Which fights carried the highest stakes when it came to the history of MMA, or which were significant when it came to the evolution of the sport? My top 5: Sakuraba vs Royce Gracie, Pride Openweight Grand Prix 2000- IMO this is the most important fight in MMA history, with significant repercussions in the history of martial arts. Royce was the most famous martial artist in the world at the time, undefeated and the king of the UFC. Sakuraba was MMA's next big star and Pride's golden boy. Sakuraba was the first man to beat a Gracie in a professional fight in decades when he defeated Royler, and the Gracie's wanted to avenge the loss at all costs. No time limit, winner can only win by KO, submission or corner stoppage. 90 minute classic that will probably never be replicated. This fight was basically the modern day Gracie vs Kimura, a fight that shaped the martial arts world for decades to come. 2. Maurice Smith vs Mark Coleman, UFC 17, 1997 The first fight in UFC history where a striker beat a grappler. Coleman was viewed as the next step in the evolution of MMA- 250+ pounds, Olympic wrestler who could take down opponents and pound them out at will. The first great ground and pound fighter in the sports history. Maurice Smith was a world class kickboxer, but nobody believed back then that a striker could defeat a wrestler, especially one like Coleman. Smith does the impossible and wins the UFC Heavyweight Title by defending Coleman's ground attack, wearing him down, and regaining the standing position and beating him down. Smith basically wrote the blueprint on a how a striker can defeat a powerful wrestler in this fight. 3. Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock, UFC 40, 2002 This was the fight that saved the UFC. The UFC's first true major star in Tito Ortiz vs the first American MMA star, Ken Shamrock. This was also the UFC's first major feud, Ortiz vs the Lion's Den. Tito was running through the Lion's Den and Ken was the guy he was building towards for years. What ensued was the most hyped and the most well promoted event in UFC history. Without this fight, the UFC does not make it out of the early 2000s and the sport never makes it to the Spike TV boom era. Both Tito and Ken deserve massive amounts of credit for this event. 4. Griffin vs Bonnar, TUF 1 Finale, 2005 This fight helped create the TUF boom era. Without that season, that finale and this fight, the UFC never makes it to cable TV. The perfect storm. This fight turned the UFC from what was becoming a failed investment into helping MMA become the fastest growing sport in the world. The UFC has carried the momentum created from this fight for the past 15 years, going from Spike to Fox to now ESPN. An idea that was deemed impossible before this season and fight happened. 5. Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen, UFC 117, 2010 The buildup for this fight planted the seeds for how MMA would be promoted for the next decade. Chael's approach has been imitated (often very poorly) by countless fighters. It was also significant for another reason- Sonnen's failed post fight test was the first time that TRT had gotten significant focus in the press. You could say this fight ended up leading to the USADA era, due to the amount of fighters that were approved for TRT exemptions afterwards and the controversy surrounding it. USADA has dramatically changed and shaped the sport since it's presence has entered the UFC. Oh, and it was a fantastic fight as well.