Top 20 Debuts in UFC history

First impressions are important, especially in sports –

they can set the tone for how fans will remember you and identify

you for the remainder of your career.

While debuts can be memorable for all the wrong reasons –

like Greg “The Ranger” Stott stepping into the cage to

get mauled by Mark Kerr in what looked to be a pair of khaki golf

shorts or James Toney’s one-and-done foray into MMA –

this list is going to celebrate the initial appearances that stand

out for positive reasons.

Who shone brightest during their UFC debut? You’re about

to find out.

#20: Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson defeats Dan

Stittgen at UFC 143

Thompson is a shining example of how the media landscape around

MMA has shifted from the early years, and how powerful it can be

when it comes to generating interest and excitement about your

fights.

Normally, a fighter with a 5-0 professional record debuting in

the opening bout of a pay-per-view show against a short notice

opponent doesn’t get much coverage. In fact,

“much” is being generous. But that wasn’t the

case with “Wonderboy.”

Bolstered by a standout kickboxing career and an aggressive

approach to getting his name out there as much as possible from his

management team, Thompson’s debut at UFC 143 was preceded by

stories about the UFC newcomer running alongside features on Carlos

Condit and Nick Diaz, the welterweight tandem that headlined the

show. That media rush put more eyes than normal on the first duo to

grace the cage on February 4, 2012, and Thompson made the most of

it.

After showing off an assortment of kicks, but not doing any

major damage early in the opening round, “Wonderboy”

hit Stittgen with a three-strike combination his team calls

“The Moneymaker.” The left jab is followed by a right

cross, and then the front-leg round kick comes over the top, and if

executed properly, the opponent never sees it coming.

And that was the case in his debut. As soon as Thompson touched

Stittgen’s chin with the cross, his right leg came sweeping

up, over the shoulder, his foot connecting flush.

Thompson hastily returned to the cage two months later to face

veteran Matt Brown, and suffered the first loss of his MMA career,

but has since rebounded with consecutive wins over Nah-Shon Burrell

and Chris Clements.

#19: Rustam Khabilov tosses Vinc Pichel around the

cage

While Thompson’s arrival in the Octagon was heralded by

flurry of media activity, Khabilov’s came in completely under

the radar. Just 2:15 later and for the rest of the night (and the

next couple days), all anyone could talk about was the Dagestani

lightweight that just delivered one hell of a debut

performance.

Squaring off with TUF 15 cast member Vinc Pichel in a

preliminary card bout on the TUF 16 Finale event, Khabilov put on a

suplex exhibition, launching Pichel around the Octagon. The first

high amplitude slam made you sit up and take notice, and the second

one – the one where he bent underneath Pichel while he had

him elevated and dropped him on his head – sent all kinds of

people scurrying to social media to talk about what they had just

witnessed.

Landing a brilliant suplex is one of those things that never

gets old; every time you see someone do it, you still react like

you’ve never seen someone propel another man through the air

like that before. That’s what made Jon Jones’ suplex of

Stephan Bonnar so awesome, and that’s why Khabilov’s

debut win over Pichel stands out as one of the best in UFC

history.

The Team Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter earned a win in his

sophomore appearance in the cage at UFC 159, when Yancy Medeiros

was unable to continue after dislocating his thumb. He was bracing

himself for impact from a suplex. Khabilov returns to action

against Jorge Masvidal on the main card of the

href="http://www.ufc.com/event/ufc-fight-night-fftt-fort-campbell?fight=Tim-Kennedy-rafael-natal"

target="_blank">UFC Fight For The Troops event at Fort

Campbell on November 6 and live on FOX Sports 1.

#18: Lee Murray channels Hannibal Lecter, taps Jorge Rivera

at UFC 46

It really says something when you have one fight in the UFC and

people still remember you nearly a decade later. Admittedly, there

are other mitigating circumstances that factor into Lee

Murray’s cult status and familiarity to fight fans, but in

addition to his extracurricular activities outside the cage,

Murray’s one and only appearance in side the Octagon was a

memorable one as well.

