The UFC Apex arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, was completed in 2019. It is a state-of-the-art facility designed specifically for MMA events. The 130,000-square-foot facility includes a production studio, multiple training rooms, a full-service restaurant, and a 25-foot diameter octagon.
The "Apex" holds its place in history as the UFC adapted to the coronavirus pandemic by hosting events with no spectators present. Hosting consistent sporting events with no crowd and extra safety measures was a significant move as it allowed for the continuation of the sport that also had a knock-on effect on other sports like the NBA and MLB, which also used a similar "bubble" system. The "Apex" is still used similarly with a restricted crowd and has successfully hosted 65 events.
Not only did the UFC Apex arena pave its way in history for the reasons mentioned above, but it also put on several spectacles and incredible fights. With that being said, let's look at 10 of the biggest fights ever to take place inside the UFC Apex.
This fight ended in arguably one of the most controversial styles the UFC has seen in recent history. Fighting for the bantamweight title, Yan was undefeated in the UFC with seven straight victories in the promotion. In addition, he has notable wins over Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber, Jimmie Rivera, and John Doodson. Yan looked like the division's future, who could do everything inside the octagon. He was undoubtedly one of the most feared in the division, and Sterling had an incredible task ahead of him if he wanted to leave the arena with the championship.
However, an illegal knee in the fourth round would see Yan disqualified, and Sterling crowned champion. Sterling's antics outside of the octagon fired rumors and allegations his way on whether or not he was fit to continue. Nevertheless, he was crowned champion and extended his record to 20-3, making it six victories in a row with wins over Corey Sandhagen, Pedro Munhoz, Jimmie Rivera, and Cody Stamann.
This fight will forever be in the UFC's history not only for the nature in which it ended but saw Yan lose the title in his first defense and the beginning of Sterling's "questionable" title reign.
Coming off his viral knockout of Marlon Moraes, Cory Sandhagen proved himself a problem to all bantamweights. He matched up against a legend of the sport Frankie Edgar, after a successful debut in a new weight class against Pedro Munhoz. Edgar was looking to continue an already successful career.
However, Sandhagen had other plans and delivered, yet again, another viral knockout with one of the scariest finishes we've ever seen. This fight looked like an "out with the old, in with the new" script. As Edgar would go on to retire two fights later, and Sandhagen would propel himself in the opposite direction and challenge for the interim title soon after. Although losing a split decision in his next fight to T.J. Dillashaw, he was still awarded a title opportunity against Petr Yan.
This fight confirmed Sandhagen as one of the best, and he has since proven this to be true.
Returning from a two-year hiatus, Yair Rodriguez returned to fight one of the best in the featherweight division. Rodriguez was already on many people's radars due to his last-second stoppage win over the Korean zombie. Still, many anticipated how he would match up with Holloway after two years out. Rodriguez would lose a decision but impress many with his abilities and fighting spirit.
On the other hand, Max Holloway was looking to return to a title opportunity since losing twice to Alexander Volkanovski in extremely close matches. The winner of this fight was looking for a title shot, so it held a lot of prestige and opportunity for both men. Not only did the fight have title implications, but we were treated to an excellent back-and-forth, and a much more competitive fight than many may have previously considered.
Undefeated in the UFC, going into a fight with his former teammate, the "Nigerian Nightmare" Kamaru Usman was making his way through the welterweight division and proving himself as one of the greatest ever as he did. With a record of 17-1 going into the fight and wins over Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, Tyrone Woodley, Rafael Dos Anjos, Demian Maia, and Sean Strickland, it was apparent to see why. This was a fight many were intrigued by as both athletes were former training partners. This dynamic gives any match-up a unique twist as both men believe they know how to beat the other.
This was the case, as Burns dropped Usman in the first round and had more success than anyone else. Gilbert Burns had also made a statement since moving up to welterweight, seemingly finding his perfect weight class. With four straight wins in the division to Alexey Kunchenko, Gunnar Nelson, Demian Maia, and former champ Tyrone Woodley. Burns believed and looked like the man who could dethrone Usman.
Usman would win via TKO early in the third round, continuing his impressive reign as champion.
This fight was indeed what one could only describe as a 5-round war. Both men almost finished the other on multiple occasions in a back-and-forth affair. Hooker was 7-1 in his last eight before this fight, with wins over big names such as Paul Feldor, Al Laquinta, James Vick, Gilbert Burns, and Jim Miller.
On the other hand, Poirer has just come up short for the lightweight title against Khabib Nurmagomedov and was looking to prove himself as one of the best in the division and put a stop to Dan Hooker's title aspirations. Poirer had a similarly impressive record going into this fight, with nine wins in his last 12. This was a clash of two titans in the division, and it lived up to every expectation. The Apex felt eerie during this fight as you could feel the shots these men were landing. On many occasions, the commentary team also cringed and winced at the sounds.
Both men left everything in the cage and certainly showcased what warriors they were. This was one of the unique fights that will leave a fighter in a different place afterward, notably in Dan Hooker, who has since gone 2-3 in his next five fights.
