My criteria is all about contrast. Each fight on this list show a certain contrast between fighting style, size, strength, endurance, etc. Whether the match-up was even, or the fight was close, is completely irrelevant to my criteria. The fight didn't have to be important, or relevant. There could be other fights that show a similar contrast, but these fights show the contrast in spectacular fashion.
5. Royce Grace vs. Kimo Leopoldo (UFC 3)
Kimo was Bigger, Stronger, had great striking, & as good of Jiu Jitsu as Gracie had seen in the UFC to this point. He weighed in at 240 pounds (to Gracie's 175) and he looked hungry. For the first time in the UFC we got to see someone (Gracie) fight for his life. At one point, to keep Kimo from punching him in the face, Gracie grabbed on to Kimo's hair. Needless to say, Gracie won, although he had to be carried out of the cage & could not defend his title of UFC champion.
4. Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin I (UFC 64)
To this point Rich Franklin had dominated the Middle Weight division in the UFC. He was bigger than most of his opponents, he had accurate striking, heavy hands, good wrestling and conditioning. He seemed to be unstoppable, especially in the stand up game. Along comes the skinny Brazilian and we all got to see what the striking game is really about. Joe Rogan described it as a "ballet of violence".
3. Takanori Gomi vs. Luis Azeredo 1 (PRIDE Bushido 7)
Striker vs. Striker. The heavy handed, boxer style, Gomi, versus the well rounded, karate style, Azeredo. A lot of fights could be inserted here, but I like this one. Gomi was taking damage from different angles but just kept pushing forward like the terminator. Clearly frustrated and angered by Azeredo tactics, you could just see the knock out coming.
2. Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi (PRIDE 33)
Nick Diaz offers a unique style of boxing along with excellent Jiu Jitsu. In this fight we get to see Gomi's frustrations work against him. The low power, high accuracy combinations of Diaz kept Gomi unbalanced for the entire fight. You can see Gomi's strength meter slowly drop like he was a character in a Nintendo video game. And to top it all off, it was ruled a no contest because Nick had smoked a joint sometime in the previous month. The Japanese will do whatever it takes to protect their best fighter.
1. Shinya Aoki vs. Gesias Calvancante 2 (DREAM 2)
What is the single best fighting style in MMA? Can an expert in just one style be competitive in modern MMA? Aoki has definitely answered these questions and I think this fight best shows why. Calvancante is an excellent striker and well rounded MMA practitioner. Aoki is one of the least "rounded" fighters I can think of. Aoki took little damage in this fight and Calvancante spent the entire fight trying not to lose.