When the pandemic shut the world down, the UFC carried the sports world on their back as they were the first major sports organization to host live events. The UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada became the epicentre of the combat sports world. The fights at the Apex were unique, as there was no crowd in attendance. As the world starts to open up and the UFC goes back on the road, there are going to be fewer events at the Apex moving forward. The Apex hosted many great moments over the past 2 years. Let’s take a look back at 10 of the most memorable events that took place in the Apex.
Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic first competed in January of 2018 for the UFC Heavyweight title. At the time, Ngannou had destroyed every opponent he had fought in the Octagon and many expected him to do the same to Miocic. Ngannou was the betting favorite against the Champion. Miocic silenced the critics when he defeated Ngannou in a 5 round shutout decision, handing him his first loss in the UFC. It was in November of 2018 when Ngannou started to rebuild himself as a fighter. He finished 4 consecutive fights by knockout in the 1st round in an average of 44 seconds per fight. He earned a rematch against Miocic in March of 2021 at UFC 260. Two colossal men would be battle it out inside a smaller Octagon. Ngannou was a different fighter in the rematch and you could see that immediately. He stayed calm and picked his shots rather than swinging recklessly as he did in the first fight. Ngannou finished Miocic by knockout in the 2nd round to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion in front of an empty arena at the Apex.
The fight between Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker from June of 2020 is widely considered the greatest fight that’s ever taken place at the Apex. You often hear many fighters say that the energy of the crowd fuels them to fight hard and push the pace. Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker had no crowd and they pushed the pace as hard as anyone we’ve seen in the last few years. There was non-stop action and several momentum swings. It looked like the fight was about to come to an end on several occasions for both fighters, but Poirier and Hooker showed grit by staying in there. Poirier took control of the fight in the Championship rounds and went on to win a unanimous decision. It was such a war that both Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker ended up at the hospital that night.
When Khamzat Chimaev made his UFC debut in July of 2020, he took the fight game by storm. He broke the record for the fastest turnaround in UFC history by winning two fights in 10 days. Not only did he win 2 fights in 10 days, he won 2 fights in two different weight classes. He finished John Phillips as a Middleweight then finished Rhys McKee as a Welterweight. Khamzat made it clear after both of those fights that he wanted to stay active and would fight anyone at any time. Less than 2 months after finishing Rhys McKee, the UFC booked Khamzat in a Middleweight fight against Gerald Meerschaert. It was Khamzat’s biggest test at the time and Khamzat made it look easy. He blasted Gerald Meerschaert with a right hand and knocked him out in 17 seconds. The world realized that Khamzat was more than just a grappler. This win has aged gracefully as Meerschaert has gone on to finish 3 consecutive opponents by submission since losing to Khamzat.
There have been many times in Glover Teixeira’s career that he’s been counted out. From August 2016 to July 2018, he went 3-3 where he lost a fight then won a fight for 6 consecutive fights. He couldn’t put together a consistent winning streak but that all changed with his fight against Karl Roberson in January of 2019. After winning 4 consecutive fights and finishing Anthony Smith, Teixeira signed to fight Thiago Santos. At the time, Santos was coming off of a 16-month layoff after losing a close split decision in a title fight to Jon Jones. Given how good Santos looked against Jones, the majority expected him to run through Glover Teixeira. To the shock of many, Teixeira would end up submitting Santos with a rear-naked choke in the 3rd round. This win earned Teixeira a title shot against Jan Blachowicz which he would go on to win.
In November of 2020, both Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno competed at UFC 255. Figueiredo was defending his Flyweight title while Moreno was competing in the final fight of the prelims. They both earned 1st round stoppage wins. The following UFC PPV was originally supposed to be headlined by a fight between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. However, Usman was injured and couldn’t compete on the card. The UFC tried to get several replacements for the main event, but fights kept falling through. Just 3 weeks after they both competed at UFC 255, Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno agreed to compete against each other at UFC 266 for the Flyweight title. They competed in what many consider the greatest Flyweight fight of all time. Figueiredo started the fight strong, but Moreno came took over the contest in the Championship rounds. The fight was ruled a majority draw.
Cory Sandhagen proved that he’s undoubtedly one of the best Bantamweight fighters in the world when he finished Frankie Edgar with a flying knee in 28 seconds. Once upon a time, Frankie Edgar had the ability to absorb a tremendous amount of punishment and still move forward. No one has been able to take out Edgar as flawlessly as Cory Sandhagen did. This might have been the biggest highlight-reel knockout that’s ever taken place a the Apex.
Kamaru Usman has been in several fights that have had intense build-ups. As intense as the build-ups got, it’s always been difficult to rattle Usman. Colby Covington couldn’t even do it. When Usman signed to fight his former teammate Gilbert Burns, the two seemed very cordial. It was when the two got into the Octagon that we saw how much this fight really meant to Kamaru Usman. He got right into GIlbert Burns’ face when Bruce Buffer announced him which was unusual. After a rocky 1st round, Usman recovered and went on to finish Burns by 3rd round TKO. He spoke about in his post-fight speech just how difficult it was for him to fight his former teammate. He mentioned that the fight became a lot more personal to him because Burns was a former training partner. This was the beginning of Usman’s 2021 run as the fighter of the year.
Before Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling competed at UFC 260, fans were split on who they thought would win. The predictions were at a 50/50 split on Verdict. When the fight started, Sterling relentlessly pushed the pace making the first 2 rounds competitive. Sterling then began to slow down when the 3rd round began. After getting instructions from his corner, Petr Yan hit Aljamain Sterling with an illegal knee to the head while Sterling was grounded. This ended up being the most consequential illegal knee in UFC history as Yan was disqulaified which resulted in Aljamain Sterling becoming the UFC Bantamweight Champion.
It’s rare that a fighter gets a main event slot in his 2nd UFC fight, but that’s what happened after Jiri Prochakza looked so impressive in his UFC debut against Volkan Oezdemir. Prochakza earned a fight against former title challenger Dominick Reyes. This was a major step up in competition for Prochakza, who was fighting the man that many believed defeated Jon Jones. As long as the fight went, Prochakza did not stop pushing forward. He didn’t give Reyes a chance to breathe as he applied non stop pressure. The fight ended in the 2nd round when Prochakza finished Reyes with a spinning back elbow knockout. This win was so impressive that it earned Prochakza a title shot against Glover Teixeria later this year.
In January of 2021, Max Holloway put one of the most dominant performances in UFC history against Calvin Kattar. He broke the all-time UFC record for the most strikes landed at 447 against Kattar. Many thought that Kattar would never be the same after the fight. UFC President Dana White had Kattar rushed immediately to the hospital. Kattar took a 1 year break from competing and would return to action against rising contender Giga Chikadze. Chikadze was on a 9 fight winning streak and had just finished Edson Barboza by TKO. Many expected to Kattar to take another beating, but it was Kattar who delivered the beating. Calvin Kattar looked like a new fighter as he dominated Chikzade for 5 rounds and performed better as the fight progressed. They say everyone loves a good comeback story and that’s what this was.