As fans of mixed martial arts, not only do we love it, but we watch it to be entertained. This combat sport has such a rich history of memories that fans will simply never forget. As we celebrate our 5-year anniversary here at The Scrap, let’s take a trip down memory lane and review some of the top OMG moments throughout the history of MMA.
Fellow Scrap members Marcos Antelo and Anik Subramanian present eight of their favorite moments.
PFL Acquiring Bellator
In 2018, the Professional Fighters League (PFL) was launched. It was the first ever major MMA organization to feature a season format tournament. It has grown a tremendous amount of traction over the last few years, and has lured in UFC superstars like Anthony Pettis, Shane Burgos, and Jeremy Stephens. Five years later, it has made its biggest splash yet.
During its 2023 championship fight week, the PFL announced the acquisition of Bellator, which many regarded as the 2nd most popular MMA organization. In one of the most massive transactions in sports history, the PFL became a co-leader in MMA. This acquisition marked the consolidation of some of the world’s best fighters, and the promotion aims to hit the ground running in 2024.
They plan on staging a mega PFL vs. Bellator champions event, a Bellator International Champions Series, and a PFL PPV Super Fights Series in 2024. It remains to be seen if this will be the biggest hit or miss in MMA business history.
Conor McGregor & Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Brawl at UFC 229
The past two weeks have been a nightmare for the UFC’s public relations team. First, Colby Covington mocked Leon Edwards’ murdered father during the UFC 296 press conference. A day later, Dricus Du Plessis rehashed Sean Strickland’s childhood trauma of having an abusive father. This bad blood and recent trend of bringing family insults in to sell a fight has led to many outspoken critics. People forget who started the personal insults in the sport.
In the lead up to their fight at UFC 229, Conor McGregor repeatedly insulted Khabib Nurmagomedov’s family, religion, and culture. While this was the highest selling PPV in company history, the bad blood reached its boiling point right after Khabib submitted McGregor in the 4th round of their fight. Instead of celebrating his victory, Khabib hopped the fence and tried to attack McGregor’s cornerman and teammate, Dillon Danis. In retaliation, Khabib’s teammates, Zubaira Tukhugov and Esed Emiragaev hopped the fence to attack McGregor.
This led to massive fines, and put many fans in danger as the melee ensued. It was so chaotic that Dana White would not wrap the belt around Khabib’s waist, in fear of fans attacking him.
Fedor Emilianenko Fighting for a World Title at Age 46
Russia is at the top of MMA today. So many champions have been bred in its villages, but who started this trend? None other than Fedor Emilianenko, who began his pro career in 2000. The Russian is known for his influence of spreading interest in the sport around his country, and being the long time PRIDE heavyweight champion. After a few losses, he made a resurgence in Bellator, knocking out media sensation Chael Sonnen and former UFC champion Frank Mir.
After 4 show-stopping knockouts in Bellator, Emilianenko closed out his career by living up to his nickname, “The Last Emperor.” Instead of taking an easy fight to ride off into the sunset, he wanted the toughest test possible and only what a warrior would chase: Gold. Despite being knocked out by Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader in his final fight, the atmosphere was magical. 2023 was the biggest and final year of Bellator, and Emilianenko’s retirement fight at Bellator 290 was arguably bigger than Bellator 300. So many fans, legends of the sport from a variety of promotions, and celebrities came to thank Fedor during his final fight week.
The world will never forget someone who was at the peak of the sport for all 24 years of his professional career.
Anthony Pettis’ Showtime Kick
13 years ago at WEC 53, Anthony Pettis solidified his nickname with the “Showtime Kick.” This is arguably the most prolific strike in history that did not lead to a knockout. In the 25th and final minute of a lightweight title fight, Pettis ran up against the cage, and used his right foot to push off and leap into a kick that slapped Benson Henderson’s face. This was the shot heard around the MMA world.
This kick has been used in advertisements and promotional videos for many MMA promotions. Pettis is a former WEC and UFC lightweight champion, yet fans identify him by this one kick. Moves like this kick introduced a flashy style for fighting’s next generation to idolize. MMA consists of fist fights, but Pettis always looked cool doing it.
Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm
When you discuss the top OMG moments of MMA, it is simply impossible to not include what is perhaps the greatest upset in UFC history. On November 24th, 2015, Holly Holm defeated Ronda Rousey with a headkick that sent shockwaves throughout the MMA world. To fully understand the magnitude of such a monumental victory, one must remember exactly who Ronda Rousey was.
In the pre-Conor McGregor era of the UFC, the sport was not nearly as watched and mainstream as it is today. At a time in which star power was certainly not as plentiful, Rousey stood out as a huge name, not only in combat sports but in the entire sports world. The first woman signed to the UFC, the first woman champion in the UFC, the first female fight in the UFC—one of the first mega stars MMA had ever seen. Rousey was an icon flat out, and so Holm taking her out was of ungodly magnitude.
