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01st Feb 2018

10 cracking fights we never got to see in the Octagon

What might have been

Darragh Murphy

Brought to you by EA SPORTS UFC 3

What if?

What if Fedor Emelianenko made it to the Octagon? What if Georges St-Pierre accepted that tantalising fight offer? What if Ronda Rousey hadn’t lost?

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to the fight game and all it takes is one tiny change of circumstances to rob us deserving fight fans of an incredible bout.

There are hundreds of potential barn-burners that have passed us by but we’ve narrowed it down to ten cracking fights that we’ve never got to see in the UFC.

10 – Rich Franklin vs. Michael Bisping

This one never really gathered legs but there was a point, prior to his retirement, when former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin wanted a crack at Michael Bisping, who was struggling to find consistency in the top 10 at 185lbs at the time.

“I look at my Twitter and a lot of people talk about Bisping,” Franklin told MMA Weekly in 2013. “That would be an exciting fight and something the fans would want to see. I’m an exciting fighter, he’s an exciting fighter, and we both like to throw down.”

Bisping’s rivalry with Dan Henderson is well-known, with the Brit falling victim to one of the most brutal knockouts of all time before avenging his defeat in 2016.

But it could have been so different as Franklin was in the running to coach opposite ‘The Count’ on the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter but Henderson got the nod in the end.

9 – Randy Couture vs. Mirko Cro Cop

Randy Couture will go down as one of the greatest grapplers in the history of the heavyweight division while Mirko Cro Cop has always been one of the most terrifying strikers among the big boys.

Couture wanted to defend his heavyweight title against the Croatian kickboxing phenom back in 2007 but it wasn’t to be as Cro Cop lost two of his first three bouts in the Octagon.

In terms of the classic striker vs. grappler match-up, this would have made for a fascinating watch.

8 – Conor McGregor vs. Frankie Edgar

You can’t question Conor McGregor’s meteoric rise to the pinnacle of the UFC’s featherweight division but critics will still point to the fact that Chad Mendes had just 18 days to prepare for McGregor and even more cynical haters would suggest that his knockout victory over Jose Aldo was a fluke.

The fight that would have settled all arguments about McGregor’s dominance at 145lbs would have come against Frankie Edgar.

McGregor’s wrestling and gas tank would certainly have been put to the test by ‘The Answer’ but their paths just didn’t cross as the Irishman took a pair of fights against Nate Diaz at welterweight before he claimed the UFC lightweight title against Eddie Alvarez.

7 – Ronda Rousey vs. Cyborg

Let’s be honest, this fight would almost certainly have gone only one way but there was a time that Ronda Rousey was universally viewed as the most dominant female fighter on the planet.

Having stormed to 12-0 without requiring the judges, Rousey was thought of as unbeatable thanks to her Judo pedigree and ever-improving striking game.

But brutal defeats to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes shone a spotlight on just how underdeveloped Rousey’s stand-up was and it’s lucky she never had to share the Octagon with Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino.

‘Cyborg’ is a terrifying human and she would likely have toyed with ‘Rowdy’ but, back in 2015, it would have been intriguing to see the two most respected female fighters on the planet pit their skills against one another.

6 – Rafael dos Anjos vs. Conor McGregor

This one was so damn close to coming to fruition.

On the one hand, it’s frustrating that we never got the chance to see ‘The Notorious’ clash with RDA but, on the other, we’d likely have been deprived of McGregor’s rivalry with Nate Diaz if dos Anjos had made it to fight night at UFC 196.

Dos Anjos’ savagery is perhaps best highlighted by the ease with which he has transitioned to the welterweight division but what a shame it is that we never got the chance to witness the clash of styles between RDA and McGregor.

5 – Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva

What we’d give for footage of the famous sparring session between two of the most dominant champions in the history of the sport.

There would be no sense in making this super-fight right now but, once upon a time, there would have been a voracious appetite for Jones vs. Silva.

In between defences of his UFC middleweight title, Silva jumped up to light heavyweight for a bit of fun and ‘The Spider’ absolutely dominated Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar and James Irvin at 205lbs before he was smashed by Daniel Cormier after, ironically, stepping in for Jones in 2016.

It would have been entirely acceptable to give the Brazilian a crack at ‘Bones’ in 2013 but it wasn’t to be and now it never will be.

4 – Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis

Since the beginning of 2015, Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis have a combined record of 3-8 so it’s safe to say that neither man is exactly doing his legacy any good.

But, back when they were originally supposed to meet one another at UFC 163, this was touted as one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history.

Both Aldo and Pettis once possessed some of the most feared striking in their respective divisions five years ago.

Aldo’s coach Andre Pederneiras claimed that the UFC stood in the way of the fight being re-booked and while it remains entirely possible that we finally see Aldo vs. Pettis in 2018, it wouldn’t have half the allure nowadays.

3 – Jon Jones vs. Anthony Johnson

Jon Jones’ indiscretions may have tainted his legacy but they’ve also denied us some incredible fights, like his scheduled clash with Anthony Johnson at UFC 187.

Jones was expected to defend his light heavyweight title against the most feared knockout artist in UFC history and, having cleared out the entire division, ‘Bones’ was set to put himself in harm’s way against the man who only needs a grazing shot to put someone to sleep.

Nobody at 205lbs has the ability to turn someone’s lights out like ‘Rumble’ had but he’s since retired, leaving us all questioning what would have happened if he’d been given the chance to touch Jones’ chin.

2 – Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brock Lesnar

The fact that Fedor Emelianenko never competed in the Octagon robbed us of several potential heavyweight showdowns but none is more disappointing than the never-realised fight against Brock Lesnar.

Lesnar might not have been the most technical fighter in UFC history but he’s up there with the most enigmatic champions of all time.

Emelianenko remains in the GOAT discussion and he had been pursued for years by UFC President Dana White but he chose to take his career in a different direction.

One of the greatest “what ifs?” for MMA fans remains the fact that the Russian never fought in the UFC.

1 – Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre

This one should have been obvious. Two of the most dominant champions of all time, neither of whom have an obvious flaw in their skill-set, of similar age and within 15lbs of one another.

How this super-fight never got over the line is beyond us but it would have translated to incredible pay-per-view numbers and the most intriguing match-up in the sport’s history.

Silva’s Muay Thai vs. GSP’s Karate. Silva’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. GSP’s smothering top game. What’s not to love?

The greatest welterweight of all time was only offered a super-fight against the greatest middleweight of all time on one occasion but, given the circumstances, he turned it down.

“The only time I’ve been offered to fight Anderson Silva, formally – like formally – like a real offer, was after my fight with Johny Hendricks when I retired,” St-Pierre said. “It’s not (that I turned it down) because it was Anderson Silva. I would not have fought nobody. You could have put a midget of 3-foot tall, I would not have even fought him. I wouldn’t want to fight. I was tired. I wanted to take time off.”

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