Unfortunately, not every fight in the UFC can be the most action-packed, bloodiest fight ending in a highlight reel KO. While we’ve seen quite a lot of those fights, we’ve also seen some that have been the exact opposite, especially between two fighters who were almost guaranteed to deliver. We wish every battle would be a Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler or a Robbie Lawler vs Rory McDonald, but that’s just how this sport plays out sometimes.
Today, I will rank the five most boring fights in UFC history. Don’t worry, I went and watched all of these fights so you don’t have to, but if you want to waste fifteen to twenty-five minutes of your time watching each fight, by all means, go for it!
Let’s get started.
To kick off this list, we have an uneventful rematch between Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn. These two UFC legends squared off for the first time at UFC 6, with Shamrock receiving the submission win. However, at UFC 9, they met for a second time, with worse results. Unlike the rest of the fights on this list, this one actually has a built-in excuse for why it was so bad. In the pre-Zuffa days, or the “dark ages” of the UFC, mixed martial arts was illegal in some states, and specific people were trying to get the sport banned altogether. One man, in particular, US Senator John McCain, almost ruined the UFC 9 event in Detroit altogether. Legal battles ensued until 4:30 PM on the actual day the event was supposed to take place, and the court ruled that UFC 9 could in fact happen, but with some major rule changes. The judge ruled that headbutts and closed fist strikes were deemed illegal, which greatly affected the main event between Shamrock and Severn. Very little action was given between the two in fear of being prosecuted, which was a real threat if either man decided to break the rules. The two men circled around the ring for the entire duration of the fight with practically no strikes thrown. Luckily, times have changed since this fight, so if this fight had taken place in the modern day, perhaps we would have seen different results.
The fight between Anderson Silva and Demian Maia at UFC 112 was not one to remember, and this was a fight that lost Silva a lot of his fanbase. This event was significant because as the UFC was gaining new audiences in the late 2000s into the 2010s, this was the first event in Abu Dhabi. Dana White wanted to establish a solid relationship with the country, and bring his biggest star for good exposure, but unfortunately, Anderson Silva’s antics throughout the fight did the exact opposite. From the get-go, Silva made sure to make the fight about himself and taunted Maia, who did not land a single takedown following thirteen attempts. Dropping his hands, circling the octagon, and mocking the Brazilian grappler was a common theme for Silva during the 25 minutes of action, and as a reign of boos showered the octagon following the end of the fight, Silva and even UFC president Dana White apologized later on for what happened. Dana White expressed his feelings to Ariel Helwani after the fight and called it an “embarrassing” night for the sport.
Israel Adesanya has gotten a lot of hate since becoming the UFC Middleweight champion in 2019, for his lack of finishes and action that got him to a title shot against Robert Whittaker. The flashy knockout against Derek Brunson and the wars with Anderson Silva and Kelvin Gastelum got fans to love him, but the lackluster fights against Jared Cannonier, Marvin Vettori, and the fight I want to discuss today against Yoel Romero have really given fans a lot of reasons to hate him. A lot of fans thought that Romero should have won that fight, as many thought he was the aggressor throughout the 25-minute main event. Romero only landed 40 significant strikes compared to Adesanya’s 48, with 25 of those strikes being leg kicks. There was a moment in the fight where both fighters stood still, waiting for the other to make a move against one another. That moment exemplifies how boring that fight was. Fans were anticipating a huge fight between two of the most ruthless finishers in the division, but what they got was not what they expected.
This fight was very strange for a variety of reasons. Francis Ngannou, the current UFC heavyweight champion, was fresh off of a title loss to Stipe Miocic. After that, Ngannou was matched back up with Derrick Lewis, the UFC’s all-time knockout leader. This fight was expected to be a potential fight of the year, as Ngannou is well known for starching his opponents with his ungodly power, as was Lewis. What happened in the cage was simply forgettable. Ngannou was very gun-shy following his loss to Stipe Miocic and only landed eleven strikes throughout the fight. Lewis, who was nursing a major back injury, won the fight on the judges’ scorecards despite landing only 20 strikes. Ngannou’s head coach John Wood was screaming at him to engage with Lewis all throughout the fight, but he would not listen, which ultimately cost him the win. Fans were the real loser of this snoozefest, as what they thought was an unbelievable co-main event to the UFC 226 card turned out to be something they would have never expected.
And finally, we are at number one, and this fight resembles the reason this article was put together. Carla Esparza defeated Rose Namajunas for a second time back at UFC 274 earlier this year, and many are calling it the worst title fight in UFC history. This fight was a rematch of their first meeting at the Ultimate Fighter season 20 finale back in 2014, and their first fight certainly produced more action as Esparza defeated Namajunas by third-round submission. Their second fight was unlike anything MMA fans have ever seen before. The lack of output from both fighters right out of the gate told watchers that something was clearly wrong. Namajunas landed only 38 strikes, compared to Esparza’s 30, which set the record for the least amount of combined strikes landed in a five-round fight. What makes this fight even stranger, is that Namajunas’ head coach and fiancee Pat Barry, seemed okay with the result of the fight. Barry’s weird appearance on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour and response to the media after the fight just put a lot of confusion in the minds of MMA fans. Barry explained that during the fight, he told Rose that if fans were to boo, that means that their strategy was working. Barry seemed to want Rose to avoid the takedown of Carla at all costs and edge her out on points, even if it meant giving the fans a snoozefest. Rose and Pat have gotten a lot of criticism for this very bad attempt at a title defense, and this is widely considered one of the worst fights in UFC history.
As I stated before, not every fight is going to be bloody and action-packed. That’s just how this sport works, and sometimes, it’s the fights you least expect that will be the most boring. Fighters admire and respect each other so much sometimes that it affects the output of the entire fight. Rose Namajunas was clearly content on not letting Carla Esparza’s grappling get the better of her as it did in the first fight, and so there was a stalemate on the feet. Sometimes there are mental blocks in a fighter’s mind, like Francis Ngannou, or even a significant injury like Derrick Lewis. And sometimes, there are legal issues going into a fight as we saw back at UFC 9, where a fighter would be jailed if they threw a punch. I suppose the lesson learned here is that sometimes there is more to a story than what we actually see and that fighters are humans too. They have feelings, they hurt, and they have things going on that significantly affect their performance, so instead of complaining that a fight is boring, take a second to think why that is. Why isn’t this fighter aggressively going after their opponent?
While Carla Esparza may be number one on this list, and the reason this article was written, she has an opportunity to erase all doubts with a dominant win over a former champion this weekend at UFC 281. A lot of people are calling her “boring” or not a “real champion,” but if she can go out and beat Zhang Weili and her ferocious style, a lot of fans will quickly turn heel.