Everyone loves a trilogy.
B.J. Penn signs a copy of his book.
In the UFC's history, a handful of rivalries have been so intense and evenly-matched that rubber matches were necessary.
Here's a look at the top five trilogies in UFC history:
1) Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard, 2008-2011
After losing a close decision to Maynard at UFC Fight Night 13 in 2008, the two would square off again in a highly entertaining scrap at UFC 125 in 2001. In that bout, Edgar got caught early with a flurry of strikes that almost put him to sleep, but he came storming back to retain his belt in a very evenly-matched fight that was determined a draw.
After slugging it out in the cage for 50 full minutes without any true decisiveness, the men knew that they couldn't leave it up to the judges scorecards when they met for the third time, at UFC 136 in October of 2011. Edgar put some closure on the trilogy by knocking out Maynard in the fourth round of their third meeting.
2) Chuck Liddell vs Randy Couture, 2003-2006
"The Iceman" and "The Natural" were two of the most dominating fighters in the late-90s and early-2000s, so it only makes sense that the whole MMA world was watching when the men went toe-to-toe for an epic trilogy that spanned three years.
Couture knocked out Liddell at UFC 43 in 2003 to earn the Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, but Liddell got the best of the trilogy by knocking out "The Natural" at UFC 52 in 2005, and again at UFC 57 in 2006.
3) Matt Hughes vs Georges St-Pierre, 2004-2006
The trilogy had the look and feel of a "changing of the guard" in the UFC welterweight division. Matt Hughes ruled over the division in the early part of the 2000s, but the up-and-coming Georges St-Pierre started to catch fire with back-to-back UFC victories over Karo Parisyan and Jay Hieron in 2004, to cement his status as the top young prospect in the sport at the time.
When Hughes and St-Pierre met for the first time in 2004, the latter was suddenly going toe-to-toe with a star veteran fighter who he grew up watching. Hughes caught him in an armbar in the first round, showing the world that he still deserved to be considered the top welterweight in the world.
But St-Pierre's game evolved so much in two short years that he dominated Hughes when the men met for the second time, at UFC 65 in 2006. "Rush" earned a second-round stoppage due to a combination of head kicks and strikes that left Hughes staggered. By 2007, when the men met for the third and final time, St-Pierre was clearly in his prime and undoubtedly the better fighter at that point in time. He earned a submission victory via armbar over Hughes at UFC 79 in 2007.
4) Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock, 2002-2006
Ortiz and Shamrock's trilogy wasn't all that evenly-matched, but the UFC kept matching them up together because there was a true rivalry and growing dislike between the two men that made these fights "must-see."
Ortiz busted up Shamrock in a 2002 bout that ended in a corner stoppage, and the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" stopped the "World's Most Dangerous Man" again via elbow strikes in 2006. However, Shamrock complained that it was an early stoppage by referee Herb Dean, and demanded a rematch.
He got his wish just a few months later, but Ortiz smashed him with a precision ground-and-pound attack to finish undefeated against Shamrock in the trilogy.
5) Quinton Jackson vs Wanderlei Silva, 2003-2008
Silva stopped Jackson on two straight occasions in the Pride Fighting Championships in the early part of the 2000s, utilizing a fierce chuto boxing style and a relentless barrage of knees to earn the victories.
However, Jackson finally got some payback by knocking out Silva in their third and final meeting in the cage. The final match of the trilogy occurred at UFC 92 in 2008.
What other trilogies deserve to be on this list? Let me know in the comments.
Eric Holden is a lifelong UFC fan and supporter of the sport of mixed martial arts. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.
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