Top 20 bloodiest fights in UFC history
For all of the outside talk about how gory and violent mixed martial arts can be, there really have only been a handful of matches in the promotion’s history that have been full-fledged blood baths. Most of the time, those cuts are superficial and quick healing, but they certainly make for an unsettling visual. They also certainly make for an uncomfortable setting, as the participants of the 20 bloodiest fights can attest.
In the spirit of Halloween, we present the 20 fights that were most likely to give you nightmares.
#20: Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Stephan Bonnar - UFC 110
Stephan Bonnar certainly had his share of wars in the Octagon, including the memorable one with Forrest Griffin that provided the tipping point for the UFC to make it in the sports world.
But in Feb. 2010, he was just another undercard fighter looking for a win when he battled with Krzysztof Soszynski in Australia. The bloodletting started from the opening frame, when Bonnar took a punch to the nose, and then a later uppercut.
The real gusher, however, came in the third, as both fighters competed against the fence. Appearing to come from an accidental headbutt, Bonnar got the worst of it, and his forehead immediately was spraying out blood. Unfortunately, the cut was much too deep to continue, the cageside physician ruled, and Soszynski was awarded a TKO win.
#19: Jim Miller vs. Mac Danzig - UFC 100
If you didn’t attend UFC 100 or watch the undercard, but were in one of the estimated 1.6 million households to plunk down cash for the pay-per-view, you might have wondered exactly why the Octagon was already blood red at the start of the broadcast.
For that, you can thank Mac Danzig and Jim Miller, who were part of an undercard so loaded that it included future UFC light-heavyweight Jon Jones and Hall of Famer Mark Coleman.
But in his time in the spotlight, Miller was both excellent and violent, opening up a cut on Danzig’s hairline in the first round, and wailing away on it with elbows that had Danzig leaking for the rest of the fight. It didn’t help that Danzig couldn’t keep Miller off of him. Whether on the ground or from distance, Miller refused to turn down the volume on his attack, scoring six takedowns and landing almost 63% of his strikes. The result was a constant and sometimes spurting stream of blood, along with a Miller unanimous decision.
#18: Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort - UFC 49
At his best, Randy Couture could break down any opponent, working him over from the top or in the dirty boxing clinch game with his elbows.
In 2004, just seven months after losing the UFC light-heavyweight championship to Vitor Belfort on a cut, Couture went back to work in the trilogy fight between them.
It was a typical Couture mauling. Couture cut Belfort near the start of the second round, and utilizing his top control, slammed away at Belfort, opening up the wound. Couture owned the position, landing 131 of 154 total strikes, and as each punch landed, Belfort bled out. Before long, Couture’s white shorts were red.
The beating was so sustained and effective, at one point, Couture’s punch rocked Belfort’s head so hard that it sprayed the cageside camera with blood. Finally, after third round ended, Belfort sat in disappointment at his situation, and the doctors soon decided he was done.
#17: Martin Kampmann vs. Diego Sanchez - UFC on Versus 3
Diego Sanchez was never really in a fight unless he was bleeding, it seemed. It was only then that he could summon his best efforts.
In 2011, he fought Martin Kampmann in a UFC on Versus main event that ended up as one of the year’s bloodbaths. It didn’t take long to get this one started, as Kampmann opened up his opponent in the first, and also knocked him down during the period.
Of course, this just meant Sanchez would come back harder in the second. In each round, the output went up for both men, as did the violence quotient. Sanchez was cut under his left eye, then under his right eye. Then his left eye swelled up. His nose bloodied and ran down his chest. Kampmann, too, sustained a gash of his own.
Somehow, despite being out-landed during the fight, Sanchez earned a decision.
#16: BJ Penn vs. Diego Sanchez - UFC 107
After a four-fight win streak, Diego Sanchez was given a lightweight title shot against BJ Penn at UFC 107. But Penn was at the top of his game, and he constructed one of the best championship performances in UFC history.
During the 4+ round fight, Penn connected on an astonishing 70% of his strikes, was hit only eight times, and stuffed all 27 of Sanchez’s takedown tries. It was a whitewashing. Or perhaps a whitewashing bathed in red. Penn systematically attacked Sanchez’s face one strike at a time, causing several cuts, including ones to his nose and lips.
Most of the blood shed would wait until the final round. Penn had warded off yet another Sanchez takedown when he connected with a head kick that immediately tore open a three-inch gash across the left side of Sanchez’s forehead. Sanchez bravely dug in for another takedown try but when they separated, his face was stained red. The doctor got one look at it, and all that was left was Penn’s blood-licking routine and the official decision.
#15: Jon Madsen vs. Abe Wagner - The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights
Officially, Abe Wagner never fought in the UFC, but he did compete in the Octagon during season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, facing Jon Madsen in a quarterfinal matchup.
