I was sitting around last night, leisurely enjoying a nice dinner of microwaved pizza and Old Milwaukee, when I stumbled across a statement posed by a friend of Thapa's -- 'You might be able to argue that (UFC 146) is the single best night of heavyweight MMA action in the history of the sport'. A brief discussion followed and I also took the question to twitter, where some of BE's finest commenters discussed the issue at length. At the end of it all, I drew a conclusion - UFC 146, if it goes off with the scheduled fights it has right now, will indeed be the most stacked heavyweight card ever.
Has there ever been a card where the number one guy faced off with the guy tied for number two (Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem) the other number two met number four (Cain Velasquez vs. Frank Mir), ten met fourteen (Antonio Silva vs. Roy Nelson), and twenty-two met an undefeated prospect (Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shane Del Rosario)? No, there hasn't. Some have come close though, and here's a brief synopsis of some other cards that had a lot of highly relevant heavyweight fights (in no particular order).
Note - I'm not talking about what card had the most awesome heavyweight KO's or submissions or what you would normally classify as "action". I'm purely speaking from a relevance standpoint.
Pride Final Conflict 2004
This was the semi-finals of the 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix. Ron Waterman faced Kevin Randleman, who was bounced in the quarter finals by Fedor Emelianenko, in a non-tournament bout. The prelims also featured a matchup between top heavyweight Mirko Filipovic and Aleksander Emelianenko. It was only Aleks' fourth pro bout though, and Cro Cop was already out of the tournament. The tournament semi-finals featured the (at the time) undefeated Sergei Kharitonov vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Fedor taking on the undefeated (again at the time) Naoya Ogawa. After all that, the finals between Fedor and Big Nog also went down. This is the card that comes the closest to competing with UFC 146 to me.
Pride Critical Countdown 2004
The quarter-finals of the same GP , that featured five HW bouts: Mark Hunt vs. Hidehiko Yoshida (non-tournament); Sergei Kharitonov vs. Semmy Schilt; Naoya Ogawa vs. Giant Silva; Heath Herring vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (a huge bout at the time); and Fedor Emelianenko vs. Kevin Randleman, who was coming off a big upset of Mirko Filipovic in the opening round.
I know it sounds weird, but hear me out. Fedor Emelianenko, the top-ranked fighter in the world, faced former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia, who was ranked at number five at the time. Andrei Arlovski (6th) faced Ben Rothwell (10th - seriously). And Josh Barnett (4th) faced Pedro Rizzo (Unranked). The undercard also featured a Paul Buentello vs. Gary Goodridge fight.
Two more after the jump.
The opening round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Fabricio Werdum was third in the world at the time, while Alistair Overeen was seventh. Josh Barnett (14th) met Brett Rogers (15th). Daniel Cormier (30th) met Jeff Monson (28th), and Valentijn Overeem (38,242nd) met Chad Griggs.
Pride Grand Prix Finals 2000
Not all the guys in the openweight tournament were heavyweights which takes away some of its relevance, but it was still stacked with the top heavyweights of the time like Mark Coleman (who ended up winning), Igor Vovchanchyn (beat Gary Goodridge and Kazushi Sakuraba to get to the finals, but lost to Coleman),and a matchup between Kazayuki Fujita vs. the guy whom many considered to be # 1 at the time, Mark Kerr. Ken Shamrock also returned from a four-year absence to face Alexander Otsuka (who honestly wasn't very good).
So, those are my five. Can you come up with some other competitors? And are any of those (or any of these) better than UFC 146?