The legend of Lee Murray started to take shape after the

UFC’s first event in London, when – as the story goes

– a brawl broke out and Murray put a beating on then-light

heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. Less than a year later, the man

known as “Lightning” walked to the cage dressed in an

orange jumpsuit and that creepy face shield like Hannibal Lecter to

take on Jorge Rivera. Less than two minutes later, Murray had

forced Rivera to tap to a triangle choke.

After an impressive debut and bolstered by the whispered stories

of a curbside victory over Ortiz, Murray appeared to be a fighter

to reckon with in the UFC middleweight division, but his first

appearance in the Octagon also proved to be his last.

After being hit with felony road rage charges, Murray

couldn’t get a passport, thereby dashing his dreams of a

lengthy UFC career. He was then linked to the biggest cash robbery

in British history, the February 21, 2006 Securitas depot robbery,

where the thieves made off with more than £53m. He was

convicted of being the mastermind behind the robbery in June 2010,

and is currently serving out a 25-year sentence in a Moroccan

jail.

#17: Conor McGregor wins “The People’s Main

Event” in 64 seconds

Capturing one title on the regional circuit is generally enough

to get you noticed, but capturing two in different weight classes

will certainly put you on the map.

With his seventh and eighth consecutive victories since a

November 2010 loss at Cage Warriors 39, Conor McGregor claimed the

organization’s featherweight and lightweight championships,

respectively. That made “The Notorious” one of the most

promising fighters competing outside of the UFC, and when it was

announced that the Straight Blast Gym representative had signed

with the biggest company in the sport, it made his debut a must-see

attraction.

Scheduled to face Marcus Brimage, a TUF 14 alum who had knocked

off prospects Maximo Blanco and Jimy Hettes in back-to-back bouts,

on the preliminary portion of the UFC’s second event in

Sweden, the buzz around McGregor started to get louder and louder,

with features popping up around the Internet, and an MTV UK

documentary about his rise in the sport was put together.

McGregor’s meteoric rise to recognition before his debut

was not unlike Thompson’s, except that where the soft-spoken

South Carolina native was humble and respectful, the Dubliner was

loud and brash with a penchant for cursing at an impressive

pace.

By the time his fight with Brimage rolled around, everyone was

curious to see if the verbose featherweight could back up all the

talk, and they got their answer in just 67 seconds.

After slipping a few early strikes – and not being fazed

by a couple that landed – McGregor rocked Brimage with a pair

of uppercuts, dropping him to the floor, where he finished him off

with expert precision.

Following his win, McGregor was everywhere, and hungry for

another chance to prove himself in the cage. It eventually came at

UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen in Boston, Massachusetts, where

the Irishman earned a unanimous decision win over Max Holloway.

Unfortunately, the 25-year-old up-and-comer suffered a torn ACL

during the bout, and the subsequent surgery will leave him on the

sidelines until the summer.

#16: Ryan Jimmo knocks out Anthony Perosh in record

time

When your first bout in the UFC puts you in the record books,

you automatically have to be included on this list. What makes this

initial appearance even more memorable is that it was one of the

most unexpected knockouts in quite some time.

Jimmo carried an incredible 16-fight winning streak into his

bout with Perosh at UFC 149. While his first nine victories

featured seven finishes, the sculpted light heavyweight known as

“Big Deal” had collected six of his last seven wins by

way of decision. He had fought conservatively for the better part

of three years, but was anything but when he hit the Octgaon in

Calgary.

As soon as the fight began, Jimmo charged across the cage at the

40-year-old Australia veteran, blasting him with an overhand right.

Perosh crashed to the mat, unconscious with an awkward look on his

face — one that rival’s Rashad Evans’ knockout face

from his loss to Lyoto Machida — while Jimmo celebrated by doing

“The Robot” in the center of the Octagon.

