The sport of mixed martial arts has exploded over the past decade. What was viewed as a "niche" sport with a limited following not all that long ago, is now legal in most every country around the globe with events being held in the world's biggest venues.
With the decade coming to a close, let's take a look back at the 10 best UFC fights of the past 10 years. There are so many to pick from considering the aforementioned growth means an event is on just about every weekend, but these are the fights that stand out above all the rest. Onto the list...
10. Nate Diaz v. Conor McGregor II
UFC 202, August 20, 2016 - Las Vegas, Nevada)
The presence of McGregor makes this by far one of the most watched fights on the list. After being submitted by Diaz in the first fight between the two in March 2016, Conor got his revenge just months later. He was outworked badly by Diaz in Round 3 and almost certainly lost Round 5 as well, but McGregor did enough in Rounds 1, 2 and 4 to earn the win. Conor got the revenge he was seeking and both men made a ton of money in the process. Don't be shocked if there is a third bout between the two at some point down the road.
THE RESULT: McGregor via majority decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-47)
9. Robbie Lawler v. Carlos Condit
UFC 195, January 2, 2016 - Las Vegas, Nevada
Less than six months after an absolute war with Rory MacDonald (which we may mention later), Robbie found himself right back at it against Condit. Lawler appeared to get the benefit of a favorable decision from the judges following the back-and-forth affair. The loss was especially crushing for Condit. Instead of becoming UFC Welterweight Champion, Condit found himself at a career crossroads. He has fought four times since and lost each and every fight. We have reached the point where it's not a stretch to say that fateful decision in Vegas effectively ended Condit's MMA career.
THE RESULT: Lawler via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
8. Anderson Silva v. Chael Sonnen
UFC 117, August 7, 2010 - Oakland, California
This fight has been overlooked due to the fact the sport simply wasn't as popular in the early portion of the decade. Silva entered having made six straight successful title defenses of his UFC Middleweight Championship. Sonnen earned his title shot following three straight unanimous decision wins over Dan Miller, Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt. That's doesn't sound like a murderer's row of victories now, but those were some big names back in mid-2010. Sonnen was well on his way to earning a dominant unanimous decision victory before Anderson submitted him with an arm triangle with 1:50 remaining in Round 5. Chael went on to fail his post-fight drug test, so he almost certainly would have been stripped of his belt even if he won.
THE RESULT: Silva via submission (arm triangle) at 3:10 of Round 5
7. Gilbert Melendez v. Diego Sanchez
UFC 166, October 19, 2013 - Houston, Texas
You had to know we would never get through this list without an appearance from Sanchez. Diego is one of the most lovable fighters in the history of the company and his bout with Melendez was arguably the most memorable of his career. My greatest memory of this fight is seeing both men standing right in front of each other and just winging bombs with zero regard for defense or their own respective well beings. Despite giving up a ton to Melendez in terms of both technical skill and overall ability, Diego once again managed to put on a standout bout.
THE RESULT: Melendez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28)
6. Frankie Edgar v. Gray Maynard II
UFC 125, January 1, 2011 - Las Vegas, Nevada
This was the second of what would end up being a trilogy between the two men. Maynard won the first bout via unanimous decision in April 2008. Following that loss, Frankie won five fights in a row, including with the UFC Lightweight Championship from B.J. Penn. He successfully defended it against Penn in a rematch about four months later. Maynard won all five of his fights in the interim, including victories over Nate Diaz and Kenny Florian. Edgar looked done following a huge combination from Maynard in Round 1, but he somehow survived and the fight was eventually scored a draw. The two fought for a third and final time seven months later with Edgar winning via knockout in Round 4.
THE RESULT: Split Draw (48-46, 46-48, 47-47)
5. Mark Hunt v. Bigfoot Silva
UFC Fight Night 33, December 7, 2013 - Brisbane, Australia
It's a crazy thought some six-plus years later, but both Hunt and Silva were in the title conversation back in late 2013. Hunt entered having won four of his past five fights, while Bigfoot had picked up wins over Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem in the preceding 13 months. Neither of the two big men were/are known for their defense and this one played out as expected. Both men spent the entire 25 minutes unleashing bombs on each other. It's a miracle they both saw the finish line. The fight ended in majority draw and I remember this being one of the rare instance in which I thought a draw was a perfectly reasonable outcome. Neither man deserved to lose this one.
THE RESULT: Majority Draw (48-47 MH, 47-47,47-47)
4. Robert Whittaker v. Yoel Romero II
UFC 225, June 9, 2018 - Chicago, Illinois
Everyone was excited for this one but it didn't come easy. Romero missed weight by 0.2 pounds and thus was not eligible to win the UFC Middleweight Championship. These two men fought 11 months earlier, a fight Whittaker won via unanimous decision. The rematch featured Whittaker easily winning the first two rounds before Romero began to pull away. Yoel was so dominant in Round 5 that a 10-8 score was most definitely in play. It just wasn't meant to be. Whittaker went on to take what was one of the more controversial split decisions in the history of the company. Romero went on to miss weight in each of his next two bouts, while Whittaker lost his title after being knocked out by Israel Adesanya this past October.
THE RESULT: Whittaker by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
3. Shogun Rua v. Dan Henderson
UFC 139, November 19, 2011 - San Jose, California
Fans who started watching this sport in the past few years probably think of Henderson as a washed up guy who finally retired and Shogun as a guy who is nearing the finish line. But more than eight years ago, they were two of the best fighters on the planet and put on one of the best fights ever in the building known as the "Shark Tank." Henderson was coming off a knockout of Fedor Emelianenko at heavyweight, while Rua had knocked out Forrest Griffin in less than two minutes less than two months earlier. The back-and-forth fight featured Henderson dominating early before gassing out and barely surviving in the later frames. I always thought Shogun should have been awarded a 10-8 score in Round 5 which would have meant the fight ending in a draw.
THE RESULT: Henderson via unanimous decision (47-48, 47-48, 47-48)
2. Jon Jones v. Alexander Gustafsson
UFC 165 - Toronto, Canada - September 21, 2013
I can say with certainty that many "casual" fans became way more than that after seeing this fight. Jones was making the fifth defense of his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship and hadn't truly been challenged in either of the previous four bouts. Gus, a tall, long opponent with the ability to fight at distance like Jones does, stood back and peppered his opponent throughout the course of the bout. There appeared to be times in which both men had a chance to stop the fight but it wasn't meant to be. I have replayed this fight on countless occasions and every single time I watch it, I think the other guy won. That's how you know it was a good bout.
THE RESULT: Jones via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
1. Robbie Lawler v. Rory MacDonald II
UFC 189 - Las Vegas, Nevada - July 11, 2015
For my money, any list of the best fights ever has to begin right here. A rematch of a fight that took place a year and a half earlier, Lawler won the first bout via split decision. The rematch was one a violent, bloody war. Both men absorbed a remarkable amount of damage, with Rory nearly getting a stoppage at the end of Round 3. Yet as was the case many times in the past, Lawler survived and eventually won via TKO a minute into the fifth round. It's a good thing he did, too, because we later found out Robbie was down a pair of rounds on all three judge's scorecards. He was on his way to losing his UFC Welterweight Championship.
THE RESULT: Lawler via TKO (punches) at 1:00 of Round 5
Cub Swanson v. Doo Ho Choi (UFC 206, December 10, 2016 - Toronto, Canada):
Entering just his fourth UFC bout and first against a quality opponent, Choi put up quite a fight that night. He ended up on the short end of unanimous decision setback, but both he and Swanson excelled in what was a legitimate 2016 Fight of the Year contender.
THE RESULT: Swanson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)