Leading into their infamous UFC 193 clash, Rousey had dominated her way to an undefeated 12-0 record and was a -2000 favorite in many sports books. In a media scrum prior to the Rousey-Holm matchup, Ronda would declare that Holm could not knock her out and that no one could, for that matter. There was a legitimate feeling of invincibility around Rousey, and unfortunately for her, she may have started to buy into that notion as well.
As soon as the contest was underway, it was clear that Ronda was in for a serious fight. Holm was tagging her left and right, and Rousey’s game plan was beginning to crumble. Just under a minute into the second round, Holm would land a beautiful left-high kick to the head of Rousey, finishing her with punches on the ground and blowing the roof off the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. Which, by the way, was the largest live attendance in UFC history at the time, with over 56,000 fans witnessing in utter shock.
When you think of true upsets throughout the history of MMA, this one certainly stands out amongst the rest.
Pride Final Conflict 2005
If you are a longtime MMA fan, surely you must look back on Pride Fighting Championships with a smile on your face. Pride’s Final Conflict card in 2005 is perhaps one the greatest events in the history of the sport. The event included legends such as Mauricio Rua, Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop, Fabricio Werdum, Allistair Overeem, Wanderlei Silva, and others.
In today’s world of social media where MMA fans marvel over the stacked cards we often get, this Pride card would’ve made the internet explode beyond repair. In fact, the more time goes by, the better this event ages given the amount of icons present on that night. Not only is this the greatest card ever assembled in my eyes, but it would also feature what was perhaps the biggest fight in MMA history to that point between Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko Cro Cop. It was a massive superfight that the fans had been clamoring for, and the buzz for it matched the billing.
Although it is nearly impossible to find, the intro video to Pride Final Conflict in 2005 still gives goosebumps to this day. I can’t think of many bigger OMG moments than a MMA fan finding out about this card back in those times.
Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald
While the UFC has done wonders to remove the “bloodsport” stigma. As fans, there is still nothing better than a good old-fashioned bloodbath of a fight. A match in which both competitor’s wills are tested and everyone knows it can end at any given moment. If you are looking for exactly that, look no further than the second fight between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald back in 2015. When you’re talking about perhaps the most infamous fight in UFC history, it would be foolish not to bring up this bout.
In 2015, Robbie Lawler defended his UFC welterweight championship in a fight against Rory MacDonald that would have had you thinking the UFC changed its cava color to red. If you’re looking for “color,” as they say in pro wrestling, this is definitely the fight for you to watch. By the time the championship rounds rolled by, you could barely tell which fighter was which based on the damage collected. It was truly a scene out of the goriest movie you have ever watched.
In a promotion full of viral clips, Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald staring each other down in the center of the octagon at the end of round 4 is perhaps the one I’ve seen the most. Memories of Lawler opening his mouth to yell while he had a giant cut splitting open on his lip will stick with me forever.
With a minute to go in the final round, Lawler would break MacDonald’s nose in an exchange, and the fight would end with the finishing combinations from Lawler. When it was all said and done, the crowd was going absolutely wild, further solidifying this iconic moment. It is safe to say there was no loser in this legendary MMA fight.
Jorge Masvidal’s Flying Knee
This list is full of great fights, champions, and moments in MMA history. But when it comes to flat out OMG moments, this takes the cake by far. There’s nothing that will make you say those three words more than Jorge Masvidal’s 5-second KO of Ben Askren at UFC 239 in 2019. Joe Rogan saying “oh my goodness” three consecutive times immediately following the knockout just about proves that point. It perfectly encapsulates what everyone was feeling at that moment…
Footage of Masvidal practicing the exact same flying knee in the back right before eliminating Askren with it just makes this whole thing that much crazier. Jorge knew that Ben would immediately shoot straight for the takedown, and formulated perhaps one of the best fight strategies that the sport has ever seen. The viciousness and quickness of the knockout just makes it that much greater.
In a time where attention spans are at an all time low, what better footage than a 5-second fight? It takes a couple of seconds for fighters just to meet in the middle of the octagon at the start of fights, and so breaking this record may be nearly impossible. The bout was over before the graphic containing the clock and names could even appear. In fact, Masvidal’s disdain of Askren may have made the fight last even longer than it needed to. Ben was already on the ground completely unconscious within 3 seconds or less into the fight and Masvidal still decided to throw some extra hammer fists at the end.
This is a moment that will forever define the career of Jorge Masvidal, and will truly stand the test of time.
Which OMG moment is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.