The official time was seven seconds, equaling the record for the

fastest knockout in UFC history. Though many had tabbed the

Canadian to win the bout, few – if any – expected him

to do so in such spectacular fashion.

Speaking of record-tying knockouts…

#15: Todd Duffee drops Tim Hague at UFC 102

Duffee looked like he was going to be a force to be reckoned

with in the heavyweight division. Sporting a 5-0 record, the

23-year-old was a 6’3” tall mass of rippling muscle and

untapped potential – a can’t-miss prospect in a

division that was just starting to experience a return to

prominence.

Coming out of the same Athens, Georgia gym where Forrest Griffin

got his start – Adam and Rory Singer’s Hardcore Gym,

which also served as home base for new WEC bantamweight champ Brian

Bowles – Duffee garnered all kinds of advanced praise and

hype into his bout with Canadian Tim Hague at UFC 102 in Portland,

Oregon.

Hague was coming off a first-round submission win over Pat Barry

three months earlier, and came out looking to trade with Duffee. In

hindsight, getting into a quick fistfight with a guy that has

cinder blocks for hands and all kinds of power was probably a bad

idea. A stiff jab dropped Hague to the canvas, where several

lunchbox-sized rights followed, before the only left hand Duffee

threw in the sequence proved to be the finisher.

At the time, it was the fastest knockout in UFC history, since

equaled by both Jimmo and Chan Sung Jung, while Duane

Ludwig’s January 2006 win over Jonathan Goulet has since been

confirmed as the quickest finish in the cage, even if the Nevada

State Athletic Commission refuses to edit their 11-second result

officially.

Duffee would flame out immediately following his record-setting

win over Hague. After more than three years away from the

organization – and a brief sabbatical from competing –

Duffee returned to the Octagon at UFC 155, earning a first-round

knockout win over Phil De Fries in a comparatively pedestrian

2:04.

#14: Michael Chiesa wins Season 15 of

target="_blank">The Ultimate Fighter

Season 15 is kind of like the Saved By The Bell episodes with

Tori, the leather jacket-wearing replacement to Kelly Kapowski and

Jessie Spano who vanished into thin air without a mention when the

long-time regulars return for the graduation episode.

This was the one and (so far) only “live” season of

The Ultimate Fighter, where the standard training and day-to-day

activities were filled and edited that that week, and the fights

took place live on Friday nights. But that isn’t the reason

Chiesa is on this list.

After earning his way into the house with a submission win over

Johnaven Vistante and being selected as the fifth pick to join Team

Faber, the Spokane, Washington native found out that his father,

Mark, lost his battle with leukemia. He went home to attend his

dad’s services, but opted to return to the competition.

He advanced to the finals with wins over Jeremy Larsen and early

favorite Justin Lawrence, and captured the six-figure contract with

a first-round submission win over fellow Team Faber member Al

Iaquinta.

Hollywood couldn’t write it any better, and anyone that

thinks this wasn’t a Herculean effort for a young man dealing

with grief and loss while confined to a house and trying to win a

competition is grossly mistaken.

Chiesa has since split a pair of appearances in the Octagon,

earning a submission win over Anton Kuivanen before being tapped by

Jorge Masvidal. He returns to action against fellow TUF winner

Colton Smith as part of the UFC Fight For The Troops event at Fort

Campbell on November 6.

#13: Chan Sung Jung gets revenge against Leonard

Garcia

At WEC 48, Chan Sung Jung and Leonard Garcia engaged in a wildly

entertaining back-and-forth brawl that not only won Fight Of The

Night, but would go on to be named Fight Of The Year for 2010 by

numerous outlets. That night, Garcia earned the nod in what

everyone outside of his close friends and family believed was a

questionable decision.

The two would meet again 11 months later, but this time, they

were fighting in the UFC Octagon, and Jung made sure the judges

couldn’t get the scoring wrong.

