Las Vegas has a worldwide reputation as the place to visit for top-notch gambling, nightlife, and entertainment. And with legendary boxing matches featuring Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, and Oscar De La Hoya, the city has gained the title of “Boxing Capital of the World.” However, boxing isn’t the only combat sport that the city is known for.
With UFC 33 taking place in the city in 2011, many people thought the relationship between Vegas and MMA (mixed martial arts) would be short-lived. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White himself admitted that the card for UFC 33 fell way short of expectations.
Since then, however, UFC has exploded and has unofficially made the famous city its home. Casinos and arenas on the strip have seen more UFC matches than any other city in the world. As such, the city is also home to some of the biggest fights in UFC history.
Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin
Listed in the UFC Hall of Fame under the fight wing and widely regarded, even by Dana White, as one of the most important fights in UFC history, April 9, 2005, was a historic day. On the cusp of losing a TV deal, the UFC was told to pull out all the stops and put on a show that viewers would remember.
To attempt this, lightweight fighters Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin were chosen for the performance. The stage was set at the Cox Pavilion inside the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus, and things soon started heating up.
By the end of the third round, fans were screaming, and hardly anybody was still seated. The two fighters put it all on the line and put on such a show that their performance is credited with catapulting MMA to the mainstream levels of popularity that it enjoys today.
Even though Griffin was eventually awarded the ultimate victory, both fighters were signed onto UFC contracts soon after the fight. They were both granted six-figure salaries to compensate them for their impressive performance, and their fight is still used as a benchmark in MMA fights.
Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva
UFC 79 was highly anticipated long before Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva even appeared at Mandala Bay to compete. With Liddell getting on in years and Silva returning to the UFC, many fans couldn’t hold back their excitement in seeing what the two had in store.
While the match started slowly and without much action, things quickly began to pick up as round two dragged into the second half. Finally, the weary fans got what they had come for.
With Liddell going all out, Silva impressed everyone by persevering through a spinning back fist, two takedowns, and multiple other fury-fueled attacks Liddell threw at him. However, as impressive as his survival through all these things was, they were for naught.
Liddell, nicknamed the Iceman, took the final victory. Regardless of who the winner was, the memorable action-filled fight between the two athletes forever cemented December 29, 2007, as one of the best UFC fights in Vegas.
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz II
Conor McGregor is one of the most recognizable UFC fighters, with millions of fans supporting him worldwide. However, at UFC 196, when pitted against Nate Diaz, fans were left hat in hand when Nate claimed victory in the second round of the match.
Seeking redemption, UFC 202 was scheduled between the two fighters on August 20, 2016, at the T-Mobile Arena in Vegas. Anyone who knows anything about redemption fights knew the fight was destined to be spectacular, and MMA fans were eager to watch the action unfold.
From the get-go, it was clear that McGregor was out to win. However, after a series of impressive attacks early on, he soon started to tire, and Diaz took the offensive. Ultimately, McGregor emerged victorious and attained the redemption he so eagerly sought.
While the fight will live on in history for its sheer brutality and the hunger McGregor demonstrated, what happened after the battle has also been remembered. After securing his victory, McGregor approached Diaz and embraced him—showing there is more to the sport than just the fighting.
Robbie Lawler vs. Rory McDonald
The MGM Grand is home to not just the famous casino and resort but also the MGM Grand Arena, one of the most iconic entertainment destinations in Sin City. Among the more than 40 UFC fights in the arena, one from UFC 189 on July 11, 2015, is among the most memorable.
While most of the spotlight focused on the McGregor vs. Mendes fight, the fight between Robbie Lawler and Rory McDonald II stole the show and has gone down in history.
With the fighters going head-to-head round after round, there was no telling who would win. Both provided equally great offensive and defensive tactics and showed they were putting it all on the line.
At the end of the fourth round, the two fighters shared a staredown that became one of the most memorable and chill-inducing moments in UFC history. The staredown clearly gave Lawler the motivation he needed because, in the fifth round, he claimed victory via TKO (total knockout).