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UFC 303: The place does Alex Pereira vs. Jiri Prochazka 2 rank among the many finest alternative most important occasions?

Nobody rolls with the punches quite like Dana White and the UFC. Conor McGregor isn’t making that walk to the octagon this Saturday at UFC 303 (sorry, Michael Chandler), but in his place stands arguably the promotion’s most valuable player Alex Pereira to take on Jiri Prochazka. It’s an incredibly compelling main event, one that

UFC 303: The place does Alex Pereira vs. Jiri Prochazka 2 rank among the many finest alternative most important occasions?

No person rolls with the punches fairly like Dana White and the UFC.

Conor McGregor isn’t making that stroll to the octagon this Saturday at UFC 303 (sorry, Michael Chandler), however in his place stands arguably the promotion’s most valuable player Alex Pereira to tackle Jiri Prochazka. It’s an extremely compelling most important occasion, one that may even be higher than the initially scheduled headliner.

This isn’t the primary time that the UFC has pulled a rabbit out of its hat; frankly, the matchmakers have made it a behavior of falling upwards even underneath probably the most discouraging circumstances. However what’s been their finest magic trick?

Forward of Saturday’s present in Las Vegas, MMA Combating’s Alexander Ok. Lee and Jed Meshew tip their cap to the all-time alternative most important occasions, a handful of which modified the course of UFC historical past.

(Word: we didn’t embody matchups that had been already scheduled for a card and easily promoted to the primary occasion, nor did we think about most important occasions that had been already booked and simply rescheduled for one more date.)

Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz headline UFC 196 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

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Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz
Esther Lin, MMA Combating

Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 1 — UFC 196

Why did it occur?

Conor McGregor was to tackle light-weight champ Rafael dos Anjos, however in a twist that will have single-handedly despatched us spiraling into the darkest timeline, an harm compelled dos Anjos in and out stepped fan favourite Nate Diaz. It wasn’t utterly out of nowhere, as Diaz had beforehand made it clear that he felt McGregor was within the technique of taking the whole lot he’d labored for (motherf*cker).

How did it play out?

Disappointingly at first for McGregor and the UFC, however amazingly properly for everybody in the long term from a enterprise standpoint.

Diaz and McGregor did a improbable job increase the struggle, hitting all the fitting notes on the pre-fight press conferences and faceoffs, so when the time got here for them to really throw down, anticipation was at a fever pitch.

Then Diaz shocked the world, not solely surviving the vaunted McGregor Left Hand of Doom, however firing again in basic Stockton fashion. He beat McGregor so badly on the ft that it was truly McGregor who selected to take the struggle to the mat, which proved to be his undoing. Diaz subbed McGregor with a rear-naked choke to launch himself into superstardom, arrange a box-office shattering rematch, and push the UFC itself nearer to the unstoppable juggernaut you see at the moment.

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Severely, think about McGregor simply fought dos Anjos. — Lee

Michael Bisping vs. Luke Rockhold 2 — UFC 199

Why did it occur?

UFC 199 featured a rematch for the middleweight title, simply not the one we anticipated.

For years, Michael Bisping was the the man who couldn’t win the massive one. Heck, he couldn’t even get to the massive one, regularly falling only one struggle in need of competing for the title. However a three-fight win streak (together with a basic and controversial struggle with the legendary Anderson Silva) saved him hovering across the championship image and when Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman 2 fell by means of, enter Bisping.

It was a ridiculous situation contemplating that Rockhold manhandled Bisping the primary time they fought, so this was anticipated to be a stopgap till Weidman was able to struggle Rockhold once more.

How did it play out?

In probably the most shocking and uplifting approach possible.

Bisping was a large underdog given the truth that 19 months previous to their rematch, Rockhold principally knocked him out after which submitted him. Rockhold was wildly dismissive of Bisping as soon as the struggle began, carrying his palms down by his waist and his chin up within the air. For 3 minutes that didn’t harm him, however after a very lazy effort the place Rockhold leapt in with a jab, Bisping returned with a mix, beautiful the middleweight champion with a left hook, after which pouring on the offense to tug off one of many biggest upsets in UFC historical past. — Meshew

Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua 1 — UFC 139

Why did it occur?

