Each December I count down the top 25 fights in UFC history. With each day of December, I will be revealing the newest fight on the list, with the #1 fight being revealed on Christmas morning. With approximately 550-600 new UFC fights each year, the list will look different than the year before. The criteria for ranking these fights are the amount of action, competitiveness, and significance of the fight (main events/title fights tend to get some extra credit).
So let’s get to the list
List so far
- #25 Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Randy Couture
- #24 Cheick Kongo vs Pat Barry
#23 Chris Leben vs Yoshihiro Akiyama
July 3rd, 2010
Co-Main Event for UFC 116 Lesnar vs Carwin
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
Chris Leben was always known for his fun, action-packed fights, but none of his other fight tops his fight with Yoshihiro Akiyama. The fight almost didn’t happen. Akiyama was originally scheduled to face Wanderlei Silva. Silva got hurt just 11 days before the fight and was replaced by Chris Leben.
Leben entered the fight on a two-fight win streak, while Akiyama was coming off his UFC debut win over Alan Belcher at UFC 100.
The fight didn’t have a single dull moment. The first 5 seconds into the fight, Akiyama catches a kick from Leben and lands a takedown. Leben fights to get to his feet, and lands back two flush left hands. Akiyama responds with a hard right hand, and a takedown. Leben immediately scoots his hips and locks in an armbar. The Japanese fighter wiggles out and starts to land ground and pound on Leben. Leben grabs another armbar from the bottom, but “Sexyama” was able to slide out of it and starts to set up an inverted triangle. As Leben works his way out of it, Akiyama puts in a Kimura and then switches to a guillotine. Leben is able to pop his head out of the guillotine and gets to his feet. Once on their feet, Leben hits a hard 1-2 punch, but Akiyama lands a trip takedown to end the round.
The second round picks up the intensity even more. Leben lands a hard left hand with Akiyama responding with a hard body kick. Leben hits a hard 1-2 combination that backs Akiyama up, and the “Crippler” follows it up with another left hand. Akiyama lands a very nice spinning back fist. Leben responds by landing a Superman punch. Then both exchange hard shots from the pocket. Akiyama lands another hard left and an overhand right. This sparks a crazy exchange of shots, with both guys landing a lot, making it look like “rock em, sock em robots”. Leben drops Akiyama with a left hand. Akiyama is able to get to his feet, and the “rock em, sock em robots” continues. Akiyama lands a picture perfect Judo toss. Leben is pinned against the cage, while Akiyama lands shots. Leben gets to his feet and attempts a standing guillotine choke. Akiyama pulls his head out and the two start banging it out again. Leben starts getting the better of the exchanges and starts to land huge left hands. Akiyama is clearly hurt, while Leben lands shots and the round ends.
The third round picks up right where the second round ended. Leben lands a nice left hand, and uppercut combination and then hits a high kick. Akiyama is stunned but drops Leben with an overhand right. The Japanese fighter started to land elbows from on top, while the American surprisingly is landing punches from underneath. Leben grabs an armbar and it looks like it might end the fight, however, Akiyama stacks Leben on his head and lands on top. Akiyama goes for a head and arm choke. Leben wiggles out, and lands shots from the bottom, while Akiyama lands from the top. Leben starts to hit elbows from the bottom, and with 35 seconds in the round, throws up a triangle choke. The crowd is going nuts, as Leben forces Akiyama to tap out with 20 seconds left.
Results and Notes:
This fight was absolutely insane, with non-stop action. Leben made a career on fights like this. This also showed why Akiyama is such a star in his home country.
Both guys have several fights in the UFC with mixed results. Leben has retired since. Akiyama hasn’t fought for over two years. He hasn’t officially retired, but it seems likely that he has.