Home to the toughest UFC fights, the octagon is a modern-day Colosseum. People aren’t fighting to the death in there, but the combat is very real. Bones are snapped, CTE is accrued, and consciousness erased. The fighters put their lives on the line for money and the thrill of battle. If you think about it, there’s something innately human about that.
The UFC is a mecca for brutal MMA fights. From its very first match that resulted in a soccer kick to the head on a downed Telia Tuli that knocked his teeth into the crowd, to pure wars that can never be forgotten like the second Robbie Lawler vs. Rory Mcdonald fight.
Today, we go over five of the toughest UFC fights in history. Taking look at times when pure grit and heart kept a fighter fighting when the world thought they should quit.
Some of the Toughest UFC fights of All Time
Justin Gaethje Brutalizes Tony Ferguson at UFC 249
Although it’s only been two years, this is a beat-down that’s still fresh in everyone’s minds. At UFC 249 Justin Gaethje beat down Tony Ferguson mercilessly. Gaethje was truly on fire. His right hand couldn’t miss and it was like a missile. Over and over it would land until Ferguson was almost unrecognizable.
Fans marveled at the tenacity of “El Cucuy”. He was like a supernatural being in there, immune to pain. Even dropping Gaethje with a ridiculously well-timed uppercut right before the horn at the end of round two.
Ferguson would walk through the seemingly never ending damage from Gaethje until the end of round five, where referee Herb Dean would finally stop the fight just due to overall shots absorbed from the still standing “El Cucuy”. This conclusion came to the surprise of many, as Ferguson entered the fight on a mind boggling 12 fight winning streak.
Fans expected a banger, but what they got was “El Cucuy’s” chin putting on a show, and Gaethje making a big statement. The fans were the real winners, getting to witness one of the toughest UFC fights of all time.
Jones vs. Gustafsson: A Forgotten Relic
Who could forget Jon Jones‘ first real challenge?
This legendary fight went down in 2013 at UFC 165 and featured a prime Jon Jones on a kill streak. Coming off thrilling victories over the division’s best like Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans and more. Gustafsson was a much taller and longer fighter than Jon “Bones” Jones was used to, and this proved to be a major problem for the light heavyweight champion.
A Deep Look at Pure War
Early on in round one, things were very measured. Jones was throwing his signature array of kicks finding some decent success, while “The Mauler” had some shining moments as well.
The fight played out from there and would increase in pandemonium the longer it played out. Jones was slick but Gus was landing heavy and often. Several head kicks from Jones would be eaten by “The Mauler” including multiple spinning elbows.
Insanity peaked in the fourth round, as the boxing from Gustafsson was particularly sharp and a huge counter left hurt Jones.
Rallying back like the champ he was, an elbow from “Bones” would wobble “The Mauler”, and he’d follow it up with a knee and more elbows. After failing a takedown attempt Jones would throw more elbows that bloodied Gus, but still couldn’t find the finish before the round’s time expired.
The last round was punctuated with big moments on both sides. “The Mauler” fattened Jones’ lips with nasty uppercuts and a solid left. Jones landed his first takedown, but Gus got back to his feet and the war persisted.
When the fight ended, both fighters were beaten, bruised, and bloodied. People leaned both ways as far as who the true victor was. However, one thing was certain: Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson had just made history for having one of the most back-and-forth battles there ever was.
The Toughest UFC Fight Ever? Forest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar
As we continue with our list on some of the toughest UFC fights ever, it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t mention Forest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar. Competing in the first The Ultimate Fighter, Griffin and Bonnar were good, but nobody could imagine the sparks that would fly when the two would meet in the cage at the finale.
The UFC was in dire financial straits during this time. The Fertita brothers were down huge amounts of money and the pressure was on. Griffin and Bonnar delivered though, in a big way. The fight was bannanas, and famously a back-and-forth affair, with both men receiving ludicrous amounts of damage and still coming forward to fight their hardest.
Forest Griffin would be awarded the decision and become winner of the first ever season of TUF, but the battle would forever be immortalized as one of the toughest UFC fights of all time.
Kris Moutinho and the Chin of Steel
It’s not often someone goes viral for having a mighty chin. Kris Moutinho is just that guy though.
Taking on Sean O’Malley as a short-notice replacement, Moutinho captured the hearts of fans with his determination and ability to take damage.
O’Malley speed bagged his head for three rounds, but Moutinho hung tough. Just like the Ferguson and Gaethje fight though, the referee would wind up stopping the bout due to overall damage received after O’Malley landed a great combo in the third round.
Holloway ‘Posterizes’ Kattar, MMA Style
On our final entry on 5 of the toughest UFC fights of all time, we talk about one of the most one-sided battles in history.
Max Holloway was looking to bounce back off two title fight losses and had something to prove. While Calvin Kattar hung tough and survived to a decision, he took an outright egregious amount of damage.
Holloway literally hit Kattar so much he set records. “Blessed” got in a groove and it was almost like he was untouchable. Sure, he got hit too, but that was like throwing a bucket of sand at a wave hoping to stop it.
At one point Holloway literally created one of the most mind boggling highlights ever to happen in a cage. Turning to the commentators, Holloway screamed: “Im the best boxer!” while at the same time slipping punches he wasn’t even looking at. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, he landed a flush no-look right hand on Kattar, which has got to be the MMA equivalent of a no-look three pointer or posterizing the competition.
While we merely touched on the tip of the iceberg as far as the toughest UFC fights go, we did highlight some of the greatest ones….
Drop your favorites in the comments below!