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This UFC Corridor of Fame inductee has develop into so revered that everybody forgets it was not the initially deliberate headliner for UFC 139.

The occasion passed off after the UFC’s history-making debut on FOX in 2011, and a few reshuffling needed to be completed to correctly usher within the new period. UFC 139’s extremely anticipated heavyweight title struggle between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos was moved again per week to the inaugural FOX card, and MMA lifers Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua as a substitute obtained the decision to shut out a pay-per-view.

How did it play out?

We obtained one of many 10 finest fights of all time, so fairly good!

I even have a definite reminiscence of watching this one in a half-filled Boston Pizza, with the shoppers principally being a mixture of hardcores and folks on the lookout for a fast hen wing repair that most likely didn’t even know there was a UFC pay-per-view on that night time. It wasn’t a nasty card, however the diners didn’t actually come to life till the primary occasion.

Henderson and Shogun instantly lit the octagon ablaze with hard-hitting exchanges. Henderson rocked Shogun together with his signature H-Bomb proper hand, however one way or the other his fellow PRIDE legend survived and made it to the championship rounds (which the UFC had solely just lately launched for non-title most important occasions).

Shogun grounded Henderson in Rounds 4 and 5 and simply laid into him with heavy punches. Now it was Henderson’s flip to outlive and he did, hanging on for a unanimous resolution. The 2 ran it again in 2014 with Henderson definitively placing Shogun down for the depend, however that first struggle is unforgettable. — Lee

Yair Rodriguez vs. The Korean Zombie — UFC Denver (November 2018)

Why did it occur?

A dream struggle between Frankie Edgar and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung was set to go down in Denver to ring within the twenty fifth anniversary of UFC 1, however Edgar suffered an harm and was changed by a fighter he demolished at UFC 211, Yair Rodriguez.

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This was really sudden as Rodriguez was concerned in a chronic dispute with the UFC over the fighter allegedly declining fights to the purpose that he was reportedly launched. Nonetheless, everybody made good and “El Pantera” was immediately set to struggle the Zombie.

How did it play out?

Simply seven months previous to this struggle, Zombie made his return to MMA from army service with a scintillating knockout of Dennis Bermudez. Then he harm his knee and there have been as soon as once more questions on what Zombie would appear like. Properly, for twenty-four minutes and 58 seconds, Zombie seemed unbelievable. Zombie battered Rodriguez across the cage for the complete struggle and with seconds left within the bout, it was clear that Zombie was about to win a choice.

Till he didn’t.

Ever the showman, Zombie charged in with simply seconds left. It was a disastrous resolution as Rodriguez slipped Zombie’s rush, throwing a again/up elbow that landed completely on the chin and instantly slumped Zombie face first to the canvas.

A literal last-second knockout that can also be fairly presumably the best KO in UFC historical past. — Meshew

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Yair Rodriguez and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung
Esther Lin, MMA Combating

Steve Jennum vs. Harold Howard — UFC 3

Why did it occur?

That is the unique last-minute UFC repair.

Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie had been anticipated to run by means of their UFC 3 competitors and meet in a rematch from UFC 1, however Shamrock was injured after successful his semifinal bout and Gracie bowed out of the semis altogether, chucking up the sponge previous to his struggle with Harold Howard.

Again in then, the one contingency that the matchmakers considered within the case of harm forcing a fighter out of those one-day tournaments was to have a alternative fighter soar proper in to take a spot. And by proper in, I imply proper in.

Howard went on to face a reserve, Steve Jennum, who hadn’t competed in any respect that night.

How did it play out?

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A well-rested Jennum prevented some wacky Howard strikes, fought off a guillotine choke (they had been mixing the martial arts, for actual!), after which scored an enormous takedown. Falling proper into mount, Jennum completed Howard with ground-and-pound to ceaselessly etch his title within the books as a UFC match champion.

In subsequent years, fighters had been required to win a bout to develop into reserves, to keep away from conditions like a contemporary Jennum simply strolling into the ultimate. As for Jennum, he returned at UFC 4, defeated his opening spherical opponent, after which, fittingly, needed to bow out of the match with an harm. — Lee

T.J. Dillashaw vs. Renan Barao 1 — UFC 170

Why did it occur?

