Happy Sunday, Fight Fans! Khabib Vs. Tony is perhaps the most anticipated lightweight title fight in the history of the sport. So, today, I’d like to take a few moments to count down the best battles in the history of the division. Actually, best has nothing to do with it. These are my favorite championship fights in the history of the division.
#5. BJ Penn Vs. Kenny Florian:
I’ll never forget this fight. I ended up watching it at Buffalo Wild Wings. I remember it being so packed that I couldn’t find a spot to sit. I showed up before well before the event started, but it didn’t matter. There wasn’t a seat available in the place. I ended up watching the entire card standing near the bar area. I remember Kenny Florian talking about how he saw BJ as a master, and now its time to kill the master. I bought into Kenny’s confidence. I also remember explaining to a fellow fight fan how Florian was gonna destroy Penn. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Florian predicted a 1st round finish and was completely broken by the time Penn came out for the 2nd round. Penn ended up picking Florian apart and finishing him in the 4th round via rear-naked choke. Penn had me won over by the time this one ended. And I gotta admit, watching Florian fail and have to eat his words was something that gave me great pleasure. BJ Penn has some awesome fights back in the day.
#4. Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard 3:
Frankie Edgar came into this fight with 15 wins, 1 loss, and 1 draw. The loss and draw both came against Gray Maynard, yet Edgar came in holding the title. It’s funny how the fight business goes sometimes. I believed that Maynard should have won the 2nd fight, so I figured he’d come out aggressive. Which is precisely what happened. Maynard was overwhelming Edgar early and looking to end the battle. Edgar was dropped multiple times in the opening round and I was sure it was over. Edgar showed the heart of a true champion as he continued to get up and find ways to keep battling. Frankie used his superior movement to keep the Bully on his toes. Maynard never looked the same after that 1st round. He must’ve gassed himself out trying to finish Edgar early on, and it came back to bite him. Frankie finished the Bully in the 4th round of this contest via TKO and solidified himself as the lightweight champion.
#3. BJ Penn Vs. Diego Sanchez:
BJ Penn was always seen as a fighter who never lived up to his full potential. He’s perhaps one of the most naturally gifted fighters the UFC has ever seen, but he never had a championship work ethic to go along with it. Diego Sanchez isn’t the most talented fighter, but his work ethic is 2nd to none. The Nightmare is always in shape and looks to wear his opponents down using overwhelming pressure. In short, Diego was a stylistic nightmare for BJ Penn. This fight was full of action. Diego came out with his trademark pressure but BJ was in his prime and had an answer for everything. I remember Penn splitting Diego’s forehead open with a chin to the forehead forcing the doctors to stop the fight. Penn then licked the blood off his gloves for the last time as the UFC lightweight champion. Penn set a record with his 3rd consecutive title defense. I miss that BJ Penn. But nothing lasts forever. This was the last fight card of 2009 and BJ Penn’s previous title defense.
#2. Conor Mcgregor Vs. Eddie Alvarez:
Eddie Alvarez had been known as the underground king for years. He made an excellent name for himself before arriving in the UFC with his legendary fights. Conor Mcgregor was coming off his win over Nate Diaz. Of course, this win came after Conor’s first UFC loss against the same man, so Mcgregor was no longer seen as invincible. Alvarez was supremely confident in the lead up to this fight; declaring Santa Claus isn’t real, and Conor stood no chance. I’m not sure what Eddie’s strategy was coming into this fight, but I think he underestimated Conor’s striking abilities. Conor made this look easy; dropping Alvarez several times in the opening round. A lot of Eddies fights go this way; he gets the crap beat out of him early then overcomes it in the later rounds to claim victory. Every dog has his day, and Eddie’s luck would finally run out. Mcgregor at his best is a thing of absolute beauty. Alvarez finally tried using some of his wrestling in the second round, but it wasn’t to be. Mcgregor’s superior striking skills were on full display in this one as he knocked Eddie out near the end of the round. Conor became the first double champ in UFC history. Like him or not, that is a tremendous accomplishment.
#1. Anthony Pettis Vs. Benson Henderson:
Anthony Pettis wasn’t even supposed to get this fight. Benson Henderson was initially slated to defend his championship against TJ Grant. Grant had to pull out with what ended up being a career-ending injury. Pettis and Henderson had met once before in the WEC. It was a great fight, and Pettis landed his famous showtime kick en route to a victory. This scenario reminded me a little of the Maynard/Edgar match in that Henderson held the belt despite losing his previous fight against Pettis.
This is my all-time favorite championship fight because I was in attendance. I’ll never forget the energy in the crowd. As soon as Pettis made his entrance, the hometown fans were absolutely electric. Henderson did his best to implement his usual wrestling tactics. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous over this as Pettis had previously shown a weakness against wrestling against Clay Guida. Pettis did an excellent job defending and even landed some nice kicks to the body. Henderson looked to be hurt, however, Bendo was able to end up in the top position near the later stages of the opening round. I was hoping for a spectacular finish and it was looking like it would have to wait until round two. Then, out of nowhere, Pettis gets Henderson in some kind of pretzel hold and pulls off a fantastic armbar. I can’t even describe how excited I felt watching Pettis win the belt in front of his hometown crowd. It was spectacular and gave spectacular finishes a whole new meaning in my book. Submissions can be as exciting as knockouts, and they can happen out of nowhere as well. Pettis dedicated his victory to the fans, and this is an experience I’ll surely never forget.
And those are my favorite lightweight title fights. I hope the UFC gets things figured out with Khabib and Tony- it just has to happen. I’m kind of hoping they just reschedule; I’d hate to miss out on this fight due to circumstances beyond anybody’s control.
In the meantime, watch these great fights and enjoy some of the Lightweight division’s incredible history. Next week, I’ll breakdown my favorite Welterweight title fights. Until then, stay positive and stay safe. Good day now!