal early this year. Coleman, who first fought in MMA at UFC 10, also returned to form at UFC 100 this past weekend, outworking Stephan Bonnar despite a 12-year age gap.
The rivalry between these two is deeply personal and there’s footage to prove it. They won “Fight of the Night” honors at UFC 93 by delivering a dramatic fight—according to Mark Coleman, a fight that was stopped early—even when appearing in terrible form. Should Rua lose to light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 104 in October, let Coleman continue his comeback track against the Brazilian sniper after looking better than he has in nine years or force him to climb to the top for another chance at Rua.
B.J. Penn vs. Matt Hughes III
Georges St-Pierre’s thrashing of B.J. Penn at UFC 94 in their second bout left little desire to see the 155-pound Penn compete at 170-pounds again. That won’t stop Penn from fighting there, though. Guide his aim toward former welterweight champion Matt Hughes and he will gladly leave behind his lightweight belt (if Kenny Florian doesn’t take it from him at UFC 101 in August) to take on the former champ.
For Hughes, few fights motivate him at this point in his illustrious career. He has the confidence of winning their last contest and seeing St-Pierre manhandle him with size and technique to match—two traits he believed would make their first bout nothing to write home about. But it was. Penn submitted him in the first round. The rivalry extends back to that fateful UFC 46 event in 2004. While both are relatively young, nearly 20 years in the sport between them has both speaking openly about retirement.
There are few who can sell a fight like these two. They are some of the most profitable stars in the UFC and genuinely would like to leave behind the first two bouts with an emphatic third fight. For Hughes, it provides another super-fight he cannot get while St. Pierre, who destroyed him twice, is champion. For Penn, it gives credence to his insane weight gain journey and, like Hughes, allows him to compete in a super-fight he cannot get at this point in his own division or from anyone else above him.
Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir III
This is an easy explanation: hype. The first bout generated an incredible amount of attention considering Lesnar was an MMA neophyte at UFC 81 in 2008 and Mir was mostly serving up post-motorcycle accident disappointments. Lesnar attributed the outcome of the fight—a kneebar loss—to shoddy referring. He returned to defeat Mir at UFC 100 this past weekend and turned himself into a caged villain with his post-fight antics, which included trying to pick a fight with Mir by stepping up and mouthing off to the man he just defeated, still dazed and unaware of what happened. Mir can parlay Lesnar’s disrespect into a major payday and a chance to complete his comeback tour as he imagined he would at UFC 100.
First, Lesnar likely deals with the winner of UFC 103’s co-main event between Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez, while Mir waits it out or tries to get a recovery win. Should Lesnar lose, the fight can be made immediately. Otherwise, Mir will have to keep his mental game in tact long enough to get past the short list of heavyweight contenders.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Dan Henderson III
Two classic battles, two different winners and two dissatisfied groups of fans. Wanderlei Silva’s fans are rabid and unwavering in supporting “The Axe Murderer.” Meanwhile, Dan Henderson’s fans appreciate his blue collar approach to fighting.
They first met in 2000 at PRIDE 12, Henderson’s first classic. He brought the fight to the revered Brazilian and never backed down. Silva won a decision and kept that momentum going—becoming PRIDE’s first 205-pound champion—until Henderson’s left hand derailed it in 2007 at PRIDE 33 in Las Vegas.
In the nine years since their first bout, the combatants haven’t changed. They are in-ring killers only thrilled by deep-water competition. They are still some of the best and most vicious in the world. They are willing to fight between middleweight and heavyweight and would love a 195-pound catch weight so weight is not an issue. Sure, they are decisively on opposite end of the win column these days—Silva seemingly has never recovered from Henderson’s left hook—but their desire to hurt each other and constantly increasing popularity leaves them only a fight away from settling one of the best 1-1 splits in MMA history.