Two fighters looking to prove themselves in the opposite ways, Reyes, with two back-to-back defeats to Jon Jones and Jan Blachowicz. He was looking to get his career back on track by stopping UFC newcomer Jiri Prochazka. This was only Prochakzka's second fight in the UFC, but he would end with one of the knockouts of the year. In this fight, we saw the beginning of two different trajectories.
Reyes would go on again to lose via knockout to Ryan Spann, making it four-straight defeats, whereas Prochazka would go on to defeat Glover Teixeria and capture the light heavyweight title in just his third UFC bout.
This fight set the stage for a rising star in Prochazka and put his name out in the MMA community.
This fight holds its place in history for many reasons. It was the birth of the UFC's first tetralogy and the winner of the UFC's fight of the year for 2021. With three straight wins over Kai Kara-France, Jussier Formiga, and Brandon Royval. Moreno was going into this fight as an underdog who many thought Figuerirdo would dispose of quickly. Figuerido had a record of 20-1 before this fight, with impressive wins over Alexandre Pantoja, Joeseph Benavidez twice, and Alex Perez. The flyweight champ was making a name for himself for his incredible punching power and nasty ground game. To say that he was dominating the division's best, would be an understatement.
The fight had the controversy of the point deduction and ended in a draw. But this would be the start of a rivalry that would last three years and propelled Brandon Moreno's career into the spotlight, where he has since gone on to prove himself as one of the best.
Following his defeat to Miocic in their first fight, the Ngannou train was put to a halt. Demolishing his way through the UFC heavyweight division on his way to a title shot, Ngannou had six straight victories, all coming via finish in the first two rounds. On his rise to the top, Ngannou beat Curtis Blaydes, Andrei Arlovski, and had his viral knockout of Alistair Overeem. Following his defeat to Miocic, Ngannou would suffer back-to-back defeats for the first time in his career as he lost a lackluster performance to Derrick Lewis. On his way back to the top, Ngannou worked a lot on his skills and, again, went on a rampage of knocking out Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
In their second meeting, we saw a more patient and controlled Ngannou as he faced Stipe Miocic. From the beginning of the fight, there was an aura that this fight would be very different from the first. The fact that this fight was hosted at the Apex made it more terrifying and made us all more appreciative of the freakish power Nganoua possessed, as we could hear the impact of every strike that much more explicitly. This fight showed us his improvements and growth since their first fight.
Another fighter looking to test himself in the weight class above was Isreal Adesanya. After emphatically capturing the middleweight title against Robert Whittaker, Adesanaya had further back-to-back victories against Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa. With an online feud with Jon Jones, fans worldwide were all keen to see how Adesanya would fair at light heavyweight.
Blachowichz proved, once again, that he was a fighter you could never count out. Going into the fight as an underdog, Blachowhicz defeated Adesanya utilizing his size and strength to make it five wins in a row, notching up victories against Luke Rockhold, Ronaldo Souza, Corey Anderson, and Dominick Reyes along the way.
This fight with Adesanya was the first time Blachowicz defended his title, and he was able to answer all questions the MMA community had regarding him as champion and Adesyana as a light heavyweight. And for that reason, this fight was huge in the career of both men. But, unfortunately, this fight was also experienced at an empty Apex in what would usually have been a sold-out arena.
It was targeted for a PPV event in Dublin, Ireland. However, UFC 252 was moved to Apex arena due to the pandemic, and the trilogy of Stipe Moicic and Daniel Cormier headlining the event. Going into the fight with a knockout victory over each other, this fight was a momentous occasion for many reasons. One would be Daniel Cormier's final fight, and it would also be a victory that all but cemented Miocic's legacy as one of the best heavyweights ever.
Going into the first fight with Stipe Miocic, Cormier was on a three-fight win streak since his defeat to Jon Jones, which turned into a no-contest after Jones tested positive for a banned substance. The no-contest meant Cormier was reinstated as light heavyweight champion. During his three-fight win streak, Cormier defended his title to Volkan Oezdemir before moving up in weight class to become a two-division champion after knocking out Stipe Moicic in the first round. Next, Cormier would defend the title against Derrick Lewis, submitting him in round two before facing Miocic in a rematch. However, Miocic would get revenge by knocking out Cormier in the fourth round. With a record of 22-1-(1) before the fight, this made Miocic the only person aside from Jones to beat Cormier.
Miocic, on the other hand, had just stopped the most feared man in combat sports, Francis Ngannou, before his KO loss to Cormier with six straight wins in the heavyweight division, defending the title three times with notable wins over Alistar Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Junior Dos Santos, and Andrei Arlovski. Both men had so much to prove and gave the fans two incredible fights. After both beat each other in the way they did, this meant a trilogy was imminent. Not only that, but the fight carried a lot of legacy for both men. The fact this fight took place with no audience gave it an extremely raw edge. You could hear every strike echo throughout the arena and hear the coaches calling out to their respective fighters throughout the entirety of the bout. It was almost poetic that after the two previous KO finishes, we could watch 25 minutes in this unique setting to finalize the trilogy.