You’ve probably heard the old adage: “Bad things happen in threes.” However, as far as MMA is concerned, a trilogy is a thing of beauty. Ultimately, the goal is to decide the better fighter. When the series is tied at one victory a piece, the winner of the rubber match can rest assured that he is the man. Here are three trilogies that lived up to the hype and left us with just one more question: Why not fight the best three out of five?
3. Shinya Aoki vs. Joachim Hansen
PRIDE Shockwave (12/31/06)
DREAM 5 (7/21/08)
DREAM 11 (10/6/09)
The first fight between these two top-flight lightweights resulted in a highlight reel submission by the Japanese wizard. Aoki pulled off what was deemed by many as the first gogo plata in major MMA competition.
Hansen would have his day in the sun at the DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix, filling in for the injured Eddie Alvarez in the finals. Just past the four-minute mark, Hansen reigned down punches from top position until Aoki could take no more.
The rubber match was about a year later—with Hansen’s belt on the line. Aoki proved to be the better man again. This time, it was a second-round arm bar that earned him the title he still holds today.
2. Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes
UFC 50 (10/22/04)
UFC 65 (11/18/06)
UFC 79 (12/29/07)
In the first fight, 23-year-old St-Pierre took on the most dominant welterweight in the history of the MMA, with the vacant title on the line at UFC 50. It was a competitive and noble effort, but GSP would succumb to Hughes, with just one second remaining in the first round, via armbar.
Fights two and three would be much different stories, as GSP took total control and dominated all facets of both matchups. In the second fight, GSP punished Hughes with a devastating leg kick and finished him off with vicious ground-n-pound. The rubber at UFC 79 saw GSP control all the action and lock in an armbar in the second round. GSP has been unstoppable ever since.
1. Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture
UFC 43 (6/3/03)
UFC 52 (4/16/05)
UFC 57 (2/4/06)
Arguably the two most high profile MMA stars of all-time squared off in an epic trilogy that galvanized droves of fans from start to finish. Little did we know when it began that then 39-year-old Randy Couture would start a career resurrection by knocking out the knockout artist Liddell at UFC 43 to earn the interim title. It was the first time in his career that Liddell had lost due to strikes.
The light heavyweight championship would be on the line at UFC 52 and UFC 57, however, in both instances, the tables had turned. It was evident that Liddell was no longer taking Couture lightly nor was he going to let him dictate the standup game. Liddell would win both there match and the rubber match with spectacular KO’s. It will be a very long time before a trilogy comes close to topping this one.