The UFC heavyweight landscape is one littered with towering mountains, turbulent storms, and unpredictable weather. It plays host to the baddest mixed martial artists in the world.
While many champions have come and gone, the division has nonetheless produced countless barbarians. But the violent nature of the weight class as a whole has ultimately prohibited any one titleholder from ever defending the belt more than twice.
That sort of divisional hot potato may differ from other UFC factions, but it subsequently produces some of the best championship overthrows the promotion has ever seen. And considering many of those contests end in devastating fashion, the watching gets good.
Based on divisional importance, overall performances, and long-lasting worth, here are the 10 greatest heavyweights title fights in UFC history.
- 1 10) Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos at UFC on FOX 1
- 2 9) Mark Coleman vs. Dan Severn at UFC 12
- 3 8) Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez at UFC 121
- 4 7) Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo II at UFC 34
- 5 6) Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez II at UFC 155
- 6 5) Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez at UFC 188
- 7 4) Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II at UFC 100
- 8 3) Frank Mir vs. Tim Sylvia at UFC 48
- 9 2) Randy Couture vs. Josh Barnett at UFC 36
- 10 1) Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo at UFC 31
10) Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos at UFC on FOX 1
Based on promotional importance and mainstream integration, Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos at UFC on FOX 1 may be the most significant heavyweight fight of all time.
While the action did not necessarily live up to the billing, dos Santos’ first-round, behind-the-ear knockout remains one of the most iconic heavyweight finishes ever.
It marked the promotion’s inaugural showing on FOX and the first and only time Velasquez has been knocked out.
9) Mark Coleman vs. Dan Severn at UFC 12
This wouldn’t be a list of the greatest championship fights in UFC heavyweight history if the first ever title fight wasn’t included.
That historic occurrence happened at UFC 12 when Mark Coleman submitted Dan Severn by first-round neck crank.
The finish further established Coleman as one of the best in the world and a future UFC Hall of Fame inductee.
8) Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez at UFC 121
UFC 121 marked the first time Cain Velasquez hoisted UFC gold. It also marked the first time Brock Lesnar was finished by strikes.
Outside of a brief takedown by Lesnar in the first round, this championship tilt wasn’t all that competitive, unless we’re including Lesnar’s legendary beard.
But based on the passing of the divisional torch, Velasquez’s sheer dominance, and the overwhelming pay-per-view numbers produced by Lesnar, this fight remains among the most important in heavyweight history.
7) Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo II at UFC 34
Randy Couture and Pedro Rizzo’s rematch at UFC 34 stemmed from a legendary championship tilt just six months prior at UFC 31.
In the reboot, “The Natural” wasted no time in taking the Brazilian striker to the mat, inflicting some world-class ground-and-pound, and earning a third-round TKO victory.
It marked the first time that Rizzo had ever been finished inside of the cage and one of Couture’s career-defining moments.
6) Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez II at UFC 155
It wasn’t until Cain Velasquez exacted revenge opposite Junior dos Santos at UFC 155 that people began to label him one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
Sure, his destruction of Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 was impressive, but JDS finished Velasquez with one punch back at UFC on FOX 1 to win the belt.
In classic Velasquez form, he pressured the Brazilian against the cage from the opening bell, utilized his ferocious ground-and-pound to the tune of 11 takedowns and 111 significant strikes, and proceeded to batter the former champion for 25-straight minutes in one of the most one-sided title fight rematches in UFC history.
5) Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez at UFC 188
Fabricio Werdum‘s victory over Cain Velasquez at UFC 188 is one of the most important title wins in UFC history.
It not only solidified the Brazilian as arguably the greatest heavyweight of all-time, but it shed light on Velasquez’s mortality as a previously untouchable champion.
In just over 12 minutes, the elite big men shared 184 significant strikes and five takedowns. But it was Werdum’s timely guillotine choke in the third round that left a Mexico City crowd stunned and Velasquez without his shiny gold belt.
4) Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II at UFC 100
UFC 100 remains the most iconic mixed martial arts (MMA) event of all time.
The headlining bout, Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II, was a highly-anticipated rematch between two of the very best heavyweights in the world. It possessed story lines galore and a backdrop of Lesnar’s evolution inside of the Octagon.
In dominating and decisive fashion, Lesnar battered Mir on the ground for the majority of the fight before securing a second-round TKO. It was Lesnar’s first title defense of his career and a fight that showcased the power of raw athleticism when matched up against superior technique.
3) Frank Mir vs. Tim Sylvia at UFC 48
UFC 48 put Frank Mir on the map. Not only in the sense of being one of the best heavyweight champions in UFC history, but more impressively one of the most dangerous submission specialists of all time.
His 50-second arm bar finish not only snapped champion Tim Sylvia‘s forearm, but it remains one of the most iconic submissions victories in MMA history.
Mir would later go on to vacate the title after a motorcycle accident forced him away from the sport.
2) Randy Couture vs. Josh Barnett at UFC 36
Coming into UFC 36, Randy Couture had just knocked off Pedro Rizzo is back-to-back UFC title fights and was widely considered the best fighter on the planet.
So when a young and brash Josh Barnett warded off Couture’s advancements on the ground and knocked him out in the second round, the MMA world was witness to the birth of a heavyweight who would rule the land for the next decade.
He remains the youngest fighter in UFC history to ever win the heavyweight title and owns one of the biggest divisional upsets of all-time with this win over “The Natural.”
1) Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo at UFC 31
In terms of world-class talent, well-rounded skill sets, and legendary action, no other heavyweight title fight means more than Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo at UFC 31.
Couture’s wrestling and brutal ground-and-pound proved too vicious in the early going, but it was Rizzo’s elite leg kicks that slowed “The Natural” down later in the fight. In turn, Couture’s takedown efforts were thwarted more than once, giving the Brazilian the upper hand on the feet to unload his touted striking.
The five-round affair saw both fighters land significant damage, resulting in each heavyweight swinging wildly off their knees as the final seconds counted down. But it was Couture’s early success in the fight that allowed him to capture the unanimous decision win.
It was his first successful title defense of his career, 2001’s Fight of the Year, and the second failed UFC title shot for Rizzo.