Top 5 UFC Trilogy Rivalries

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Will Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez rank with these 5 memorable UFC trilogies?

Junior dos Santos
Gary A. Vasquez USA TODAY Sports

With the highly anticipated heavyweight title trilogy fight between UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and challenger Junior dos Santos less than a week away, I thought this would be a great opportunity to examine some of the finest trilogies in UFC history. The Velasquez-dos Santos feud quite frankly has the feel of two competitors who could perhaps meet more than three times before their careers come to an end.

Their first two fights couldn’t have been more different. Dos Santos captured the heavyweight title in their first affair in the first-ever UFC event on FOX. The Brazilian fighter getting the job done as he knocked out Velasquez in just 64 seconds. Velasquez regained his crown with a brutal five-round beatdown of “Cigano” in the rematch at UFC 155. Obviously, there is plenty of anticipation for their rubber match at UFC 166 in Houston. More history between the two will be written this weekend.

With that in mind, we take a look at five top UFC trilogies. These rivalries are based on pure excitement and drama and not surprisingly, most of these fights took place as part of title affairs, and also featured current UFC Hall of Famers and those who will be enshrined in the future. With that in mind, let’s examine what in my mind are the top-five UFC trilogies of all time.

Rick Lafitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports

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5. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard

Frankie Edgar
Gary A. Vasquez USA TODAY Sports

Maynard handed Edgar his first loss at UFC Fight Night 13, using his dominating wrestling to record a decision win. It was their second fight at UFC 125 that helped make Edgar one of the sport’s true blood-and-guts warriors. “The Answer” became well known for his heart and tenacity when he was knocked down multiple times and battered throughout the opening round of their lightweight title fight. Somehow, Edgar not only survived the onslaught, but did enough in rounds two through five to earn a rare draw and retain his title. Maynard justly received an immediate title rematch at UFC 136. Once again, “The Bully” had the champ in all kinds of trouble in the opening round. However, Edgar recovered and went on to produce a sensational fourth-round knockout in their trilogy bout.

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4. Georges St.Pierre vs. Matt Hughes

Georges St.Pierre
Eric Bolte USA TODAY Sports

Before St.Pierre became one of the top pound for pound fighters in the UFC and a two-time welterweight champ, he lost to his idol in their first encounter at UFC 50. Hughes retained his title thanks to a first-round armbar submission. The end came with just one second left in the first round. St. Pierre admitted to being in awe of Hughes, but didn’t make the same mistake in their subsequent meeting. At UFC 65, GSP evened the score with a second-round stoppage. A head kick followed by punches and elbows ended the affair and made him the new welterweight champion. The two would meet one more time at UFC 79, and again it was St. Pierre showcasing his tremendous athleticism as he utilized hia takedown and ground-and-pound techniques. Hughes verbally submitted to an armbar in the second round.

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3. Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn

B.J. Penn
Mark J. Rebilas USA TODAY Sports

Penn pulled off a mammoth upset at UFC 46 when the lightweight kingpin moved up in weight and dethroned the seemingly invincible welterweight champion. Hughes, who had defended his title on several occasions, was the victim of a rear naked choke in the opening round. It was Hughes’s turn to get revenge in the rematch at UFC 63. In a tremendous battle, Hughes would rally to finish matters in the third round when he rained punches down on Penn’s head while keeping “The Prodigy” locked in side control crucifix position. It marked the first time Penn had been stopped via strikes. Their final encounter came at UFC 123. Penn used a blistering striking attack to polish off Hughes in devastating fashion just 21 seconds into the first round.

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2. Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock

Tito Ortiz
Mark J. Rebilas USA TODAY Sports

While there’s intense dislike these days between Ortiz and UFCpPresident Dana White, we can’t forget what a solid fighter and PPV draw that Ortiz was back at the height of his career. Speaking of hatred, the fierce dislike between “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” and Shamrock was intense. The rivalry produced plenty of bad blood, and their first fight at UFC 40 was seen as the event that pushed the organization on its way into mainstream acceptance. It was Shamrock’s return to the UFC after a six-year absence, and it produced a sold-out crowd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas that did extremely well at that time in PPV buys. There was tremendous excitement to see if the older Shamrock would be able to get his revenge on the much younger, cockier Ortiz for their Octagon confrontation a few years prior. Their initial encounter ended with Shamrock’s corner stopping the fight prior to round four, and it was later revealed that the veteran had fought with an ACL injury. The rivalry was much more lopsided in fights two and three, with Ortiz finishing Shamrock in the first round.

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1. Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture

Chuck Liddell
Mark J. Rebilas USA TODAY Sports

This is the ultimate trilogy between two men who meant so much to the UFC over the years and really helped raise the profile of the sport. They were the first ever coaches of the Ultimate Fighter and had three terrific clashes in the Octagon. Obviously, things have changed for Couture, who is persona non grata with the organization these days while Liddell has a job for life with the company. Their trilogy produced fireworks, with all three bouts ending by way of knockout. Couture claimed the interim light heavyweight championship at UFC 43. Couture utilized his standout wrestling skills to force a third-round stoppage. The fight was halted with Couture landing strikes to Liddell from a dominant top position. The “Iceman’s” massive power came to the forefront in their next two fights as he stopped Couture on both occasions. Liddell won the title with a first-round knockout at UFC 52 and then he registered a second-round knockout of “The Natural” to successfully defend his belt at UFC 57.