10 best tournaments in MMA history

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The sport of MMA and the rise of UFC have led to some amazing times. With the UFC going mainstream and having weekly events, it started to have a sort of repetitive feeling, where everything sort of feels the same.

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There is one thing, however, that no matter what promotion or class it is in, it always feels special, and that’s when a tournament takes place. Some of the greatest moments in the history of the sport have happened in tournaments, and they still feel special as a whole every time they perform. However, in the end, some tournaments were better than others.


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UFC 1

Royce-Gracie-Bellator-149-1

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The big deal, when fans think of MMA tournaments, we usually all think of UFC 1 as one of our first thoughts. In terms of competition or pure talent, that’s near the bottom of the barrel. However, he was still extremely important and influential in the development of the sport.

The one-night tournament was essentially an advertisement for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, as Gracie quickly subdued Art Jimmerson, Ken Shamrock and Gerard Gordeau in order to become the very first UFC tournament champion.

9
King of Pancras Tournament

Ken Shamrock Bellator 149

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Japan-based Pancrase promotion sought to respond to UFC tournaments with a senseless two-day tournament in 1994 that featured 16 fighters and several Hall of Famers. Filling in the pitch saw Bas Rutten, Frank and Ken Shamrock, Vernon White, Maurice Smith and Matt Hume, among others.

In the end, Ken Shamrock outlasted the other 15 fighters, beating Manabu Yamada in the final after 30 minutes. In the process, he became the very first Pancrase Champion.

8
Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix 2018

Fedor Bellator 214

Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports

In 2018, Bellator decided to host a heavyweight tournament to crown a new heavyweight champion after Vitaly Minakov relinquished the title. The field was 8 deep and it had a lot of star power. Among the squad then were lightweight champion Ryan Bader, former PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko, former UFC champions Frank Mir and Rampage Jackson, and other notable stars such as Chael Sonnen, Roy Nelson, Matt Mitrione and King Mo.

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Bader dominated the tournament, scoring a knockout victory over Mo and a decisive victory over Mitrione to meet Emelianenko in the final. Although Emelinaneko stepped back in time with back-to-back knockouts in previous rounds, Bader knocked out the legend in the first round to become a double-weight champion.

7
Super Hulk DREAM 2009 Tournament

José Canséco

Colin Boyle-USA TODAY NETWORK

No way around that, the 2009 DREAM super hulk tournament is arguably the most outrageous thing that has ever happened in MMA. Performing in Japan because it obviously wouldn’t be allowed anywhere else, the “Super Hulk” tournament featured some of MMA’s most colorful monster fighting characters such as Bob Sapp, Hong Man Choi, Jan Nortje, and Ikuhisa. Minowa. They also had legitimate world-class talents such as Gegard Mousasi, Mark Hunt and Sokoudjou. They also had former baseball star Jose Canseco, for some reason.

In the end, Minowa won the tournament after beating Sokoudjou in the final. Other memorable moments saw Mousasi’s middleweight take out Hunt, Choi destroy Canseco and Sapp lose twice in the tournament.

6
RIZIN 2016 Openweight Grand Prix

Mirko Cro Cop UFC 137

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

RIZIN’s first full year as a promotion decided to end with an insane tournament which was a tribute to the promotion to which he was seen as the spiritual successor to PRIDE. The 16-man peloton included Mirko Cro Cop, King Mo, Heath Herring, Kazuyuki Fujita and Jiří Procházka, among others.

Cro Cop, despite entering the tournament after a tough stint in the UFC, turned back time with four straight finishes to win the entire tournament. Last defeat of Amir Aliakbari to crown an insane tournament.

5
DREAM 2008 Middleweight Grand Prix

Bellator 185 Gegard Mousasi

Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports

DREAM’s 2008 Middleweight Grand Prix showcased some of the absolute best talent who weren’t in the UFC at the time. The promotion featured Gegard Mousasi, Jacare Souza, Mayhem Miller, Melvin Manhoef and Dennis Kang, among others, who filled the field with 14 fighters.

After some insane fights, Mousasi was crowned middleweight champion after knocking out Jacare in the final with a crazy finish, beating Jacare on the same day he beat Manhoef by submission. Not a bad day for the Dutchman.

4
Strikeforce 2011 Heavyweight Grand Prix

Cormier vs Barnett SF Grand Prix Final

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2011 Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix had arguably the largest group of fighters to ever be part of a tournament. Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Bigfoot Silva, Andrei Arlovski, Sergei Kharitonov and Brett Rogers filled the tournament.

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The tournament was fun and chaotic, however, nothing was crazier than a young and unknown Daniel Cormier marching for an injured Alistair Overeem to win the entire tournament. Take down Silva, then dominate Barnett to cement his place as one of the greatest fighters on the planet.

3
2005 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix

Shogun Rua UFC 190

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

There is no other way to describe the 2005 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix than to say it was Shogun Rua’s night out. Rua was part of a field of legends, such as Wanderlei Silva, Rampage Jackson, Vitor Belfort, Antonio Rogério Nogueira and Alistair Overeem among others. Despite this, Rua had one of the most impressive races in MMA history.

Rua, despite being one of the less favored fighters in the tournament, knocked out Jackson in the first round, outscored Nogueira in the second round, knocked out Overeem in the third round, then knocked out Ricardo Arona to cap an incredible race to become the champion. of the PRIDE Grand Prix.

2
PRIDE 2000 Openweight Grand Prix

Sakuraba Ultimate Fighter Final

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The PRIDE 2000 Openweight Grand Prix was full of legends. Royce Gracie, Kazushi Sakuraba, Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr and Igor Vovchanchyn helped round out the squad of 16 fighters. Most notable of the tournament was Sakuraba and Gracie meeting in the second round which lasted 90 minutes and ended with Sakuraba winning via TKO.

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Sakuraba continued via TKO’d by Vorchanchyn, and Coleman ended up winning the entire tournament after finishing Vorchanchyn to be crowned tournament champion.

1
PRIDE 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix

Silva vs. Rampage Bellator 206

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

There is only one way to describe the 2003 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix: chaos. At the opening of the first round, Rampage Jackson went to war with Murillo Bustamante, Chuck Liddell took out Alistair Overeem, Wanderlei Silva murdered Kazushi Sakuraba, and Hidehiko Yoshida defeated Kiyoshi Tamura. However, it was in the second round where things really started, as Jackson upset Liddell by knocking him out in the second round, and Silva went to war with Yoshida, where he won by decision.

The tournament finals gave us an incredible brawl between Silva and Jackson, where Silva took out Jackson to start one of the biggest rivalries in MMA history.


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