Classic battles. Fighters pushing themselves beyond what they thought capable. Athleticism at its finest.
All of the above describe the Ultimate Fighting Championship at its best.
But for every classic Super Bowl that finished on an Adam Vinatieri field goal, there was one like Super Bowl XXVII, which is remembered for Leon Lett getting stripped of the ball from behind by Don Beebe as he approached the end zone for what he thought was an uncontested touchdown.
What is listed below, then, are the UFC's top moments remembered for being out of the out of the ordinary. Whether they were controversial, shocking, or just plain weird, the following were all the buzz of the industry the next day.
List compiled by Kevin Iole, Dave Meltzer, and Dave Doyle. Only numbered major UFC events were considered for this list. Thus, Ultimate Fight Night and Ultmate Fighter Finale events were not considered.
1. The finish to the first Matt Hughes-Carlos Newton match, UFC 34, Las Vegas, Nov. 2, 2001: Matt Hughes is regarded as the most dominant champion in UFC history, but his first welterweight title victory was anything but. Hughes was being choked out by defending champion Carlos Newton in the second round of their showdown. As a desperation move, Hughes picked up Newton for a huge slam and knocked him unconscious. Hughes also went out from the choke as he delivered the slam. But referee Big John McCarthy zeroed in on Newton instead of Hughes and called the fight off. Meanwhile, Hughes came to behind McCarthy's back, could clearly be heard asking "what happened?" and was told he won the title.
2. Gerard Gordeau kicks out Telia Tuli's teeth, UFC 1, Denver, Nov. 12 1993: The first UFC event was all about what would happened when fighters of all disciplines fought with minimal rules. It didn't take long to find out. In the first big blow thrown in the first-ever UFC match, kickboxer Gerard Gordeau nailed sumo Telia Tuli with a huge kick that knocked out four of Tuli's teeth. The referee was so stunned by the carnage that he immediately stopped the fight, even though in theory he had no power to do so. According to Clyde Gentry's book "No Holds Barred," one of the teeth ended up landing on the floor, next to an executive from Gold's Gym, who was considering sponsoring the UFC. He declined on the spot. Another tooth ended up embedded in Gordeau's foot, and the resulting infection hospitalized him back home in Holland.
3. Phil Baroni assaults referee Larry Landless, UFC 45, Uncasville, Conn., Nov. 21, 2003: Few fighters have gotten more attention while accomplishing less than Baroni, the self-proclaimed "New York Badass." His peak notoriety came after his first fight with the late Evan Tanner. Baroni got off to a fast start against Tanner, and had him in a bad spot when Landless called time to have Tanner's cut checked. After the restart, Tanner took control of the fight, and had Baroni in a bad way on the ground. Landless misheard Baroni when he asked Baroni if he was OK, causing Landless to call off the fight at 4:42 of the first round. Baroni claimed after the fight that he had not submitted, and he let Landless know his feelings by physically assaulting him. Baroni was suspended four months for his actions, and when he returned, dropped a unanimous decision in a Tanner rematch. Since the incident, Baroni has a record of 4-8 when fighting in major-league promotions.
4. Matt Serra knocks out Georges St. Pierre, UFC 69, Houston, April 7, 2007: It was supposed to be MMA's equivalent of one of those old-school pro wrestling television matches featuring a star in a one-sided match. The St. Pierre era had arrived. The new welterweight champion was supposed to roll over Serra, who earned a title shot by winning The Ultimate Fighter 4, en route to a much anticipated trilogy fight with former champ Matt Hughes. But Serra had other plans, as he rocked St. Pierre with an early right. GSP never recovered, as Serra, and 8-to-1 underdog, rolled to a TKO win in just 3:25 and become the most unlikely champion in the UFC's modern era.
5. Keith Hackney vs. Emmanuel Yarborough, UFC 3, Charlotte, Sept. 9, 1994: No match better illustrates the freewheeling days of the early-era UFC than this one, which is a YouTube classic. Hackney, the 5-foot-11, 190-lb. Kenpo karate specialist, met Yarborough, a 600-lb. sumo. An early exchange led to Yarborough shoving Hackney out the cage door. Soon after they restarted, Hackney dropped his enormous foe with a series of rights to the temple. Hackney then rained down about 30 uncontested punches to the downed Yarborough before referee John McCarthy stopped the match less than two minutes in.
Honorable mention: Art Jimmerson fighting Royce Gracie while wearing one boxing glove, UFC 1; Akihiro Gono entering the cage dressed in drag and performing a lip-synch routine to a Japanese disco song before his UFC 92 match with Jon Fitch; Jeff Monson's use of John Lennon's "Imagine" as entrance music, several events.
- Matt Hughes
- Phil Baroni