While Wagner was mostly a striker, Madsen was a wrestler, and he used that stylistic advantage to take Wagner down early and keep him there. During his prolonged assault, Madsen landed a strike that cut Wagner on the right side of his forehead. From then on, it seemed like every landed punch brought more blood with it. While Wagner tried to defend, he couldn’t find a way to get back to his feet, and was savaged on the ground, leaving two huge puddles of blood by the end of the first round, as well as his face and right arm covered.
Between rounds, the doctor looked at it, but Wagner’s cut men did a good job slowing down the flow, so Wagner was allowed to continue. Unfortunately for him, Madsen took him down immediately and continued his assault.
Wagner did briefly force a standup, but was taken right back down, allowing Madsen to create a matching blood pool on the opposite side of the cage. When doctors cleaned off the cut, they could see straight down to the bone.
#14: Josh Neer vs. Keith Wisniewski - UFC on Versus 6
Josh Neer had always had a reputation as a brawler. After all that “Dentist” nickname didn’t come out of thin air, but his Oct. 1, 2011 fight with Keith Wisniewski might have been his masterpiece of violence.
The two fighters were both veterans, and perhaps because of it, neither seemed to want to back down in a battle of chicken that was taking place against the cage. Much of the fight was fought in a clinch, making it likely that it was always going to come down to who could do the better work with his elbows.
The answer, of course, was Neer, who really went to work in the second round, firing off a barrage of elbows that cut Wisniewski multiple times, including over both of his eyes. Midway through the round, his face was a crimson mask. Not too long afterward, Neer tried to lock up a standing guillotine, and the pressure on Wisniewski’s head led to blood spurting everywhere.
As the round end, ref Dan Miragliotta visibly shook his head in equal parts amazement and disgust, but when he checked with the cageside doctor, it was determined that Wisniewski had had enough.
#13: Rory Singer vs. Josh Haynes - UFC: Ortiz vs. Shamrock 3
At the time it took place, the UFC’s Tito Ortiz-Ken Shamrock trilogy fight was a ratings bonanza, drawing millions to the television broadcast, but only the people watching live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Seminole, Florida, got to experience the night’s most hotly contested fight.
Rory Singer and Josh Haynes were both participants on season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter, and while Singer was a natural middleweight, Haynes started off competing as a light-heavyweight. But a few months later, Haynes was ready to move down, and he was welcomed there by his former cast mate.
Haynes made it through the first mostly unscathed, until Singer landed a head kick that appeared to break Haynes’ nose. From then on, it bled the rest of the way, with Singer’s reach advantage paying dividends. In the second, Haynes floored Singer with an overhand right, which left him on top and bleeding on Singer.
In the third, with blood dripping down his nose, mouth and chest, Haynes was asked if he wanted to continue. “Hell yeah,” he said. But the faucet was leaking and could not be fixed. A second time he was checked, and he pleaded to fight. He was allowed to continue, but he ultimately lost in a decision.
#12: Donald Cerrone vs. KJ Noons - UFC 160
Donald Cerrone has always been an MMA violence all-star, so when he faced of with fellow striker KJ Noons, fireworks were in the offing.
The first round began innocently enough, although Noons did leave it with a small abrasion near his right eye. It soon began to swell, and Noons consistently began wiping it, which probably made it a bigger target for Cerrone. Before long, Cerrone had bloodied Noons’ nose. But it was in the third when things really picked up. Just over a minute in, Cerrone was able to score a takedown, and then opened up his tool box, smashing Noons with a hail of elbows and punches that lasted for most of the remainder of the round. Strike by strike, you could see the damage accumulating, and by the end of it, Noons face was the same color as the red tape on Cerrone’s gloves.
#11: Joe Stevenson vs. Yves Edwards - UFC 61
After winning season two of The Ultimate Fighter as a welterweight, Joe Stevenson eventually figured that a move down to 155 would be his best career path, and so he did so at UFC 61, taking on the veteran Yves Edwards.
The crafty Edwards got off to a strong start, winning the first round, although he did sustain a cut to the left side of his forehead from an elbow during a brief period he was on the bottom. That would turn out to be a very major factor.
About a minute into the second, Stevenson took Edwards down, trapped him against the fence, and fired off a right that ripped the cut wide open. Stevenson postured up and dropped a series of elbows and fists until ref John McCarthy was forced to check on Edwards. When Edwards got up, the left side of his face had blood streaming down.
Edwards was allowed to continue, and Edwards was placed back in his blood puddle to restart. Stevenson kept up his assault, and at the end of the second round, the cageside doctor decided Edwards had seen enough.
#10: Sean Sherk vs. Kenny Florian - UFC 64
One of the bloodiest title matches in history took place on Oct. 14, 2006, taking place just before Anderson Silva won his UFC middleweight championship.
