Two of the best fights over the last couple of years have taken place between the same two combatants - Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler. Chandler finished Alvarez in the fourth round of their first meeting at Bellator 58, and Alvarez got the win back at Bellator 106 with a controversial decision victory. The two men will officially meet in the trilogy bout of Bellator's first PPV on May 24th in Memphis, and I thought it would be a good time to look at some of the best and worst trilogies in MMA to date.
Note - This post was inspired by a twitter conversation earlier today with a variety of MMA folks. This is just my opinion on the best/worst ones, not a comprehensive list or anything.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson - All three of their fights were great with a ton of action and some memorable moments. Fans that never watched Strikeforce might have thought that Diego Sanchez brought out the beast in Melendez, but it was Thomson that did it in their second bout. That is still one of the best brawls of all time, and part of the reason this trilogy was my favorite - every bout was drastically different but still highly entertaining. Thomson dominated the first, Melendez took the second, and the third was razor-close. There aren't many times fans want a fourth fight, but this is one that they'd like to see.
Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard - Edgar's perseverance really made this a memorable trilogy more than anything. Coming back from being hurt early in the last two bouts made up for the lackluster effort in the first one, which most people don't even seem to remember. Neither man has fared very well since, but it was still a great series.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes - A lot of people are not very high on this one, but it's one of my personal favorites due to the finishes. Matt's sub win right before the horn at UFC 50 was high drama, and the GSP head kick and finish to win the title at UFC 65 was even better. The third one was all GSP, but the finish where Hughes had to verbally submit because he didn't have a free arm to actually tap out was crazy.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton Jackson - Three fights, three epic beatdowns. The first two saw Rampage ending up unconscious, the third involved Silva eating shots long after he was out. These two also had one of the best verbal wars of all time leading up to each bout. The in-ring meetings, the videos they put out, everything. It was awesome.
Joachim Hansen vs. Shinya Aoki - This is one that doesn't get enough credit for how awesome the fights were. The first saw Aoki submit Hansen with a freakin' gogoplata. The second was a Dream lightweight tournament final, where Hansen came in as an alternate and shocked Aoki and everyone else with a first-round TKO win to claim the title. The rubber match was at Dream 11, and it was great. Hansen appeared to seriously hurt Aoki with an upkick, but it turns out he had kicked him in the balls first. Oops. Aoki laid on him for a while after that, even earning a yellow card (they both did actually), but then eventually took advantage and moved to mount. It took a while to secure the armbar, but he got it and brought the trilogy to a close with a Dream lightweight title win of his own.
Bobby Voelker vs. Roger Bowling - Not many will find this relevant, but I loved this one. You might know Voelker as a punching bag in the UFC, but he had a decent run on Strikeforce Challengers cards before that - mostly at the expense of Bowling. Their first fight saw Bowling up two rounds when Voelker started to make a big comeback. Right in the middle of it, he poked Bowling in the eye. They had to stop it and go to the cards, and Bowling won a technical decision. Since it was controversial, they met again six months later. Bowling won the first, but took a hellacious beating in the second (where he gamely held on for a long time) and lost by TKO. So they did it a third time the next summer. Bowling won the first yet again, but got killed by a knee and lost by TKO again.
Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock - Look, I know that they were fairly big draws. But the bouts sucked. Tito beat the tar out of Shamrock for three rounds in the first one, then stopped him in 78 seconds (controversially) in the second. So they did it a third time, and guess what? Shamrock got beaten up again. He was 42 by that point. It was lopsided, and not compelling in the least. They did a good job talking, but the fights couldn't back it up.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Tim Sylvia - As Anton pointed out to me, they actually fought four times. No one remembers the One FC bout though, and it was an NC anyway so it technically doesn't count. The first two bouts in this rivalry were actually pretty good, featuring great action and one quick win for each man. But the third bout killed the entire thing - it was 25 minutes of pure boredom that saw both men stare at each other the whole time. I've never seen a crowd boo a UFC main event like that to this day. It was horrible.
Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard - I still laugh at the UFC's promotion of this one - the first bout isn't even on their records! It was a TUF exhibition fight! And the "second" bout wasn't exactly awesome. Maynard missed with about 100 wild punches in the first round and Diaz did the same later on. This was another main event the crowd booed to the horn. But hey, let's do it a "third" time! Diaz totally destroyed Maynard in the final bout, which was at least entertaining. But still, as far as trilogies go, this a) wasn't even a real one; and b) kind of sucked.
Final note - Yes, I left off Fedor/Nogueira. Why? Because the second bout was a dud so it only feels like two fights to me, not three. And as much as people loved Randy/Chuck, I liked the five above more than their three bouts. Personal opinion and such. So there.