Winning a UFC championship holds immense significance for athletes, transcending mere athletic achievement. It represents the culmination of years of unwavering dedication, sacrifice, and unrelenting determination. It's a symbol of resilience, ambition, and the realization of a dream that has the potential to change lives and legacies forever.
Earlier in the year, Alexander Volkanovski came up short against opponent Islam Makhachev when he attempted to become a two-weight world champion. This weekend, due to an injury sustained by Charles Oliveira, he will have another chance on just twelve days' notice to capture UFC gold in a rematch. With that being said, let's look at seven other examples of fighters who tried to win a UFC championship in a rematch.
In 2019, Alexander Volkanovski overcame the odds and surprised many with his dominant performance and victory over the former Featherweight champion Max Holloway. Three years after winning the interim title against Anthony Pettis, Holloway had successfully defended his title four times against Jose Aldo (x2), Brian Ortega, and Frankie Edgar.
It took many by surprise to see him outworked and outperformed in the manner that he arguably had been against Volkanovski, a side not many had seen before. Given his dominance in the division prior to his first defeat as a Featherweight in 13 fights, it seemed only natural to see a rematch. Chasing to reclaim the throne again, Holloway and Volkanovski gave us an incredible fight that caused one of, if not the biggest, controversies in the sport and within the Verdict community.
This fight played out differently than the first, with Holloway coming out like a bullet early on, dropping Volkanovski twice in the opening two rounds. Max's momentum seemed to fade as the third round came to fruition, and the fight was evening out. The fourth and fifth rounds saw some championship adjustments from the champion, which saw him retake control and do enough to retain his title.
Two legends of the sport faced off for their infamous trilogy in August 2020, with Cormier looking at his back-to-back opportunity to capture the heavyweight championship while Miocic was chasing the record of most Heavyweight title defenses in the UFC (4).
Taking place in an empty Apex arena, fans at home witnessed the end of an era as Cormier would retire after failing to beat Miocic for a second time in a row. Coming off a 4th round KO loss one year prior, Cormier was looking to dethrone the Heavyweight king one last time in a fast-paced, grueling five-round battle. Similarly to the second fight, Miocic could outmaneuver and evade Cormier. The 37-year-old was lighter on the feet and landed more significant strikes, including a 43 to 17 advantage in the third round. The champion also disrupted Cormier's rhythm, pushing him up against the cage and controlling the fight from the clinch, cementing himself in history as one of the greatest Heavyweights of all time and among the greatest fighters to ever step foot in the octagon.
One of the most highly anticipated rematches in modern UFC history occurred earlier this year in April when Isreal Adesanya faced off against long-time foe Alex Pereria. With a long history that dates back to both athlete's kickboxing careers, the world was left in shock when MMA newcomer Pereria came back from the depths of defeat to finish one of the greatest Middleweights in history in the 5th round of their first fight in November 2022. Adesanya had reigned supreme over the division for the entirety of his career, beating most top contenders twice.
Before their bout, Adesanya had a record of 23-1, with his only loss coming at Lightheavyweight against Jan Blachowicz. Just 3 minutes away from victory, Pereria would stop the champion and be crowned the Middleweight champion in just his 9th professional MMA fight.
Adopting to continue with a heavy leg kick base that found success in the first fight, Pereria looked to be the sharper fighter in the first round of their rematch. However, This success would be short-lived as Adesanya would deliver one of the most devastating knockouts that left Pereria lying stiff and unconscious before seeing a second round, allowing him to recapture UFC gold in his first attempt.
At 14-0 with five title defenses, it's fair to say that Joanna Jedrezejczykz was running rampant in the women's Strawweight division. UFC Ultimate Fighter 20 finalist Rose Namajunas was coming into her first title opportunity with a record of 6-3. A performance of the night-worthy victory saw Namajunas TKO Jedrezejczykz in just 3:03 minutes in remarkable fashion in the first round. A rematch seemed imminent in which Namajunas would prove that her first victory was anything but a fluke. After a close-fought 25-minute battle where both athletes showcased an array of skills of the highest standard, Namajunas would retain her title.
One of the greatest MMA fighters to ever walk the Earth, Anderson Silva, ruled over the Middleweight division for the better part of 6 years, where he continuously lit the division on fire with his flashy skillset and killer instincts. Coming into his first UFC title fight with a record of 9-0, Weidman would shock the world when he knocked out Silva in the second round as he caught an unsuspecting Silva with a left hook.
Silva had won all his 16 UFC fights with 13 finishes leading up to this contest. Looking to right any wrongs, many expected Silva to regain his championship. Unfortunately, Silva would suffer one of the most gruesome injuries sustained in the UFC as he broke his leg early in the second round. Unfortunately for Silva, this injury would stagnate his career, and he couldn't recapture his form, winning only one fight in the next seven without including a no-contest with Nick Diaz.
Jose Aldo is considered by many as the greatest Featherweight of all time. The king of Rio dominated over the WEC and UFC for over a decade, cementing himself as a legend and a Hall of Fame superstar. Aldo had gone over a decade without losing before his 13-second defeat at the hands of Conor McGregor. In his very next fight, Aldo would provide reassurance that his loss wouldn't be his undoing as an elite fighter as he would beat Frankie Edgar for the interim Featherweight championship that would later be promoted to undisputed champion once again.
His second title run, however, would be short-lived as he came up against Max Holloway. Fighting in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Aldo would find success early in the fight. But, Holloway's pace and pressure would become problematic later in the fight and Holloway would find a TKO late in the third round, unifying the title.
An immediate rematch would come to fruition when Holloway's original fight with Edgar fell through as he was forced to withdraw. Unfortunately for Aldo, the rematch would play out almost identically to the first, where he would find success early in the fight. Again, Holloway's relentless pressure would become too much in the end, as he would find a third-round TKO victory.
After one of the most impressive title performances ever against Dominik Cruz, Garbrandt had taken the Bantamweight division by storm. With a record of 11-0 and no signs of slowing down, it was a surprise when this whirlwind to the top would be halted in the second round against TJ Dillashaw. He would knock out Garbrandt and recapture the Bantamweight title for the second time in his career.
In a highly anticipated rematch, the former teammates showed no love lost as they engaged in a firefight from the opening bell. Unfortunately for Gabrandt, his willingness to engage in a brawl would be his undoing as he would lose in a similar fashion, only quicker this time. Dispatching his opponent in the first round, Dillashaw would defend the Bantamweight title and win the bragging rights with two victories over Garbrandt.
Rematches in MMA always open the door to answer a lot of unanswered questions as both fighters try to work on what went wrong the first time around or prepare to improve on a previous victory and look to do the same a second time around. This weekend looks to be no different, as fans worldwide are already debating who they think will come out victorious when Makhachev and Volkanovski make the walk one more time.
Honourable mentions: Leon Edwards Vs. Kamaru Usman 2 Brandon Moreno Vs. Deiveson Figueiredo 3 Georges St-Pierre Vs. Matt Sera Cain Velasquez Vs. Junior Dos Santos Aljamain Sterling Vs. Petr Yan