Rather than brawl with Garcia, “The Korean Zombie”

took a more technical approach, picking his spots, and putting his

rival on the canvas when the opportunity present itself to take the

first round. They started getting a little messier in the second,

but Jung once again seized the opportunity to bring the fight to

the floor.

From there, the South Korean featherweight made history, locking

Garcia in a twister – a hold where you turn your

opponent’s head and neck one way, and torque their body in

the opposite direction, twisting their spine. Garcia tapped with a

single second remaining in the second round, giving Jung a measure

of revenge, a victory in his UFC debut, and a spot in the history

books.

#12: Don Frye wastes no time dispatching Thomas

Ramirez

Don Frye’s UFC debut lasted just eight seconds, as he sent

massive Thomas Ramirez crashing to the canvas in a heap with a

couple right hands to the jaw in the opening round of the UFC 8

tournament.

In those eight seconds, however, several things became

apparent:

(1) Frye had a terrific duster, and looked like a more athletic,

chiseled version of Tom Selleck

(2) The former Arizona State wrestler had some power in his

hands, and

(3) “The Predator” was going to be a force in

the early days of the UFC.

Frye would go on to beat Sam Adkins and Gary Goodridge in a

combined 3:02 to win the UFC 8 tournament. He earned a win over

Amaury Bitetti at UFC 9 – the first event without a

tournament – and advanced to the finals at UFC 10 when the

original format was brought back. There, he would suffer the only

loss of his UFC career to future heavyweight champion and Hall Of

Famer Mark Coleman.

He’d rebound with wins over Mark Hall, and a tournament

title at Ultimate Ultimate 96 where he beat Tank Abbott in the

finals before going on to a successful pro wrestling and MMA career

in Japan.

To this day, Frye’s mustache remains the greatest in UFC

history, and his crushing debut win in Puerto Rico stands as a

memorable start to a under-appreciated career in the Octagon.

#11: Tank Abbott arrives at UFC 6

Tank Abbott was one of the icons of the early days of the

UFC.

Despite never winning more than two consecutive fights in the

Octagon and ending with a career record of 8-10 with the company

(10-15 overall at last count), the man who described his style as

“pit fighting” was one of the biggest names in the

sport during its formative years.

With his bald head, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart goatee,

Roy Nelson physique, and surly attitude, Abbott was an immediate

fan favorite. It also helped that he genuinely looked like he

enjoyed hurting people inside the cage.

You can measure Abbott’s impact not by his wins and

losses, but by what followed after his first departure from the

UFC.

In 1997, he, referee “Big” John McCarthy, and

announcer Bruce Buffer were featured in an episode of Friends where

Monica’s boyfriend Pete wants to become “The Ultimate

Fighting Champion.” From there, he went on to have an

abbreviated run with World Championship Wrestling during the sad

final days of the once dominant company before returning to the UFC

in the mid-2000s.

While plenty of others found more success in the cage, few had

as great an impact as Abbott, and it all started with an 18-second

beating of 400-pound Hawaiian, John Matua at UFC 6 in Casper,

Wyoming.

#10: Joe Lauzon shocks Jens Pulver at UFC 63

Pulver, the inaugural UFC lightweight champion, left the

organization due to a contract dispute after defending his title

against B.J. Penn at UFC 35.

After four-plus years away from the Octagon, Pulver returned,

and was given was seemed to be a tune-up fight with a little-known

kid with big ears from Brockton, Massachusetts named Joe

Lauzon.

Right out of the gate, it was clear that the newcomer would be

trouble for the former champion, taking down Pulver almost

immediately. Shortly after the two got back to their feet, Lauzon

caught the 7-to-1 favorite with a left hand on the jaw that sent

Pulver crashing to the canvas.

During the broadcast, the cut to a shot of noted UFC superfan

and all around babe Jamie Pressly sitting in the audience with a

look of complete and utter disbelief on her face that summed up the

bout nicely.

