This column highlights five past bouts from fighters competing on this weekend’s UFC 180. These fights represent some of the highest moments in the careers of their respective participants, and should serve to pique your interest heading into the event. Note: Because UFC 180 has about as much depth as a sheet of paper, my options were limited. Normally I’ll try to pick a few more fights that don’t require UFC Fight Pass to view, but if you do have Fight Pass, these are all well worth the time. 1. Fabricio Werdum vs. Fedor Emelianenko – Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum Upcoming Bout: Fabricio Werdum vs. Mark Hunt
Was there really any other pick for Werdum? Even if he captures the interim heavyweight title on Saturday night, this will remain the defining fight of Werdum’s career unless he is able to capture the real UFC heavyweight belt. This fight took place prior to Werdum showing the marked improvement in his striking that we’ve seen since his return to the UFC, which makes it that much more impressive. Werdum may be the greatest heavyweight grappler in MMA history, and this would be exhibit A if you were looking to make that case. The logic would follow that if he is able to submit Emelianenko (actually, he holds submissions over both Emelianenko brothers), that Mark Hunt would be doomed if Werdum is able to drag this to the ground, regardless of if he ends up on top or bottom.
2. Mark Hunt vs. Fedor Emelianenko – PRIDE Shockwave 2006 Upcoming Bout: Mark Hunt vs. Fabricio Werdum
One Fedor fight deserves another. Hunt was ultimately unsuccessful in this bout, and for many years it seemed like this would be the last flash of a promising MMA career that really never developed. Luckily, almost eight years later, Hunt has become a far better fighter than he ever was and now has a shot at a UFC title. All through his career, Hunt relied on his “natural MMA instincts” to survive against guys who had superior grappling games to him. Never was that talent more apparent than in his bout with Fedor Emelianenko. After surviving an armbar attempt from Fedor, Hunt proceeds to hold side control, lock in a pair of keylock attempts, and event mount Fedor. Eventually, the Russian got back on top and locked in a kimura, but for such a primitive version of Hunt to have that kind of success, you can see why people are picking him against Werdum.
Of course, when you think of Mark Hunt, you think striking. So, as a bonus fight check out Hunt’s classic K-1 battle with Ray Sefo from 2001.
3. Jake Ellenberger vs. Carlos Condit – Ultimate Fight Night 19 Upcoming Bout: Jake Ellenberger vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Just over five years ago, Jake Ellenberger stepped into the Octagon for the first time to face Carlos Condit. The former WEC champion had something to prove, as he was on the wrong end of a split decision against Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut earlier in the year. Ellenberger almost turned those plans on their ear, turning in an absolutely crushing first round where he scored two knockdowns on Condit and should have been awarded a 10-8 round without a second thought. Unfortunately for Ellenberger, MMA judges are terrible at their jobs, so rather than being awarded a draw, he ended up losing a split decision as he tired and Condit’s incredible resiliency allowed him to come back to take the final two rounds. It was an excellent introduction for fans to Ellenberger, and his style hasn’t changed much since. If he lands the kind of offense on Gastelum that he put together against Condit, he’ll likely have his hand raised for the 9th time in the UFC.
4. Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice – UFC 157 Upcoming Bout: Dennis Bermudez vs. Ricardo Lamas
Dennis Bermudez has fought eight times in the UFC so far, and I would be happy to go back and watch any of them. The man fights at an incredible pace, throws big offense, looks for high amplitude takedowns, and is flawed enough defensively that his opponents are able to get some offense in. His 2013 fight with Matt Grice is a perfect example of all those characteristics. Even though the judges mucked this one up a bit too, there’s no denying that in a year of phenomenal fights, this was one of the best. The wrestling of these two fighters basically cancelled each other out (they combined to go 1-for-21 in takedown attempts) in the most incredible way. Each fighter scored a knockdown, and they combined for 202 significant strikes landed in this one. Bermudez’ upcoming opponent, Ricardo Lamas, is known for being a more deliberate fighter. If Bermudez can drag him into this type of war, that definitely favors the former TUF runner-up, and an 8th consecutive win would be hard to ignore when trying to determine the next title challenger at featherweight.
5. Ricardo Lamas vs. Bendy Casimir – WEC 47 Upcoming Bout: Ricardo Lamas vs. Dennis Bermudez
This one gets forgotten for a couple reasons: 1) It was in the WEC. 2) It was on a WEC undercard (if you weren’t an MMA fan at the time, just ask someone who was about the frustration they experienced when it came to the Donald Cerrone/Rob McCullough fight). There was always something magical about that blue WEC cage however. It just created some of the most spectacular violence. This fight isn’t anything out of the ordinary for about the first 3:40, but then Ricardo Lamas just melts Bendy Casimir with a knee that sends the Frenchman’s mouthguard into orbit. When I watch this KO now, I don’t event see the actual KO, I just watch the mouthpiece fly out. Ricardo Lamas has quietly built himself a solid highlight reel. He’s got this knee, his head kick win against Matt Grice, his dominant submission of Cub Swanson, and the absolute brutalization of Erik Koch. With Dennis Bermudez’ style and defensive flaws, we could be ripe for some more highlight reel stuff on Saturday night.