What 50 UFC match-ups, no matter how realistic the chance such fights would happen, leave fans wondering how things would play out.
When it comes to the UFC, let alone MMA and other combat sports in general, fans expect to see the best face the best. But there are some matchups, for one reason or another, that don’t work out or don’t get booked. And the fans are left wondering to imagine what could have been.
And while there are those matchups that could have been, there are also those fights that could only play out in imaginations or the UFC video games. Perhaps it’s two champions each focused on their own title and challengers — especially during the time before obsessions of being a champ-champ were a thing. Perhaps two fighters had an extreme difference in weight class — and such a fight wouldn’t be sanctioned by any commission under the Unified Rules of MMA. Maybe, it’s simply a matter of one fighter arriving on the scene and raising his stock as another’s profile starts to wind down.
In this list, we’re going to celebrate “dream matches” and list 50 of them here. For this list, we’re looking at some of the best matches that either could not or have not been made, desired matches and rematches that never ended up taking place, or big missed opportunities by the UFC. When mentioning the athletes here, we are not necessarily talking about the athlete of today, but rather when he/she was in fighting prime.
A big caveat: all fighters on this list must have fought at least once inside the UFC’s Octagon — so those of you hoping to see Amanda Nunes vs. Gina Carano, or Randy Couture/Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor Emelianenko, on this list are out of luck.
Now, while this is supposed to be a “for fun” list, not everyone has the same taste in dream matches. Some try to pair the best in one generation, some go for past vs. present and some ideas come completely out of left field altogether. There are 50 spots on this list, but there are plenty of fight ideas writers and readers can all come up with.
So, let’s briefly give some recognition to a variety of honorable mentions:
- Michael Bisping vs. Darren Till: The past vs. the present of British MMA.
- Julianna Pena vs. Macy Chiasson: Wouldn’t it be unique to have a first TUF winner facing a most recent winner? Unfortunately, Juan Espino has not fought since winning the season 28 heavyweight tournament. But it wouldn’t be as farfetched an idea to stick Macy Chiasson, the other season 28 winner, against Julianna Pena, who won the first women’s TUF competition in 2013.
- Vitor Belfort vs. Thiago Santos: One of the original Brazilian powerhouses of MMA and one of the most hyped Brazilian stars of modern times.
- Anderson Silva vs. Wanderlei Silva: Two of the greatest fighters to ever come out of Brazil and both former champions. But who was the greater champion?
- Royce Gracie vs. Demian Maia: This one’s for all the grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu fans out there. An influence on the UFC vs. one of the promotion’s modern ground greats. This would be a true “master of the game vs. student of the game” matchup.
- Tai Tuivasa vs. Mark Hunt: Two Oceanic fan favorites, both with pro boxing and kickboxing bouts in addition to their MMA careers. Australian and New Zealand fight fans might be hyped for Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya right now, but putting these two up against one another might be another fight celebrated there.
- Stephen Thompson vs. Lyoto Machida: A battle of two of the greatest strikers to have ever stepped into the Octagon.
- Vitor Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva 2: They weren’t the names we know today when they first met at UFC Brazil, where Belfort knocked Silva out in just 44 seconds. Both men went on to achieve success as two of the greatest to come out of Brazil but never met again following this clash, and a prime Belfort vs. prime Silva should look completely different.
That all out of the way, here are the top 50 UFC “dream fights” that fans would die to see.