In a weird, “well this is awkward” twist, Pulver

would be tabbed to coach Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter with

former rival B.J. Penn, and guess who was one of the hopefuls? Not

surprisingly, Lauzon ended up on Team Penn.

#9: Frank Shamrock wins gold, sets record in UFC

debut

Don’t let the 14-7-1 record at the time fool you –

Frank Shamrock was already one of the best fighters on the planet

when he made his debut at UFC Japan in December 1997.

Arriving in the UFC on a three-fight winning streak, Shamrock

walked right into a championship bout with Olympic gold medalist

Kevin Jackson, who was 3-0 at the time and coming off a victory in

the UFC 14 middleweight (that’s what they called light

heavyweight at the time) tournament.

This one lasted just 16 seconds, with Shamrock connecting on an

armbar to earn the victory and the title. To this day, this remains

the fastest submission in a championship fight in UFC history.

Shamrock would go on to defend the title four times, announcing

his retirement following his comeback win over Tito Ortiz at UFC

22, eventually returning to be the first face of Strikeforce when

the company made a concerted push into MMA in the mid 2000s.

His tenuous relationship with UFC President Dana White has kept

Shamrock outside of the UFC, and that has limited the amount of

praise and recognition he receives for his achievements in the

Octagon, but make no mistake about it – “The

Legend” was an absolute force, and ended his UFC career as

the reigning, undefeated, undisputed middleweight champion.

#8: Junior Dos Santos upsets Fabricio Werdum at UFC

90

When the line-up for UFC 90 was announced, veteran heavyweight

contender Fabricio Werdum was matched with a 7-1 UFC newcomer

purported to be Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s

protégé.

It seemed like a crazy booking — after all, Werdum was coming

off consecutive TKO wins over Gabriel Gonzaga and Brandon Vera, and

seemed to be within striking distance of a shot at the heavyweight

title. Why was he facing a guy no one had really heard of

before?

Just 81 seconds and one blistering uppercut later, everyone was

scrambling to find out whatever they could about Junior Dos Santos,

as the shy Brazilian heavyweight has laid waste to “Vai

Cavalo” and announced his presence in the division.

“Cigano” would another six wins to his record inside

the Octagon, earning a shot at heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez

following his UFC 131 drubbing of Shane Carwin. The bout would

serve as the first UFC fight aired live on FOX, and Dos Santos made

the most of the moment, capturing the heavyweight title by

first-round knockout.

Not bad for someone that next to no one thought was going to win

his initial bout in the organization.

#7: Anderson Silva starts “The Streak” by

beating Chris Leben

Here’s how you know the rest of this list is awesome: the

starting point for the greatest winning streak in UFC history only

clocks in at No. 7.

From the outset of this bout, it was clear not only that Silva

was a great striker, but that he was something special. He stuck

two jabs in Leben’s mush and then tossed him to the ground

like Pedro Martinez chucking old man Don Zimmer aside, and then

continued to pick “The Crippler” apart. Not long after,

he rocked Leben with more hands, tried to put him away with strikes

on the ground, and ended the bout with a knee to the head.

All of this took 48 seconds.

As impressive as this showing was, you couldn’t have

foretold what was to come. Silva would win the middleweight title

from Rich Franklin in his next appearance, holding onto the

championship strap through a record 10 consecutive successful title

defense (with one non-title win and three additional victories at

light heavyweight) before losing the belt to Chris Weidman this

past summer.

He is without question the greatest fighter in the history of

the UFC, but his debut doesn’t even crack the Top 5.

#6: Enter “The Reem”

There are going to be people that hate seeing Alistair

Overeem’s UFC debut ranked ahead of Anderson Silva’s,

but when you look at the hype and coverage that surrounded his

migration from Strikeforce to the UFC and eventually into a main

event pairing with Brock Lesnar at UFC 141, it’s clear that

“The Reem” deserves the higher ranking.