T.J. Dillashaw’s inventory was rising quick, however few anticipated him to win a UFC title within the first three years of his run with the corporate. Although the prized Group Alpha Male prospect had loads of intrigue behind him and a few good wins, championship gold felt a minimum of a pair extra fights away particularly after a streak-busting loss to Raphael Assuncao.

However when a lingering harm left Assuncao unable to make a bantamweight title date with Renan Barao at UFC 170, Dillashaw was requested to step in and problem the champion. Oh by the way in which, Barao was unbeaten in 35 straight fights up thus far.

How did it play out?

It’s onerous to overstate how a lot hype there was round Barao, was thought-about by many to be one of many prime pound-for-pound fighters within the sport. Severely, the controversy was between Jon Jones, Jose Aldo, Demetrious Johnson, and Barao. He was at that stage.

And Dillashaw whooped him.

Barao was a -1000 betting favourite and Dillashaw beat him like a yard canine. It wasn’t remotely aggressive. Barao had no reply for Dillashaw’s motion, pace, or his darting in-and-out fashion of putting. In actual fact, Dillashaw practically completed Barao within the first spherical, forcing the champion to point out his grit and dangle on. That proved to be the perfect a part of the struggle for Barao as Dillashaw wailed on him for the following 17 minutes earlier than lastly closing the present with a mercy-kill of a end within the fifth spherical that started with a head kick on the exhausted and battered Barao.

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Out of nowhere, the Dillashaw period started. — Meshew

Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno 1 — UFC 256

Why did it occur?

Since this complete dialog was began by a Brazilian saving a card, how can we overlook Deiveson Figueiredo making the quickest turnaround by a champion in UFC historical past?

Figueiredo beat Alex Perez at UFC 255 and that a neat bow on his 2020 marketing campaign. Nonetheless, UFC 256 in December wanted a headliner and after a number of reported and rumored bouts fell by means of (together with Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson, and Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan), Figueiredo needed to do a Grampa Simpson loop again to the cage simply 21 days later to struggle Brandon Moreno, who additionally received at UFC 255.

How did it play out?

Right away basic, Figueiredo and Moreno additional established their human buzzsaw bonafides as as they shredded one another for 5 rounds. This was the very best of high-level MMA and the end result was solely barely spoiled by Figueiredo dropping a degree for a low blow, which resulted in a majority draw reasonably than a win on factors for the champion.

Not that it mattered as this was the start of a basic rivalry. Moreno had all the time been considered as one thing of a fun-loving motion fighter that wasn’t to be taken too severely as a contender, however he stood toe-to-toe with probably the most harmful finisher within the 125-pound division. He received their rematch six months later, which turned out to be simply the second of 4 consecutive fights between these two warriors. — Lee

Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes — UFC 189

Why did it occur?

Featherweight king Jose Aldo was presupposed to silence McGregor at UFC 189, however an harm compelled him out of their closely hyped contest and in stepped Chad Mendes. No, Mendes didn’t have anyplace close to the star energy of Aldo, but when there’s one factor he was identified for, it was wrestling. And McGregor had, ahem, notoriously been avoided fighters who may put him on his again.

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Was the hype practice about to go off the rails?

How did it play out?

McGregor earned his stripes.

For individuals who weren’t followers on the time, you look again on McGregor’s UFC run earlier than the title and see Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier and are understandably wowed, however the fact is, these wins weren’t an enormous deal on the time as neither fighter had been was they’d go on to develop into. As a substitute, the road on McGregor was that the UFC was cherry-picking opponents to make him look good, very like they did with Alex Pereira. Till Mendes stepped in.

For most of the cynical hardcore followers, Mendes offered an not possible problem for McGregor: a sturdy man who would merely take him down repeatedly. So when McGregor accepted the struggle on quick discover, everybody applauded his moxie however believed it will backfire on “Infamous.” They had been useless incorrect.

Mendes had loads of success early within the struggle, scoring takedowns practically at will, however it wouldn’t final. McGregor appropriately assessed that the quick discover would harm Mendes’ cardio, and so he attacked the physique early and sometimes, draining the fuel tank. Mendes couldn’t sustain the offense and as soon as he faltered on the finish of Spherical 2, McGregor turned it on, dropping Mendes together with his patented left hand after which pouring on the punishment for the end.

