Contributor: Tim Hickey
No matter what MMA forum or website you go to, you will always find a debate over if Fighter X could defeat Fighter Y. It usually becomes hotly contested, families get insulted, and people want to know what makes someone the brothority on the fight. That being said, the MMA fan of today is spoiled. The UFC’s roster is filled with the majority of the top flight talent in the industry (with a handful of exceptions) and can make some of the best fights possible and satisfy their rabid fan base. But, that was not always the case. We grizzled older fans remember a time when we would pine for a fight forever, or catch wind of a potential matchup, and it would make us all funny in our pants. This list I have put together is not only of dream fights I would have loved to have seen, but ones that were pretty close to being made.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Mirko Cro Cop
Rumored to be put on the UFC 75 card, this would have been a striking fanboy’s wet dream. While Mirko was coming off of a devastating KO at the manbearpig like foot of Gabriel Gonzaga, Arlovski had won back to back fights since losing a title fight with Tim Sylvia. While this fight was rumored throughout the entire interwebs, The Wrestling Observer ‘s and longtime MMA journalist Dave Meltzer shot down the rumor roughly a day before the UFC announced that Cro Cop would fight noted ball shatterer Cheick Kongo. Kongo would go on to take a UD from the Croatian, and Arlovski would fight once more for the UFC on the undercard of UFC 82. Both men have hinted at this fight over the past year or so, but frankly I think it would just give me a sad right now.
Kid Yamamoto vs. Urijah Faber
Let me preface this by saying, you youngings that are only familiar with the version of Kid Yamamoto that we have seen in the UFC since 2011 is not the true Kid. The true Kid Yamamoto was seen from 2001 until 2007, murdering whatever foolish fool decided they wanted to meet him in a ring. Prior to injuring his elbow while training for the 2008 Olympics, and then injuring his knee, Kid was considered one of the absolute best lighter weight fighters in the world. He went an impressive 17-1-1 prior to his injury, defeating the likes of Jeff Curran, Royler Gracie, Caol Uno, Genki Sudo, Bibiano Fernandes and Ranu Yahya. He had 12 KO’s. Basically he was nothing to fuck with. His American counterpart at the time was WEC’s Featherweight champion, Urijah Faber, who at the time had also only ever lost 1 fight. After Faber defended his title against Chance Farrar, Faber stated in his post fight interviews that he wanted a fight with Kid. The interwebs went crazy, and funny enough, most people thought Kid would take the fight. Unfortunately for us as fans, Zuffa wouldn’t sign Kid until 2011, and by then he was a shadow of his former self. I would still love to see this fight, and Faber has expressed interest in it after he signed,but the 2013 version of Norifumi Yamamoto (is there a 2013 version? The guy is always hurt it seems) would get destroyed by Faber.
Randy Couture vs. Wanderlei Silva
This one actually snuck up on me, as I had no idea how close this thing actually was. I was watching UFC 49 a few months back (as I randomly love watching old fight cards) and after watching Couture use a good old fashioned Randy Couture gameplan to wear down Vitor Belfort and reclaim his title, something funny happened. In his post fight interview, he called out Wand, who happened to be in the crowd. Wand got into the Octagon, his Pride MW belt slung over his shoulders, when Randy said “Maybe we can get this together and step in this Octagon and unify these titles. What do you say, Wanderlei?” I was shocked as I had never heard of this moment prior to this, and suddenly wondered how this fight would play out. Especially a 2004 version of Wanderlei Silva, who was still at the top of his game at that point in his career. Sadly, as we found out many years later, the folks at Pride were not the easiest to work with, and unless Randy went to fight in a ring in Japan, they had no desire to let their biggest star fight in the Octagon. By the time Wand came to the UFC in 2007, Randy had moved back up to heavyweight and soon Wand would move down to middleweight.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Vitor Belfort
Affliction Trilogy is one of those mythical fight cards that on paper looks oh so very tempting. Seriously, go look it up sometime and shake your head and then wag your finger at Josh Barnett for ruining it for all of us. From top to bottom, it was stacked with some really excellent matchups. But the card was almost saved, and it would have given us a very interesting fight on paper. Vitor Belfort was preparing for a middleweight matchup when it was announced on July 21st that Josh Barnett tested positive for a banned substance, and rumors quickly heated up that Belfort would step in to replace him. The internet lit up at the prospect of two men with such fast hands meeting in the ring. The Affliction vs M-1 litigation from a couple of years back actually mentioned that Fedor was studying film on Vitor while flying to LAX for the fight on July 23rd. By the time July 24th rolled around, the event was cancelled. By the end of the month, Vitor would sign with the UFC and Fedor would go to Strikeforce. Even though it would have added to the whole “Fedor only fights cans and middleweights!” arguments that sprung up in the latter part of The Last Emperor’s career, this fight would have had potential fireworks all over it.
Anderson Silva vs. Matt Hughes
This fight was detailed in Brian J. D’Souza’s very good book “Pound For Pound: The Modern Gladiators of Mixed Martial Arts” (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0988149303/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0988149303&linkCode=as2&tag=blooelbo-20) he spoke of how Anderson Silva had an opportunity to make his UFC debut back at UFC 36. He would come in and would fight 170 lbs champion Matt Hughes. Anderson was the Shooto champion at the time at 168 lbs, but his management decided that a better choice for his career was to go to Japan. While the cage was much better suited to a man of Anderson’s talents, Chute Boxe and his management team wanted the money, and sent Anderson to the Land Of The Rising Sun. Hughes would end up matching up with Hayato Sakurai, who Anderson had defeated for the Shooto belt. Years later, Hughes admitted to thinking about moving up to 185lbs to fight Silva when Hughes was the welterweight champion and Anderson was the middleweight champion. Back in 2002, while Anderson wasn’t the MMA deity he is today, would have presented some fun challenges for Hughes. If Hughes had made the move up in 2006 though, that would have been a barn burner.
Chuck Liddell vs. Dan Henderson
Two of the fighters with the biggest right hand in the history of the sport were set on a collision course when Zuffa purchased Pride FC . While the dream matchup to make would have been Liddell vs Wand, Wanderlei had been KOed by Hendo at Pride 33. With the potential of title unification on the line, the only thing preventing this matchup was a victory by Rampage Jackson at UFC 71. What ended up happening, as everyone knows, is Rampage ended Chuck’s run at the top of the heap. This gave us Rampage vs Henderson, which while a fun fight, doesn’t have the same appeal of two of the greatest power punchers of their generation trading big right hands in the middle of the cage.
Bas Rutten vs. Wanderlei Silva
Bas actually talked about this at length on a Joe Rogan Podcast a few years back, where Bas mentioned that he had offered to fight Wanderlei in a special rules match. Due to the injuries that Bas at been dealing with over the years, he wasn’t practicing BJJ at the time.
“Everyone wants to see us strike anyways, and this event was with K-1, Don Frye was fighting Jerome Le Banner in K-1 rules. So I said, why don’t we do K-1 rules with MMA gloves? I mean that is what the people want to see anyway from us two. But that fight didn’t go through, they took someone else. That would have been awesome, cause at that time, I was hurting Guy Holtz, the guy holding the Thai pads, would have purple arms. I was in shape.”
Seriously, lets think about that for a second. Two of the most devastating strikers in the history of the sport, standing and banging in the middle of a ring in front of 90,000 plus fans. It could have been one of the most exciting fights in the history of the sport. Unfortunately Pride went a different way, and we were deprived of an awesome awesome fight.
-Tim can be reached @timhickey80.