Overeem was the one elite heavyweight competing outside of the

UFC at the time. He’d been steamrolling the competition

(mainly overseas) and when it was announced that not only had he

signed with the UFC, but also that he would square off with Lesnar

on the annual “New Year’s Eve” show, the MMA

world went bonkers.

What elevated Overeem’s debut to next level status and the

brink of breaking into the Top 5 was the circus that surrounded him

leading up to the fight.

There were the two drug tests that didn’t meet the Nevada

State Athletic Commission’s standards and his subsequent

flight home to the Netherlands just a couple weeks before the

biggest fight of his career. His eventual hearing with the NSAC was

must-see TV for fight fans, even if “must-see TV”

translated to live tweets and uStream videos from media members

that were in attendance.

In the end, Overeem got his license and steamrolled Lesnar, the

former champion announcing his retirement following the bout. The

win was supposed to put “The Reem” into a championship

bout with Junior Dos Santos at UFC 146, but everyone knows what

happened there.

Despite everything that has transpired since, there is no

denying that Overeem’s arrival in the UFC was a major event,

and one of the most memorable debuts in the company’s

history.

#5: Kimo Leopoldo ‘crosses’ the line

No list of the top debuts in UFC history could be complete

without Kimo’s first appearance at UFC 3.

Scheduled to face returning, undefeated champion Royce Gracie in

the opening round, the mononymous fighter made a slow and

deliberate walk to the Octagon with a gigantic wooden cross on his

back. Even in the “you never know what you’re going to

see” early days of the UFC, this stood out.

But his debut was memorable for more than just his entrance.

After Gracie had dominated the competition in the first two UFC

tournaments, Kimo became the first fighter to truly push the

Brazilian. Though not the longest fight Gracie had endured to that

point – that honor was held by UFC 2 opening round opponent

Minoki Ichihara – this was the most demanding, as Kimo had a

significant size advantage, and never backed down.

As was the case in each of his first 11 appearances in the

Octagon, Gracie would eventually find a finish, submitted Kimo with

an armlock 4:40 into their bout, but his winning streak would have

to be put on hold for the time being, as Gracie was exhausted and

couldn’t continue.

Kimo would return to face Ken Shamrock for the Superfight title

at UFC 8, ultimately closing out his career in the UFC with a loss

to Shamrock at UFC 48, leaving his record in the Octagon at 2-4.

While he never managed much success in the UFC, there is no denying

that his debut was one of the most memorable in UFC history.

#4: Brock Lesnar makes his super-sized debut against Frank

Mir

No one may have had a greater impact on the UFC in such as short

time as Brock Lesnar, the former professional wrestler who became a

force of nature and massive star for the organization from the

minute it was announced he had signed with the company during an

awkward interview in the seats with Joe Rogan at UFC 77.

Lesnar wasn’t just some gimmick either – he was the

NCAA Division I national champion in 2000 and a freak athlete, with

hands so big the UFC had to make special gloves for him.

The impact of his arrival in the UFC was bolstered by two

things: (1) it stoked the fires of the “fake fighting versus

real fighting” debate, prompting a ton of loyal, passionate

professional wrestling fans to take an interest in the UFC, and (2)

he didn’t come in fighting cans to build his record and keep

him protected.

Lesnar debuted in the Octagon at UFC 81 against former

heavyweight champion Frank Mir, and showed right away that he had

potential. Though he’d lose the fight, a star (and a rivalry)

was born, and two fights later, Lesnar was the UFC heavyweight

champion.

His career was cut short by repeated battles with

diverticulitis, and ultimately ended on consecutive losses, but for

a fighter that competed seven times in a little less than four

years, there is no question that Lesnar made an indelible impact on

the UFC from the minute he arrived.

#3: Ronda Rousey introduces the women at UFC

157

For years Dana White said women would never compete in the UFC,

but Ronda Rousey changed all that.

