I was just kind of talking about this the other day: I think Tito had already damaged his reputation by the time he peaked. I'd put his biggest win as stopping Shammy the first time...but he was already getting a reputation for ducking Chuck by that point. I was talking about how getting a reputation for talking tons of smack and then backing it up only lasts as long as you can back it up...once you fail, you're just a douche who talked smack. By the time Couture spanked him, he was on the decline.
I think Couture's win over Tito--replete with the spanking--put him on the map, and his wars with Chuck put both them and MMA into a place where TUF could work a couple years down the road.
Conversely, when Chuck KO'd him the second time, Liddell's legend was cast into stone.
Also, I don't know that I consider either of these guys even close
to HOF material, but I'm surprised nobody commented that rampage cemented his legend by KOing Liddell when it still meant something. He'd beaten him earlier in PRIDE, obviously, but coming into the house that Chuck built and taking his rep in the cage was an iconic moment, and one he'll never recapture.
I also think Machida cemented his status when he KO'd Thiago Silva. It completely reversed his reputation. Until that point, he was reviled by casual fans as a fighter who ran, who couldn't finish a sandwich, etc. A lot of fans were hoping Silva would kill him, because they appreciated the brawling style more than Lyoto's elusiveness. Five minutes later, that tide turned. It helped that he was next in line to face Rashad, who everyone hated on anyway...then when he went on to KO Evans it was gravy on his train.
Originally Posted by end it with a left
Personally I think Nick Diaz's fight against Robbie Lawler was a legendary fight. At the time he was known for being a bjj fighter and not so much for his striking and than for him to totally pick him apart and finish with a ko was huge. He may never hold yhe ufc gold or make it to the hall of fame but because of that fight he will always be a legend to me.
That fight drove me crazy for the next 5 years, as Nick was developing his striking and was chasing KO's against guys who he could have beaten if he'd just have stuck to his grappling. It was a beautiful punch, but I still think it took him years to get his career back on the rails afterwards. He should have been lighting guys up like Sherk, Sanchez, Riggs, etc. All of the fights were close enough to be controversial, but he always had the skills to win them decisively. The first Noons bout specifically was like bamboo shoots under my finger nails to watch. I think his gogo of Gomi did as much to cement his legend as the Lawler KO.