5 of the best grappler vs. grappler fights in UFC history

Charles Oliveira, a former lightweight champion, will compete against Beneil Dariush at UFC 288 in May, it was announced this past week.

Would Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush rank among the greatest grappler vs. grappler matches in UFC history? It sounds like a fantastic matchup between two superb grapplers.
Hopefully, it might be.

Of course, Oliveira and Dariush are two of the top MMA grapplers at the moment. To compare to some of the prior fights, it will need to be outstanding.

Here are five of the greatest grappler versus grappler battles in UFC history.

#5. Charles Oliveira vs. Hatsu Hioki – UFC Fight Night 43 (2014)

Perhaps some grappling magic will happen in Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush’s forthcoming battle. Even if it succeeds, it will need to go a long way to rival Oliveira’s fight with Hatsu Hioki in 2014.

The fight, which matched “Do Bronx” against one of the most well-known grapplers in featherweight history, generated some incredible mat exchanges.

More importantly, it was arguably the first time Oliveira was able to defeat a true elite-level opponent using submission techniques, providing fans a preview of what he’d accomplish a few years later.

The Japanese great Hioki attempted a flying triangle choke early on in the bout, getting things off to a rather chaotic start. After ‘Do Bronx’ was able to defend, the two men traded takedowns, sweeps, and attempts at submissions for the duration of the opening round.

The first round left off exactly where the second round began. Before Hioki was able to take full mount, Oliveira and Hioki continued to switch places and at one point even attempted to lock each other in a leglock duel.
Yet, “Do Bronx” stunned everyone a short while afterwards. He escaped a choke hold, turned into a scramble, and caught Hioki’s neck to apply an anaconda choke that ended the bout.

In his MMA career, Hioki had never been submitted before, yet looking back, there was no guilt in him submitting to Oliveira. Do Bronx, who is regarded as the greatest grappler in UFC history, considers this match to be his best grappler-to-grappler contest to date.

#4. Jake Shields vs. Demian Maia – UFC Fight Night 29 (2013)

One of the best grapplers to ever compete in the UFC is Demian Maia, who has a total of 12 submission victories to his credit. It follows that only few of the Brazilian’s competitors were able to put him to the test on the mat.

Jake Shields was one competitor who actually manage to take Maia to the limit on the ground—and still managed to win.

Shields, a well-known grappler in his own right, didn’t quite have Maia’s UFC submission success, but he unquestionably had credentials that were equally strong. He was ready to demonstrate this when the two men squared off in late 2013.

The two grapplers traded takedowns, positions, and attempts at choking throughout the course of five rounds. Even though neither man came near to being submitted, it was simple to respect their abilities.

Finally, the judges decided who would win. Although none of the rounds were particularly close, the announcement of a split decision was not unexpected. The fact that Shields lasted a little bit longer on top was a major factor in the Brazilian supporters’ unhappiness when he was named the winner.

Practically speaking, however, it was a top-notch ground battle with no clear victor, and it unquestionably ranks as one of the best grappler vs. grappler battles in UFC history.

#3. Islam Makhachev vs. Arman Tsarukyan – UFC Fight Night 149 (2019)

This month, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski put current UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev to the test. Several fans felt that it was the first time in his octagon career that he had really been pushed.

As Volkanovski put the Dagestani to the test on his feet, just a few years earlier, newcomer Arman Tsarukyan had similarly pushed him to the limit on the ground.

The fight has since been forgotten due to its inclusion on a largely unnoticed Fight Night event, yet it still ranks as one of the best grappler vs. grappler encounters in octagon history.

The majority of spectators anticipated Makhachev to just run over the rookie, but that didn’t happen. The Dagestani defeated his opponent in the first round with a stunning foot sweep into full mount, but Tsarukyan turned out to be a trickier opponent than anyone had anticipated.

He never came close to defeating Makhachev, but he did shift positions several times against him. To the joy of the Russian crowd watching on, the two men then traded blows throughout the majority of the three rounds on the ground.

Makhachev ultimately received a resounding victory. Yet, in reality, the battle was very tight throughout, demonstrating Tsarukyan’s superior grappling skills.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see a five-round title rematch between them in the future given that the Armenian has since won six of his seven fights and is currently ranked in the top 10.

#2. Karo Parisyan vs. Dong Hyun Kim – UFC 94 (2009)

It’s simple to forget that judo has proven to be an equally successful method in the octagon given that the bulk of the UFC’s top grapplers have a background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Although judoka like Ronda Rousey and Yoshihiro Akiyama have successfully defended themselves against a variety of opponents, there haven’t been many judoka vs. judoka battles in the MMA scene.

Yet, the fight between Karo Parisyan and Dong Hyun Kim back in January 2009 is the best exception to that rule.

Although maybe being past his prime at that point and dealing with a painkiller addiction that ultimately destroyed his career, Parisyan still delivered some extremely fantastic exchanges with “The Stun Gun.”

The two welterweights wrestled each other to the ground, attempted chokes, reversals, and even some high-impact throws, but only Parisyan was able to land one.

Given the tempo they’d pushed in the opening 10 minutes, it was unsurprising that the action had slowed down by the third round, but even so, they were still producing some fantastic exchanges.

Once the battle went the distance, Parisyan received a split decision that was quite debatable. The best outcome, in actuality, would have been a draw. As it turned out, “The Heat” tested positive for illegal substances after the bout, preventing Kim from incurring an unfair defeat.

The fight was undoubtedly one of the best grappler vs. grappler battles ever witnessed in the octagon, despite the controversy surrounding the outcome. It undoubtedly enhanced judo’s standing in the UFC.

#1. Diego Sanchez vs. Nick Diaz – Ultimate Fighter II Finale (2005)

While both fighters would later become well-known for their brawling and striking techniques, welterweight prospects Diego Sanchez and Nick Diaz were both well-known grapplers in 2005.

The intention was for the two young guns to put on a grappling masterclass when they faced off in late 2005. They surely did not disappoint in that regard. The build-up to the fight saw Stockton’s favourite son throwing a shoe at Sanchez backstage, hinting at the type of stand-up conflict Diaz and “The Nightmare” would produce in their later years.

When it came time to fight, though, the mat ended up being their preferred arena. Diaz was relatively simple for Sanchez to take out right away, but once Diaz was on the ground, he continued to move.

It meant that throughout the battle, the two men switched places, with Diaz continuously yielding his back to get out of sticky situations even as he was struggling to gain the upper hand.

When ‘The Nightmare’ managed takedowns, he was able to gash Diaz open with some powerful elbows. Diaz paid it forward by slashing Sanchez’s right eye open. That may have even saved his life, since the blood helped him escape a deep armbar attempt in the third round.

Although it was a fairly close fight, Sanchez was awarded the victory by unanimous decision with scores of 30-27. Both guys appeared to have won because the grappling exchanges were so good and at times so challenging to follow.
Although Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar was undoubtedly the most memorable fight of 2005, this one was significantly superior technically. That is still arguably the best grappler vs. grappler match in UFC history almost two decades later.

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