UFC 290 goes down this weekend and is one of the year's most stacked cards. Since 2011, every year, the UFC has done an international fight week, commencing the first or second week of July. This will be the 11th annual international fight week (IFA), and it's the perfect time to countdown the ten biggest main events IFA has produced over the years.
Our first entry takes us back to 2019 for UFC 239, where Jon Jones aimed to make the second defense of his second title reign as the UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion. In his way was Thiago Santos, who was riding a substantial four-fight win streak, including highlight-reel KOs over Jan Blachowicz and Jimi Manuwa. The fight itself also marked the first split decision of both men's careers, with Jones taking the victory. While this fight was one of the lesser-known bouts for IFA, it still holds significance for Jon Jones' legacy.
Last year's IFA was held on the 2nd of July and featured many big names such as Sean O'Malley, Robbie Lawler, and Alex Pereira. The main event was a Middleweight title matchup, where Israel Adesanya aimed to make the fifth consecutive title defense against Jared Cannonier. The hype around this card was enormous because both Adesanya and Pereira were fighting on the same card, and if they both secured victories, they would face each other next. Though the fight itself was a dud, involving plenty of leg kicks from the Champion, which ultimately led him to win a unanimous decision, these events allowed us to witness the trilogy and eventual quadrilogy match between Adesanya and Pereira.
The hype leading up to UFC 213 was vast. The Middleweight division had been in a drama-filled deadlock ever since Michael Bisping upset Luke Rockhold and became the Champion. First, he defended against #14 ranked Dan Henderson in his retirement fight and then got booked to face Georges St-Pierre, who hadn't fought in over four years. In the meantime, an interim title was arranged between two legitimate Middleweight contenders; Romero, who was on a nine-fight win streak, and Whittaker, who had seven. Fans were excited about the matchup, and it did not disappoint, going down as Fight of The Night and one of the greatest fights of 2017. It also led to the rematch between the two, where they fought for the undisputed Middleweight Championship.
UFC 175 was headlined by the newly crowned Middleweight Champion, Chris Weidman. Weidman was coming off two unpredictable bouts against the consensus GOAT of the Middleweight division, Anderson Silva. Many fans were still skeptical about Weidman, believing his two wins over Silva were flukes, so this was a massive platform for Weidman to silence the doubters. In his way was Lyoto Machida, who had just moved down from Light-Heavyweight. Ultimately, Weidman prevailed over Machida, securing a dominant unanimous decision victory and a Fight of The Night bonus. This fight cemented his place in UFC history and shined a spotlight on the new era of the Middleweight division.
Of course, the first IFA earns a spot on this list. For some background, in 2010, the WEC and UFC performed a merger, combining the roster and introducing the Featherweight and Bantamweight divisions to the UFC. The WEC Bantamweight Champion, Dominick Cruz, was promoted to the UFC Bantamweight Champion, and the main event of the first IFA was Cruz's first title defense. He took on Urijah Faber in a rematch, where Cruz had previously lost via submission. This fight was massively significant for the UFC because it spotlighted the lower-weight divisions, leading to a booming Bantamweight division today. The fight was also a Fight of The Night, growing the Bantamweight division further.
UFC 200 is a historical event for a multitude of reasons. The event featured the surprise return of Brock Lesnar but also had massive cancellations, as the rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz and the rematch between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier both fell out. This led to reigning UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Meisha Tate facing Amanda Nunes in the main event. The fight was a huge turning point for the Women's Bantamweight division, as it was the crowning moment of Nunes' career. After this bout, she would become the female GOAT and defend the title six times. This was also a landmark event for the UFC and will go down in history as one of the most chaotic pre-fight buildups ever.
The second year of IFA had a fight guaranteed not to disappoint. After dominating Anderson Silva for twenty-two minutes, Chael Sonnen was submitted in one of UFC history's most shocking comeback victories, and at UFC 148, both men had the chance to write their wrongs. It was a chance for Silva to display his improvement and ability to fight through adversity. As for Sonnon, he had the opportunity of a lifetime to become the Middleweight Champion. The buildup to the fight was immense, and the fight itself was also high action, with Silva stopping Sonnen in the second round. This fight continued to build Silva's legacy as he secured his UFC career's tenth and final defense.
While many didn't know then, UFC 162 would go on to be one of the most significant events in UFC history. Anderson Silva attempted to make the eleventh defense of his Middleweight title against undefeated contender Chris Weidman, who many wrote off immediately. Most fans believed they were tuning into a signature Silva performance, but the fight was anything but. In the second round, Weidman knocked Silva unconscious, ending the over 2,000-day reign Silva had as a Champion in the blink of an eye. This remains one of the biggest upsets in UFC history and has a massive impact on the UFC's Middleweight division.
IFA in 2018 was remarkable. The card featured the likes of Francis Ngannou, Anthony Pettis, and Paulo Costa. But the main event was where the big spotlight was. Stipe Miocic aimed to make the fourth consecutive title defense of his Heavyweight crown, and standing in his way was one of the greatest Light-Heavyweight fighters of all time, Daniel Cormier. Cormier was the Champion of Light-Heavyweight, and if he won the bout, he would've become the second double-champ in UFC history. And he did, in emphatic fashion. After a competitive first round, Cormier landed a short hook inside the clinch on Miocic and knocked him out cold, claiming the Heavyweight gold. This fight also set up the legendary trilogy between Miocic and Cormier and will go down as one of the best moments in UFC history.
Our #1 entry is undeniable. UFC 189 was headlined by the rising superstar Conor McGregor, who blitzed through every opponent in his way. Chad Mendes, who had a history with the Champion, Jose Aldo, stood in his way of interim Featherweight gold. The lead-up to this fight was like no other, with McGregor constantly trash-talking Mendes. This fight was the birthing of the most illustrious superstar the UFC had ever seen, as McGregor emphatically TKOed Mendes in the second round. This victory set up his historic bout against Aldo, which led to the fights against Alvarez, Diaz, and Nurmagomedov. It will potentially become the biggest main event ever held on international fight week.
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