It was Kenny Florian, just eight fights into his career, taking on Sean Sherk for the vacant lightweight championship. Florian entered the arena wearing a samurai outfit, perhaps an unintended foreshadowing of what was to come.
And what happened was both men getting sliced up. Florian was already known for his hellacious “hell-bows,” and despite being taken down, it was one from the bottom that opened up Sherk. As the fight went on, Sherk’s sizable wrestling advantage continued to manifest itself, leaving Sherk in the top position and bleeding all over his opponent. Even though he was winning rounds, from the looks of it, Sherk was in a major dogfight.
By the time the fight was over, Florian’s shorts, which started out white, had been dyed pink, while Sherk’s cut continued to ooze until the final bell.
Years later, Florian did an interview during which he touched on the famous fight.
“There was so much blood, I can’t even tell you,” he said. “It was ridiculous. I can still taste it to this day. Like liquid metal. It was nuts.”
#9: Jeremy Stephens vs. Estevan Payan - UFC 160
Elbows and foreheads just aren’t meant to go together. The combination is frequently responsible for some of the worst cuts in MMA. Even though it’s often only a surface wound, it’s rarely a pretty sight.
On the same night that Cerrone and Noons had their own blood bath, Jeremy Stephens and Estevan Payan one-upped them at UFC 160, after Payan took an elbow from Stephens in the first round of his Octagon debut. If that’s all it was, he might have made it out OK, but Stephens went back to work in the second round after scoring a takedown, letting loose with a barrage of elbows that turned on the tap. From there on out, Payan was gushing, leaving pools small and big in his wake. Admirably, he fought until the final bell but lost a unanimous decision. Afterward, even Stephens admitted that he “cringed” at all of the bloodshed he’d caused.
#8: Josh Koscheck vs. Chris Lytle - UFC 86
Chris Lytle was always a blood-and-guts fighter, so it was no major surprise when an opponent sliced him open. The most memorable of these scenarios took place in July 2008, when he fought Josh Koscheck.
For the most part, Koscheck was a very difficult matchup for Lytle. He had the wrestling to take the fight to the ground, and the submission defense to stifle any attempts. So what we ended up with was a fight mostly spent on the ground.
In an ordinary fight, that would have been no problem, but in the second round, Koscheck teed off and opened up a cut above Lytle’s right eye. It bled liberally. At one point near the end of the round, Koscheck worked him over over near the cage, leaving little puddles of plasma every few feet. When Lytle finally got up, he had blood covering nearly all of the skin on his face and running all the way down his right arm, while Koscheck’s blonde hair was now streaked pink.
#7: Stefan Struve vs. Dennis Stojnic - UFC 99
Stefan Struve is huge, 7 feet tall and around 250 pounds, so it stands to reason that he’s got a lot of blood pumping through his system. We got to witness it first-hand at UFC 99, when he fought Denis Stojnic in his second UFC bout.
Struve spent most of the first round on his back, with Stojnic looking for a game-changer. With about 40 seconds left, he threw a series of hammerfists, and one of them opened a gash across Struve’s hairline.
The cut kept leaking as Struve pulled guard in the second round before reversing and ending up on top. Eventually, he got Stojnic’s back and locked in a rear naked choke. In tensing up his muscles to finish the fight, his cut began spraying everywhere, all over Struve, Stojnic and the mat. He couldn’t get the finish but stayed on it.
“This is like hot oil wrestling with blood,” UFC analyst Joe Rogan said at one point.
Finally, thankfully, Struve got under Stojnic’s neck and closed the show with the choke, leading to the memorable image of Struve celebrating the win while covered in his own blood.
#6: Edwin DeWees vs. Gideon Ray - The Ultimate Fighter 4
Technically, this was not an official UFC fight, but a first-round matchup on season 4 of TUF. Regardless, it’s still worthy of its place on this list.
Two minutes into the second, DeWees was working the top position with elbows when suddenly, his forehead started bleeding. It’s never been clear what exactly caused the cut. Even replays are inconclusive, although it looks to have been caused by his own glove. Nevertheless, the cut near the top of his forehead immediately began spraying.
The cut was immeidately checked, and the fight restarted in the same position. DeWees’ hair was platinum blonde, and within seconds, it was streaked Chris Leben-red. Ray was clearly grossed out, and was motivated enough to quickly reverse position. Since TUF fights are scheduled for two rounds, the scene could have been over after two, but of course, scorecards had them tied and they needed an overtime round.
Ray started the extra round with a spinning kick, slipped and ended up on the ground, where DeWees proceeded to bleed all over him for the better part of five minutes. The cut was so bad that at times, DeWees would cover it to slow the bleeding with one hand while throwing a strike with the other. He eventually won a decision, and the title of bloodiest TUF fight ever.
