This weekend UFC Middleweight Champion Alex Pereira and former Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya will meet in the Main Event of UFC 287, fighting for the fourth time across two combat sports. Pereira is 3-0 against Adesanya, who until their most recent fight, was unblemished in the Middleweight division. Adesanya and Pereira have a heated rivalry spanning two sports, three organizations, and seven years. In anticipation of the climax of this rivalry, I will highlight some of the greatest rivalries in UFC history.
5.) Chuck Liddell & Tito Ortiz
#OnThisDay in 2004…
The Liddell and Ortiz rivalry began! 👊 pic.twitter.com/H7vfNSEony
— UFC (@ufc) April 2, 2019
Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, at one time friends and training partners, would quickly turn into one of the more heated and entertaining UFC rivalries and trilogies. Similar to Adesanya and Pereira, this rivalry would span across many years and multiple promotions. The two first fought in 2004 at UFC 47, where Chuck Lidell would win by early second round knockout. One year later, Liddell would knockout Randy Couture for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, beginning his historic run of four straight title defenses won by KO. Liddell and Ortiz would meet for the second time in 2006, for Liddell’s fourth title defense. Ortiz would make a better showing of himself than he did in their first bout, but would face the same outcome. Liddell would once again finish Ortiz with strikes, claiming a 2-0 trouncing of Ortiz. For over a decade this was a closed rivalry that Ortiz would never get an opportunity to alter, until the two would be scheduled to fight in 2018 as the Main Event of Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy MMA promotion. Many fans were unhappy with the match even being made, as Liddell had been out of competition since 2010 and had lost his last four fights by KO. As many expected, Liddell looked like someone that hadn’t won a fight in 11 years, and Ortiz got to claim his one victory in a very unfortunate ending to one of the great rivalries of the mid 2000s.
4.) Cain Velasquez & Junior Dos Santos
2 minutes and a bit of Cain Velasquez giving Junior Dos Santos a miserable time in their second fight.@cainmma became the first fighter in the UFC to land over 100 significant strikes and 10 takedowns in a single fight with this performance. pic.twitter.com/3S8qGONuFg
— The Honest Jones Fan (@SmackdownLayer) February 3, 2023
“Cardio” Cain Velasquez is considered by many to be the greatest UFC Heavyweight Champion of all time, but he had to get through a treacherous trilogy with Junior Dos Santos before he could claim such a title. Velasquez would secure the Heavyweight title with a dominant first round finish of Brock Lesnar in October of 2010. One year later, Velasquez was scheduled to fight Junior Dos Santos for his first title defense. JDS shocked the MMA world, starching Velasquez just one minute into the fight and unknowingly beginning a three year title fight trilogy between the two. Velasquez would bounce back quickly, defeating Antonio Silva by first round knockout as the Co-Main Event to Dos Santos’ first title defense over Frank Mir. After both winning in dominant fashion on the same card, it only made sense for the two to run it back. The second installation of the rivalry would go the exact opposite of the first. After Dos Santos won the first meeting by early finish, Cain Velasquez would take his belt back in a twenty five minute, dominant, ugly, one sided decision victory. After seeing the two fight a full five minutes, it was most fans’ consensus that Velasquez was clearly the better, more well rounded fighter that just happened to get caught in their first meeting. The two would meet again one year later to conclude the rivalry that defined Heavyweight MMA in the 2010s. Cain Velasquez would make it clear that he is in fact the better fighter, dominating the fight over 20+ minutes and eventually finishing Dos Santos in the fifth round just to put a cherry on top .
3.) Conor McGregor & Nate Diaz
7 years ago today
Nate Diaz submits Conor McGregor
Via Rear-Naked Choke in Round 2 pic.twitter.com/Tyb37qDB6t
— Ocelot MMA (@Ocelot_MMA) March 5, 2023
Obviously there would’ve been multiple options for Conor McGregor when writing this article; Khabib, Nate, Dustin, Aldo, etc. So I went with what I find to be objectively the most fun rivalry he’s been a part of. This entry also has to be by far the most unorthodox rivalry in this list, as McGregor was the sitting Featherweight Champion, and went all the way up to welterweight to fight Diaz. McGregor had just defeated Jose Aldo for the undisputed UFC Featherweight Championship, when one simple call-out from fan favorite Nate Diaz, would bring McGregor all the way up to the welterweight division for a modern super-fight. Diaz would shock the world, submitting McGregor in the second round after taking everything the featherweight champion could throw at him in the first round. Diaz would take the mic from Joe Rogan after the massive upset, exclaiming the now famous words “I’m not surprised mother*****r”. Five months and a whole lot of trash talk later, McGregor would get his second shot at the Stockton slap. McGregor would come in with a much more cool and collected gameplan, picking apart Diaz with leg kicks and being considerably more cautious of his gas tank. Diaz did win late rounds and McGregor slowed down, but Conor would avenge his loss with a 48-47 Majority Decision.
2.) Chael Sonnen & Anderson Silva
#OnThisDay TEN years ago… 📆
🏆 Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen gave us a fight & comeback for the ages.
📺 Watch more on @UFCFightPass now! pic.twitter.com/YmdIrUNi1v
— UFC (@ufc) August 7, 2020
Chael “Bad Guy ” Sonnen is the most prolific trash talker in the history of the sport, and some of his best soundbites came in anticipation for his two title fights against Anderson Silva. At the time Anderson was the pound for pound best fighter in the sport, preparing for seventh title defense against Sonnen. Sonnen earned his title shot with a good streak of wins in the division and a hefty streak of classic moments on the microphone. Silva closed a heavy -460 betting favorite and many MMA fans anticipated a one sided fight. Which for the first 24 minutes of the fight, it would be. However, it was in Sonnen’s favor. Chael dominated the first four rounds of the fight in top control, and would do the same for the first three minutes of the fifth and final round. Somehow, Silva caught Sonnen in a triangle choke, tapping him with less than 2 minutes left in the fight. Sonnen did not let this opportunity go, having lines prepared to call out Silva at every and any given opportunity. After a 2011 win over Brian Stann, Sonnen would grab the microphone from Joe Rogan, exclaiming “Anderson Silva, you absolutely suck” to the Champion who was in attendance of the fight. The second fight didn’t go nearly as well for Sonnen who went for an errant spinning backfist throwing himself to the floor against their cage, where Silva would quickly finish him by TKO.
1.) Jon Jones & Daniel Cormier
Four years ago today, Jon Jones knocked out Daniel Cormier to regain the light heavyweight title
— Alex Behunin (@AlexBehunin) July 29, 2021
Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier had easily the most heated and real rivalry of anyone on this list. The two genuinely did not and do not like each other to this day. The trash talk was personal, and the physical altercations started before the two even entered the Octagon. The rivalry began when the two met backstage at UFC 121 in 2010 and would only get worse from there. The two would eventually meet in the cage in 2015 to fight for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 182. Jones was better than Cormier in every facet of the sport, winning a rather one-sided 49-46 Unanimous Decision. After their first fight, Jones would have some troubles of his own outside of the cage, having to vacate his title. Cormier then defeated Anthony Johnson for the vacant title, setting up one of the most anticipated rematches in the history of the company. The trash talk was even heavier and even more personal and emotional, particularly from Cormier. Typically a good guy figure in the sport, Cormier was cursing at Jones on national television, calling him a coke-head and a drug cheat and everything you would expect from a fan on reddit not a professional fighter and UFC commentator. Jones would finish the rivalry as convincing as possible, with a third round head kick followed by a barrage of strikes, finishing Cormier and their rivalry.