The UFC would by no means be the identical. — Meshew

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Mauricio “Shogun” Rua Photos

Jon Jones and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

Jon Jones vs. Shogun Rua

Why did it occur?

As soon as upon a time, Jon Jones was the final word opportunist.

Seven fights into his UFC profession, everybody acknowledged Jones was a prodigy and that UFC champion standing was a matter of when, not if. Certainly one of his contemporaries was Ryan Bader, and Jones toyed with him earlier than tapping him out earlier than Spherical 3. He was so dominant that he made it a straightforward selection for the UFC to ask him to switch Rashad Evans at UFC 128 instantly after the Bader win.

Evans was booked to problem mild heavyweight champion Shogun Rua, however a knee harm sidelined Evans, resulting in Jones taking the place of his shut buddy and coaching associate. However that was a drama for one more day.

In that second, it was all about Jones.

How did it play out?

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You recognize the phrase “altering of the guard” because it pertains to sports activities? This struggle is the platonic splendid of that phrase.

Shogun is a Corridor of Famer and an unbelievable fighter, but in addition a relic of a bygone period, the place being well-rounded and hard, with a couple of distinctive abilities was ok to be champion. Enter Jones, who was all of these issues plus monumental and a fantastic athlete. Shogun by no means stood an opportunity.

Rewatching this, earlier than they even contact gloves it’s obvious who’s going to win. Jones seems a full weight class larger than Shogun, whereas shifting at twice Shogun’s pace. Jones takes Shogun down and from there it’s huge brother time. He mushes Shogun together with his physicality and size, and Shogun eats about 436 elbows till he lastly stands up. However the battle is already misplaced.

Shogun fights by means of the exhaustion, however issues get progressively worse as Jones smacks him round in all phases, practically stopping the bout with ground-and-pound within the third. Shogun survives, however solely briefly as as soon as he will get to his ft, Jones continues to assault him, wrapping issues up with a physique shot after which a knee to the defeated champion alongside the fence, ushering in maybe probably the most dominant championship period in MMA historical past. — Meshew

Alex Pereira vs. Jiri Prochazka 2 — UFC 303

Why is it taking place?

Conor McGregor injured a toesie-woesie.

How does this evaluate to the remaining?

Lee: Objectively, I do know it is a higher struggle than McGregor vs. Chandler in a number of methods, however I can’t assist however feeling that one thing was misplaced right here.

Pereira-Prochzka deserves its personal construct, to not ceaselessly be often called “the rematch that occurred as a result of Conor couldn’t struggle.” It’s fully attainable that what happens on struggle night time is so epic that years from now we hardly keep in mind why this matchup got here collectively the way in which it did, however I doubt it. The McGregor shadow looms massive.

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So for that cause, I’m not snug tagging this as the perfect alternative most important occasion ever just because it shouldn’t be a alternative and everyone knows it. I’m bored with having to see nice fighters clear up after the UFC for having an overstuffed schedule. Hats off to Pereira and Prochazka for doing this and you’ll guess I’ll be glued to the display screen, however that may have been true in the event that they fought three months from now, too.

A alternative most important occasion, in title solely.

Meshew: After we first conceived of this train, I didn’t understand how a lot what finally ends up taking place can colour this stuff traditionally. For each Jones vs. Shogun second, the place most of us within the know had been absolutely conscious what was about to occur, there’s a Bisping vs. Rockhold, the place nobody noticed it coming. Heading right into a struggle like that, you’d be justified in not caring a few rematch of a non-competitive struggle. However then Bisping pulled off a miracle and now it’s an indelible second in UFC historical past.

This struggle received’t attain these lofty heights, if for no different cause than the material of MMA historical past received’t unravel with both consequence. If Pereira wins, his miraculous run retains going and if he loses, they rematch. By that measure, this struggle can solely be so good.

However, from all of the fights we’ve talked about at the moment, there may not be a single one with extra potential to be memorable by itself deserves. Each Pereira and Prochazka are among the many most fun fighters in MMA at the moment and their types are uniquely suited to 1 one other to ship unbelievable motion. Heading into this one, Combat of the Yr is completely in play, and the one different matchup from the above record that had that potential was Zombie vs. Rodriguez.

It is a particular one, little doubt.

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