COMMENTARY | When Dominick Cruz pulled out of his slated UFC 169 bout with Renan Barao due to injury, it cost him his title and allowed Urijah Faber another shot at both Barao and UFC glory in a rematch for the belt.
If Faber were to win, it wouldn't be the first time that a competitor had lost to a fighter previously in his career, only to come back and win a belt from him later on.
Along with this, check out our list of the top 10 MMA rematches for the belt where the initial loser turned things around.
The Criteria: Only rematches for a major MMA title where a fighter lost the first time and won the second time made the list. The stage, dominance of the rematch winner, and level of surprise regarding the result were also considered.
10. Wanderlei Silva defeats Ricardo Arona by split decision at PRIDE Shockwave 2005 (12/31/05): Earlier in 2005, Arona defeated Silva in the famed PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix with ground and pound, ending his undefeated run at middleweight in the organization (non-title fight). This prompted a rematch at PRIDE Shockwave 2005, where Silva was able to stay on his feet long enough to take home a split decision.
Huge stage (this was Silva in PRIDE, folks) and mildly surprising, but the win could not have been less decisive.
9. Dominick Cruz defeats Urijah Faber by unanimous decision at UFC 132 (7/2/11): The first time these two fought, Cruz lost by first-round guillotine choke in his WEC debut (2007). But in their rematch for the UFC bantamweight title, the two engaged in a mostly stand-up battle where Cruz was able to use footwork, pinpoint striking, and late takedowns to take home a close decision.
A hyped bantamweight battle. That said, not a surprising nor a particularly decisive result.
8. Tim Sylvia defeats Andrei Arlovski by TKO at UFC 59 (4/15/06): In 2005, Sylvia fell to Arlovski by way of Achilles Lock. But at UFC 59, the big man was floored by a punch before getting up, landing an uppercut, and finally ending things with hammerfists.
The clout surrounding the UFC heavyweight division was not nearly what it is today (considered weak even at the time). But there was significant surprise in the outcome, and it was a knockout, albeit one that was scored while Sylvia was on buckling legs.
7. Georges St. Pierre defeats Matt Serra by second-round TKO at UFC 83 (4/19/08): The day St. Pierre lost by a barrage of strikes to Serra at UFC 69 (2007) still serves as the great upset in MMA history. But when Rush got a hold of Serra in Montreal, he put a grappling-related beating on him with knees to the body that most won't soon forget.
Nearly everyone expected a St. Pierre victory. But the win was still decisive, and doing it in Canada made it one of the bigger stages on this list.
6. Dan Henderson defeats Wanderlei Silva via third-round KO at PRIDE 33 (2/24/07): Way back in 2000, Silva defeated Henderson at PRIDE 12 in Henderson's organizational debut. By the time the two met again at PRIDE 33, Silva had become the organization's longtime middleweight king. So when Henderson finished "The Axe Murderer" with a spinning backfist followed by a left hook-right hand combination it sent shockwaves.
Henderson had won five of his last six, so this was not a shocker. That said, it was a decisive victory on a big stage.
5. Matt Hughes defeats BJ Penn by third-round TKO at UFC 63 (9/23/06): The first time these two fought in 2004, Penn pulled off a huge upset by way of first-round rear-naked choke. Though Penn dominated the rematch early, nearly submitting Hughes, he eventually gassed under Hughes's pressure. This led to a crucifix position, ground and pound style TKO victory for Hughes.
At the time, this was an enormous stage. It was also a decisive, comeback win. As for surprising -- would not have been regardless of the winner.
4. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua defeats Lyoto Machida by first-round KO at UFC 113 (5/8/10): Machida had won a controversial decision over Rua just one fight earlier at UFC 104. In the rematch, Rua landed a hard right hand that dropped "The Dragon" and finished things on the canvas.
A big stage -- but not all that surprising considering the first fight. Though the ending -- a knockout -- certainly was.
3. Cain Velasquez defeats Junior dos Santos by unanimous decision at UFC 155 (12/30/12): The first time these two fought, dos Santos knocked Velasquez out quickly on the first televised UFC on FOX bout ever. People were thinking that his fists would likely do the same in the rematch. Instead, Velasquez dominated with some of the most amazing cardio-driven ground and pound the heavyweight division has ever seen.
Huge stage, somewhat surprising result, and as decisive a decision win as you can get.
2. Georges St. Pierre defeats Matt Hughes by second-round TKO at UFC 65 (11/18/06): At the time, Hughes was clearly the greatest welterweight of all time. He had already defeated St. Pierre at UFC 50 by first-round armbar. So as good as St. Pierre had been looking -- and he was truly dominant -- it was surprising when the Canadian came out and floored Hughes with a first-round Superman punch, and ended things with a head kick followed by punches in the second.
Huge stage, and a somewhat surprising outcome, especially considering the dominance.
1. Chuck Liddell defeats Randy Couture by first-round KO at UFC 52 (4/16/05): A battle between TUF 1 coaches, which was the show that put MMA on the map, so the fight was HUGE. Couture was a pretty significant favorite leading into the match, considering how he had dominated with ground and pound in their first fight at UFC 43 (2003). And a first-round knockout is about as decisive as one can get, which is what Liddell was able to pull off.
All together, this was the greatest MMA turnaround for the belt in the history of the sport.
Robert currently serves as the About.com Martial Arts Expert. His freelance martial arts articles have seen their way to the pages of MMAFighting.com, Fight! Magazine, MMAWeekly.com, ExtremeProSports.com, and SubmitToMMA.com.
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Wanderlei Silva
- Urijah Faber
- Dominick Cruz
- Dan Henderson
- Matt Hughes