An Olympic bronze medalist in judo at the 2008 Summer Games in

Beijing, Rousey went from making her professional debut to standing

atop the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight division in less

than a year. She was a dominant force in the cage and unfiltered

with her opinions and comments outside of competition, the perfect

blend of skill, drive, and marketability, and after earning her

first title defense and sixth straight first-round submission win

over Sarah Kaufman, there was only one place left for Rousey to

go.

She was announced as the first female fighter to ever sign with

the UFC in November 2012, and introduced as the champion of the

newly created women’s bantamweight division at a press

conference in Seattle a month later. From that point until the day

she stepped into the cage against Liz Carmouche in the main event

of UFC 157, she was everywhere.

And not just everywhere in the MMA sense either.

She was one of the cover athletes for

href="http://msn.foxsports.com/ufc/story/ronda-rousey-on-big-breasts-female-athletes-071213?m_n=true"

target="_blank">ESPN the Magazine’s annual Body Issue,

was a guest on the Jim Rome and Conan O’Brien Shows, and

starred in what was easily the best installment of the UFC

Primetime series to date.

In the cage, she survived an early scare to earn her seventh

straight first-round win via armbar, and was positioned as one of

the coaches on

target="_blank">The Ultimate Fighter, ending up opposite her

nemesis Miesha Tate in the first season to feature both men and

women competing.

Downplay her impact if you’d like, but the truth of the

matter is that the UFC stopped being a “Boys Only”

establishment because of Rousey, and it hasn’t been the same

since she arrived on the scene.

#2: The Ultimate Fighter showcases Griffin and

Bonnar

The debut season of

target="_blank">The Ultimate Fighter not only saved the UFC,

but served as the catalyst for the organizations massive growth and

the launching pad for the careers of fighters like Forrest Griffin,

Kenny Florian, Josh Koscheck, Chris Leben, and Stephan Bonnar.

TUF 1 was an immediate hit and became the Trojan Horse that

carried mixed martial arts into homes throughout North American

that might not have explored the pay-per-view-based sport at the

time.

What sealed the deal was the light heavyweight finale between

Griffin and Bonnar. It couldn’t have played out any more

perfectly. After weeks of getting to know the fighters and

following them through the competition, these two likeable,

hard-nosed hopefuls pretty much went toe-to-toe for 15 minutes

straight on live television, beating the bejesus out of each other

for a chance to earn a UFC contract.

It was such an iconic fight that Griffin became known as

“The Original Ultimate Fighter,” even though Diego

Sanchez won the middleweight competition before his fight with

Bonnar. People also tend to forget that Griffin-Bonnar wasn’t

the main event – the show was actually headlined by a bout

between Rich Franklin and Ken Shamrock that Franklin won a little

more than halfway through the opening round.

Simply put – without TUF 1, we wouldn’t be here

counting down to the 20th Anniversary show.

#1: Royce Gracie shows the world the power of

jiu-jitsu

That first event changed everything, and Gracie was the

unexpected star, even if he didn’t look the part.

Make no mistake about it – UFC 1 was more spectacle than

sporting competition, but it spoke to the legions of martial arts

fans that saw it, with Gracie’s quiet, stealth dominance

standing out greater than everything else that transpired inside

the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado.

While his actual first fight wasn’t much of anything

– he won by moving to mount against professional boxer Art

Jimmerson, who famously wore a single boxing glove on his left hand

– the totality of his performance on November 12, 1993 taught

a lot of people that Brazilians pronounce their “Rs” as

“Hs” and that you didn’t have to be the bigger,

strongest, most muscular fighter in the competition to be the

best.

Ken Shamrock went on to eclipse Gracie’s impact on the

mainstream, transitioning to the WWE (which was still the WWF at

the time) where he used his “World’s Most Dangerous

Man” persona, but it was Gracie that started this ball

rolling.