MMA fans are quick to praise five-round wars; those battles where the fighters involved throw everything they’ve got—including the kitchen sink—at one another for 25 hard minutes. Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is one such fight. Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson is another. Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler II is a third. Yet for every one of these tooth and nail collisions, there’s an equally enthralling, though far more abrupt one-round war.
We’re talking about those fights where two fighters engage which such fervor that nothing on earth could keep both standing for more than five minutes, fights where the blows are so severe, and the takedowns so deep, that the possibility of second round seems as likely as a Ronda Rousey vs. Floyd Mayweather bout coming to fruition. These fights, though brief, are no less entertaining than their five-round counterparts—sometimes they’re even better.
They happen everywhere too, not just under the bright lights of the UFC. From PRIDE, to Strikeforce, to community center basements in the smallest American towns, every now and then, fighters collide with such intensity that the only possible result is implosion just moments after the opening bell rings.
Here is a rundown of the ten greatest one-round fights in MMA history.
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10 Cain Velasquez vs. Brock Lesnar at UFC 121
From the early vantage point, this was one of the most intriguing Heavyweight title fights in history. In one corner we had Lesnar, the hulking champ. In the other, we had Velasquez, the much smaller, but much faster challenger—and what a fight it turned out to be. Despite the champ’s wild aggression in the early moments of the fight, Velasquez kept his cool, before eventually turning the tide with patient, but powerful punches. After sending his massive opponent spinning across the Octagon like a dreidel, the challenger scored a first round TKO to become the new champion.
9 Diego Brandão vs. Dennis Bermudez at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale
Dennis Bermudez so very nearly won The Ultimate Fighter. In the season 14 finale, he had his co-finalist, Brandão, in serious danger. Had he been just a little bit more patient, he likely would have won his prize. Instead, his aggression played right into Brandão’s slick BJJ, and with 9 seconds left in the opening stanza, Bermudez found himself on the wrong end of an armbar. Since then, Bermudez has realized much greater success than Brandão, but given how close he came to winning the show, the loss has still gotta sting.
8 Roland Delorme vs. Nick Denis at UFC on Fox 3
Of all the fights on this list, this is probably the least-known. That said, it is without a doubt one of the best one-round fights ever. The action began with Denis taking the center of the cage, savaging Delorme with a diet of long power punches. Within moments, Delorme was on roller skates. It looked like Denis had the fight in the bag, until suddenly, their roles reversed. Delorme fired back, rocking his opponent with strikes of his own. Denis tumbled to the ground, Delorme followed him, and coaxed out a tap with one lonely second left in the round.
7 Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira II at UFC 140
At UFC 92, Frank Mir became the first man to crack the chin of “Minotauro” Nogueira. But because of the health issues that plagued “Big Nog” at the time of that fight, many pegged Mir’s win as a fluke. To rectify this, the UFC paired the two for a second time at UFC 140. This time around, it looked as though it’d be Nogueira that came out on top, as the Brazilian treated his opponent’s head like a speed-bag against the fence early on. But after one of the best scrambles in Heavyweight history, Nogueira found his arm locked up in a tight kimura. A few cracks later, his arm was broken, and Mir became not just the first man to knock him out, but also the first to submit him.
6 Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche at UFC 157
This one marked the much-hyped UFC debut of former Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey. Having been appointed the UFC’s first women’s Bantamweight Champion, she would defend her belt against the largely unheralded Liz Carmouche, and if the UFC had its way, she’d go on to become one of the sport’s biggest stars. We know that’s the way things turned out, but thanks to a wickedly tight standing rear-naked choke attempt from Carmouche, the Rousey era very nearly ended before it began. Demonstrating championship heart, however, Rousey fought off the submission, before scoring one of her own—her seventh consecutive first-round armbar.
5 Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II at UFC 52
UFC president Dana White has called this one of his favorite fights ever and that’s a hard stance to argue. It was one hell of a battle. The round began with Trigg landing an inadvertent groin shot. When the referee failed to notice the fowl, Trigg took advantage, sending Hughes to the ground with a barrage of punches. Following his opponent down, Trigg then threatened with a monsoon of ground-and-pound and a rear-naked choke attempt. Yet finally, after minutes of struggling, Hughes freed himself, carried Trigg across the cage, and slammed him into the canvas before sealing the deal with a rear-naked-choke of his own.
4 Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson
This fight pitted the two biggest names on the Strikeforce roster against one another. In one corner, there stood Light Heavyweight legend and then-champion Dan Henderson. In the other, was all-time-great Fedor Emelianenko, who was riding the first two-fight losing streak of his iconic career. When the opening bell rang, neither man wasted any time in firing their respective cannons. Emelianenko’s landed first, nearly shutting Henderson’s power off. But then, with less than a minute left, the American let fly his famous H-bomb, and handed Emelianenko his very first knockout loss.
3 Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama at PRIDE 21
In the main event of Pride 21, mustachioed American Don Frye and hulking Japanese bomber Yoshihiro Takayama entered the ring for a Heavyweight showdown. The result was an unforgettable Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots match. Seconds into the bout, the two men clinched up and began to force-feed one another a diet of right hands and knees. The slugfest continued until Frye scored a takedown, and pummeled a bruised Takayama until the referee intervened. It was miles from a technical display, but it goes down as one of the most legendary brawls ever.
2 Diaz vs. Daley at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley
This one pitted gritty grappler Nick Diaz against Daley, who was considered one the division’s hardest hitters. Given the strengths of both men, many expected Diaz to shoot for takedowns from the opening bell. This was not the case. Demonstrating the sizable cojones that have made him one of the sport’s most beloved fighters, Diaz opted to stand toe-to-toe with his bomb-slinging opponent—and it very nearly cost him. After eating a few of Daley’s comets, Diaz was walking on spaghetti legs. Yet just when it looked like lights out for the Stockton scrapper, he turned things around with a punch of his own, separating Daley from his consciousness with only three seconds left in the round.
1 Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry at UFC Live 4
Were it not for the patience referee Dan Miragliotta, this one probably wouldn’t make the list at all. Because of the patience of Miragliotta, however, we ended up with not just one of the best one-round fights ever, but one of the best fights ever—period.
After a short feeling out process, the bombs began to fly. Barry rocked Kongo. Kongo collapsed backward. Barry rocked Kongo again. Kongo tumbled around the octagon like a drunk at 4am. It looked like it was all over for the Frenchman until he landed a veritable Falcon Punch that completely removed Barry’s batteries. It was a comeback KO for the ages, just 2:39 into the fight. Today, both men have been cut from the UFC, yet they can take solace knowing that together, they bludgeoned their way into the MMA history books with the best one-rounder ever.
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