#5: Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon - UFC 155
Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon have always been two of the most game fighters on the UFC roster, so it came as no surprise that the two would take part in one of 2012’s best fights. It was also one of the year’s bloodiest.
It didn’t take long for the carnage to begin. Midway through the first, Miller opened up with a series of shots from the clinch, including a knee and elbow, that immediately carved up Lauzon’s forehead in two places: right above his right eyebrow, and on the top of his head. For the rest of the fight, those cuts were spraying blood. Since Lauzon spent large portions of the fight on his back, his face was often covered in plasma as gravity took effect. With about two minutes left though, Lauzon swept Miller and ended up on top. Of course that meant that now Miller, too, would be painted red, and by the end of the round, they looked like a couple of knifing victims.
It got even worse in the third. Miller was cut under his left eye, and Lauzon, not to be outdone, received two new cuts on his left eye. The war of attrition finally ended in a decision for Miller, stitches for Lauzon, and respect for both.
#4: Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. David Heath - UFC 74
One of the most infamous episodes in recent UFC history took place in August 2007, precipitated, it seems, by some fairly standard trash talking. During the UFC 74 weigh-ins of their fight, David Heath had reportedly told Renato “Babalu” Sobral, “You’re going down, motherf---er.”
That apparently set Sobral off, but the fireworks wouldn’t go off until the second round of their match, when Sobral took the fight to the ground and opened up with a barrage. Heath was soon bloodied and Sobral fired off about 11 straight rights to the head, opening the cut up further. Heath’s forehead was soon spraying blood in his eyes and mat, and because of the blood in his eyes he had trouble seeing. Babalu seemed to revel in the gore, landing at will. Most of this action had taken place in one section of the mat, which was dyed completely red. Finally, Heath gambled and tried to return to his feet, but Babalu snaked his arm under his neck and cinched an anaconda choke, forcing a tap.
As it turned out, that wasn’t enough for Sobral, who held the choke an extra two seconds, saying, “He has to learn respect.” Ironically, the deepest cut was saved for Sobral, who was cut from the organization for holding the choke too long.
#3: Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva - UFC 146
After Cain Velasquez lost the UFC heavyweight championship in 2011, he needed a bounceback fight. He was matched up with Antonio Silva, who was coming off a loss of his own.
The fight was an absolute, one-sided blood bath. Within seconds of the opening bell, Velasquez had Silva on the ground, and the giant would never find his way back up. At the one-minute mark, Velasquez fired off a left elbow that immediately cut Silva’s face. From there on, the cut seemed to become Velasquez’s target, as he fired off punches and elbows. Almost immediately, Silva’s face was covered red. Ref Josh Rosenthal did have the doctor look at it, but the fight continued in the same position. Velasquez continued to pound away on Silva’s face. Finally, at 3:36 the fight was over, but not before the Octagon mat looked like a CSI crime scene.
#2: BJ Penn vs. Joe Stevenson - UFC 80
At his best, BJ Penn was a buzzsaw, an uber-talented, multi-skilled champion who was capable of winning in every facet of the game. When he fought Joe Stevenson at UFC 80, it was a showcase of everything he did so well.
Within seconds of the opening round, Penn had scored a knockdown, and mostly dominated the rest of the way. But with just less than 40 seconds left in the opening frame, he sliced his right elbow across Stevenson’s brow, immediately splitting him open. Blood quickly began spurting everywhere, blinding Stevenson.
When the round ended, Stevenson’s cut men had some serious work to do. The spurt was briefly reduced to a leak, but Penn had smelled blood, and targeted Stevenson with jabs and crosses. About midway through the round, Penn knocked him down again, soon took Stevenson’s back, and in a moment that became an iconic photo, Penn choked him out, applying so much pressure that a stream of blood could be seen shooting from his forehead.
#1: Jonathan Goulet vs. Jay Hieron - UFC Ultimate Fight Night 2
Neither Jonathan Goulet or Jay Hieron were ever able to carve out any real success for themselves in the Octagon, but they did carve out a little piece of history on an October night in 2005, when they took place in what was undeniably, unquestionably, the bloodiest fight in UFC history.
Things started innocently enough as Hieron used his wrestling advantage to take the fight down and hunt a submission, and both fighters made it through the first round unscathed. But 30 seconds into the second, Goulet caught a clinch and landed a knee that split Hieron’s forehead. Within seconds, the cageside doctor was checking it, but let it continue. The cut bled profusely, dripping all over the mat. Making it worse, Hieron was in top position for what seemed like an eternity, so his cut was constantly dripping all over Goulet. By the end of the round, both fighters looked like horror movie victims.
Hieron was allowed to go out for round three, but after Goulet cracked him with another knee in a few seconds in, ref Jon Schorle took another look and called in the doctor again. This time, he’d seen enough and Goulet and Hieron could finally attempt to clean off.