Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 167, headlined by Canadian superstar Georges St-Pierre and knockout artist Johny Hendricks takes place this Saturday (Nov. 16, 2013) at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The pay-per-view (PPV) event marks a special occasion for the the world's premier mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion. Not only is it a high anticipated card filled with talented athletes, but it also celebrates the company's 20th Anniversary.
Despite nearly dying young, UFC blossomed from a spectacle into a legitimate, globally-viewed sport.
To celebrate a successful 20 years in the combat sports business, MMAmania will countdown 10 of the best cards in UFC history. Judged by both excitement and historical significance, each of these cards is well-worth watching once, if not a third or fourth time.
To kickoff our countdown, at No. 10 we take a look at UFC 136, which holds the deceivingly negative record as the longest event in the history of the promotion. Despite its length, those at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, in 2011 walked away having witnessed one of the best cards ever.
Indeed, good things come to those who wait, and the patience of the live audience was tested early. Six straight decisions, none of which are considered especially exciting fights, opened and occupied the entire "Prelims" under card. Even flashy striker and eventual Lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, was forced away from his "Showtime" style into a grapple-heavy match against Jeremy Stephens.
Entering the main card, Houston was getting restless. Local fans looked to hometown favorite, Melvin Guillard, to bring them the finish they so desperately desired. "The Young Assassin," on the verge of title contention, only had to rip apart some dorky Boston kid with weird ears in order to potentially earn a title shot.
Unfortunately for the then-Jackson/WinkelJohn MMA-trained product, Joe Lauzon just loves to play spoiler. Guillard zipped in-and-out early looking to land a big shot, feeling confident enough to flex and taunt the underdog. "J-Lau" timed one of his entrees beautifully, landing a stiff jab that forced Guillard to flop on a poorly timed sprawl, allowing Lauzon to sneak to his back and sink-in a tight choke.
Lauzon has made a career out of capitalizing on small openings and this is one of many examples.
The next bout of the evening was a rematch between Featherweight sluggers Nam Phan and Leonard Garcia. If there was ever a fight to liven up the Houston crowd, this was it. Phan picked apart Garcia for the majority of the first two rounds, but Garcia was constantly dangerous with his looping power shots.
In the third round, Garcia finally found a home for his punch. Putting his whole body behind a left hook, "Bad Boy" put Phan on his ass hard. Phan recovered, and the two finished with a brawl. To cap off this beautiful exhibition of violence, the judges actually scored the fight correctly, giving Phan the decision.
Both men earned their "Fight of the Night" checks.
In the final non-title fight of the evening, trash talking "Peoples Champion" Chael Sonnen brought the fight to military hero Brian Stann. At first, it appeared a standard Sonnen fight, with the Oregon native grinding Stann into the mat. However, Sonnen turned his game up in the second, submitting "All American" with a head and arm choke.
Since this was his first fight after his title loss to Anderson Silva, the audience awaited Sonnen's words with baited breath. Sonnen delivered, declaring that the Brazilian "absolutely sucks!" and challenging "The Spider" to a loser leaves town match. Despite all of the previous and approaching action, this may have been the most memorable moment for Sonnen's devoted followers.
Following up Chael P. Sonnen is rarely an easy task, but Jose Aldo managed to do just that. In a decisive five-round victory over Kenny Florian, Aldo proved that he was both the top 145-pound fighter alive and a legitimate pound-for-pound contender.
In addition to being a fairly exciting fight, this bout represents two important things, with the first being just how good Aldo is. At the time of this event, there was still talk that Featherweight fighters just weren't as talented as those at Lightweight. Aldo's dominance disproved that theory at UFC 136 and he has since done it again alongside many other talented 145-pound fighters.
UFC 136 also marked the final appearance of Florian inside the Octagon. Despite his reputation as an also-ran, Florian fought the best in the world throughout his career, challenging for the title three separate times. Although the fans didn't know it at the time, Florian would retire because of a lingering back injury not long after this fight. Even if he never owned a UFC title, Florian deserves recognition for his stellar MMA career.
In the main event, Frankie Edgar fought his rival Gray Maynard for a third, and likely final, time. Maynard had won their first match years earlier in a clear decision, but their rematch was much closer. In spite of a brutal beating at the hands of Maynard early, Edgar managed to even up the scorecards for a split draw in a "Fight of the Year" winner.
This time, both men hoped for different results from their second bout. Maynard intended to finish "The Answer" rather than let him escape, while Edgar hoped to avoid the power punches of "The Bully."
Once again, Edgar swallowed absurdly powerful shots from Maynard in the first round. Bloodied up and half-conscious, only Edgar's iron chin and constant movement saved him. Unlike the second fight, his recovery started a little early, recovering enough to land a few shots of his own at the end of the first round.
Heading into the second, Maynard's frustration was obvious. Twice he nearly finished the New Jersey native, and twice a golden opportunity slipped away. Edgar, still not fully recovered from the first round, managed to land a few more punches than Maynard, but failed on his takedown attempts. The third round went similarly, although Edgar's striking advantage was more pronounced.
The fourth began the same as the last two rounds. Then, Edgar attempted another takedown on Maynard, who sprawled hard to stop it. As his body dropped down to avoid the takedown, Edgar rocketed upward with a short uppercut. The punch landed directly on Maynard's chin, sending him wobbling backward.
Edgar quickly pursued, throwing a barrage of right hooks. The final one dropped Maynard face first down to the mat. "The Answer" did not let up, following him down to the canvas and landing shorts shots as he did. The referee decided he had seen enough and saved Maynard from further punishment, causing the crowd to erupt.
A huge upset, wild brawl, infamous trash talk, dominant title defense and incredible rally came together consecutively, making UFC 136 one of the best cards in the promotion's history and more than worthy of a spot on MMAmania.com Top 10 all-time list.
Keep it glued to MMAmania.com throughout the week as we continue our countdown in the build up to UFC 167 this weekend.