When it comes to movies, the saying goes, “sequels are never as good as the original.” But when it comes to mixed martial arts and UFC, it’s exactly the opposite.
Rematches between the same fighters add some intense emotion to the octagon, and virtually guarantees that one fighter is looking for revenge after a tough loss. The familiarity between the fighters forces them to change things up to avoid predictability, ensuring that no fight is the same.
Fighters have come back from tough knockouts, bloody battles, one-sided dominations, and tough judges decisions to battle their opponents again, and often times those fights surpass the originals.
Here are the best rematches in mixed martial arts:
The main event at UFC 202 sure lived up to its billing. After months of anticipation—the back-and-forth by McGregor and Diaz, McGregor’s “retirement” over media obligations, the fight getting pulled, the fight getting rescheduled—Diaz and “The Notorious” McGregor went the full five rounds, giving fans a supremely entertaining battle in the Octagon. The Irish fighter bloodied up the infamously thin-skinned Diaz over the first two rounds, knocking down the California native multiple times, but he was unable to secure a knockout.
The two traded jabs and kicks over the next three rounds and it was McGregor who outlasted Diaz, winning the fight by majority decision (48-47, 47-47, 48-47) and avenging his earlier loss to Diaz, the first of his UFC career. McGregor and Diaz spewed plenty of insults at their pre-fight press conference—"F--- your whole team. You'll do nothing. Shut your f---ing mouth. You'll do nothing," McGregor shouted at Diaz then—but after the fight, McGregor admitted that Diaz is “one tough motherf*cker” and that he is open for a third fight.
A trilogy? Let's hope for one.
After previously losing to Couture in a knockout, “The Iceman” was ready for another battle with “The Natural,” and this time it was personal. With the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship on the line, the rematch was one of the most anticipated events in UFC history—it became one of the highest-grossing fights ever for the organization. After being brushed back by a punch, Liddell was pressed near the cage and went on the offensive, cracking Couture's chin with his right hand to win the match. Liddell got his revenge by knockout on Couture a little over two minutes into the fight.
The main event was a rematch between wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar and Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir, who had previously beaten Lesnar at UFC 81 with a kneebar submission in the first round. That first fight lasted just a minute-and-a-half—which made Lesnar furious—and led to a much-anticipated sequel at UFC 100. Lesnar took down Mir in the second round, pummeling him with punches and getting blood all over the mat, as Lesnar won the fight on a technical knockout in the second round after the beatdown.
GSP was looking to bounce back when he faced off against Matt Hughes for the second time at UFC 65. In the first bout between the two, St-Pierre lost by tapping out on an armbar with just seconds left in the first round of the match. After losing the fight—the first defeat for GSP in the UFC—St-Pierre said that he looked up to Hughes as one of the fighters he admired, which made that first battle difficult. That would not be an issue the second time around. The two battled for the UFC Welterweight Championship and GSP came out on top, winning with a knockout in the second round. The fighters faced off a third time at UFC 79, with GSP winning with an armbar in the second round.
The first battle between "The Iceman" and "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was one of the biggest fights in UFC history. It took over a year for that first fight to happen—since the two were training partners and friends, Ortiz did not want to battle Liddell—but eventually things were settled and the fight went down at UFC 47. Liddell won that fight with a knockout in the second round, meaning Ortiz would be motivated to bounce back in the second bout. The battle at UFC 66 was evenly matched and both fighters bloodied each other up heading into the third round—that’s when Liddell took over. Ortiz went for a takedown on Liddell’s legs, but instead Liddell got on top and just started smashing Ortiz with his fist, resulting in a technical knockout and the win.
Even though “The Spider” took down Sonnen in their first bout in UFC 117, the way that fight went down made the second battle heavily anticipated. In that original match, Sonnen totally dominated Silva—winning the first four rounds on points and landing over 300 strikes against the fighter—but in the fifth round, the Brazilian hit Sonnen with an armbar submission to keep his UFC undefeated record and 13-straight win streak intact. Sonnen spit a lot of trash talk towards Silva leading up to their rematch and in the first round he was able to dominate Silva, but couldn’t score a knockout. In the second round, Sonnen went at Silva with a spinning elbow, but he missed badly and ended up on the ground, and that was enough for Silva: The defending champ held Sonnen down and pummeled him with punches until the referee called the fight.
The first battle between “The Iceman” and “Rampage” came in a Pride Fighting Championships battle and saw Jackson take down Liddell after dominating for over 10 minutes. The rematch went down in the UFC and came as Liddell was on a hot streak—he had won seven fights in a row by knockout or technical knockout and the last fight he lost was, of course, to Jackson. The second battle came in UFC 71, and it was a brief affair: Jackson took down Liddell with a right hook to the chin, knocking out the champ and showing why he was the newest star of the sport.
The first fight between “Shogun” and “The Dragon” at UFC 104 had a bit of controversy to it. While many felt that Rua won the bout, the judges scored it for Machida. The controversial decision led to a rematch just seven months later at UFC 113. The second time around, Rua didn't take any chances: “Shogun” was able to defend after multiple takedowns by Machida, and with just over a minute left in the first round, Rua sidestepped a hard jab by Machida and took him to the ground. Rua landed multiple punches to the face with both his fists, winning the fight and taking the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
The first battle between the “The Dominator” and “The California Kid” saw Faber win with a guillotine choke submission in the first round in a World Extreme Cagefighting match at WEC: 26. The match was the first loss of Cruz’s career and it led to a long-awaited rematch—the first fight was in 2007, the second in 2011—at UFC 132. The matchup was a battle of wills, with both fighters using aggressive strategies through the five rounds—but this time Cruz did enough to win and took the rematch in a unanimous decision.