By Franklin McNeil | ESPN.com
The UFC has been in business for 20 years, and during this time the promotion has put on countless exciting bouts. But the ESPN.com mixed martial arts staff has chosen 10 fights that stand above the rest.
There are sure to be strong arguments for fights that do not appear on this list; the recent lightweight showdown between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez immediately comes to mind. Without doubt, however, the following fights will stand the test of time.
10: Pedro Rizzo vs. Josh Barnett (UFC 30):
It could be said that this showdown was MMA's first action-packed heavyweight fight. Barnett entered the fight unbeaten, but still unproven, while Rizzo had won his share of bouts against high-profile opponents. The fight was contested mostly standing, with Rizzo finishing matters with a right hand that dropped Barnett.
9. Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva (UFC 79):
While their best days were in the rearview mirror, these 205-pound legends delivered in this long-awaited, highly anticipated showdown (2007 Fight of the Year). They stood toe-to-toe for most of the fight, with each man hurting the other with punches to the chin. When the smoke cleared, Liddell walked away victorious by unanimous decision.
8. Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz (UFC 22):
An aggressive Ortiz controlled much of the action early, but expended lots of energy and paid the price. Shamrock retained his middleweight (205-pound) title with a fourth-round submission due to strikes. Shortly thereafter, Shamrock would voluntarily relinquish his belt. The bout earned 1999 Fight of the Year honors.
7. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard III (UFC 136):
Edgar cemented his reputation as one of the most exciting mixed martial artists ever in this fight. After getting wobbled and dropped twice in the opening round, a bruised and bloody Edgar picked himself up and knocked out Maynard in the fourth to retain his lightweight title.
6. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen I (UFC 117):
Sonnen verbally tormented the middleweight champion leading into this 2010 Fight of the Year, then physically assaulted Silva for four-plus rounds before getting submitted with less than 2 minutes remaining in the fight. Sonnen's performance was tainted after he was flagged for elevated testosterone levels.
5. Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II (UFC 52):
The image of Hughes lifting Trigg, carrying him across the cage and slamming him to the canvas stands out, but what took place before and after is why this is one of the best fights ever. A knee to the groin allowed Trigg to apply a rear-naked choke and nearly finish Hughes. But Hughes showed resolved and eventually turned the tables and submitted Trigg to retain his welterweight title.
4. Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 165):
Jones had not only defeated his previous opponents, he dominated them. But that was not the case against Gustafsson, who matched the champ strike for strike. Jones retained his 205-pound title but many nonofficial observers gave Gustafsson the edge.
3. Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar (TUF 1 finale):
Neither fighter will be regarded among the all-time greats, but their legendary toe-to-toe battle is credited with attracting casual fans to MMA, and UFC in particular. This fight also landed both fighters in the UFC Hall of Fame.
2. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard II (UFC 125):
Anyone who tells you that styles don't make fights, refer them to Edgar and Maynard's second and third bouts. Edgar and Maynard fought three times in their career and two are among the greatest ever. In the second fight, Maynard dominated early, knocking Edgar down several times in the first round. But Edgar bounced back in the latter rounds to earn a split draw and keep his lightweight belt.
1. Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua (UFC 139):
For 25 minutes, these two all-time greats put on the best fight in UFC history. They stood in front of one another and threw punch after punch, kick after kick. Even when they went to the ground -- punches, elbows and knees flew. Henderson came away with a unanimous decision, but many onlookers thought Rua did enough to be granted the victory. This fight will be remembered for many years and it will be the litmus by which future exciting bouts will be measured.