Last week, Matt Hughes revealed that he may have fought his last MMA fight. While he didn’t have a big fancy press conference to officially announce his retirement, he admitted that he is currently “fully retired” in an interview with Iowa Daily Gate. That should come as no surprise as he was knocked out in his last two fights and he hasn’t been in competition for over a year now. He also mentions that he is financially stable and only trains part time. Whether or not he stays retired, he will go down as one of the greatest welterweights of all time. Here are my top five picks for the greatest Matt Hughes fights.
5. UFC 60 – Hughes vs Gracie
This was a fight set up between the dominant welterweight champ against the BJJ legend in a non-title catch-weight (175 lb) bout. Many wondered how Hughes’ superior wrestling would fair against Gracie’s legendary submission game. Well, as it turns out, the strength of Hughes was the difference maker as he was able to completely control Gracie’s position. In fact, he was very close to submitting the Brazillian legend with an arm lock. Eventually, Hughes would give up on the hold and proceed to ground-and-pound his way to a TKO victory. His dominant win over the Hall of Fame legend was marked as a “passing of the guard”.
4. UFC 50 – Hughes vs GSP
With a contract dispute between BJ Penn and the UFC, the welterweight title was vacated setting up a title fight between Hughes and Georges St. Pierre. This was a classic matchup between a dynamic striker against a superior wrestler. GSP would hurt Hughes with a spinning back kick but Hughes would resort to his grappling game with takedowns and slams. While on the ground, Hughes would go on to submit the Canadian via arm bar with one second left in the first round and win the vacated title along with the Submission of the Night bonus. The significance of this fight was Hughes cementing his status as an elite welterweight and delaying the evitable rise of the up-and-coming GSP.
3. UFC 63 – Hughes vs Penn
With GSP injured, Penn was slotted into the contender spot against the champ, Matt Hughes. This was the second time the two would face each other. Coming into the fight, Penn was only the only fighter to beat Hughes in his last 19 bouts. In the fight, Penn looked to have won the first two rounds but looked a shell of his normal self in the third round due to a rib injury and exhaustion. Hughes would take advantage of the opportunity by putting Penn in the mounted crucifix and feed him a load of uncontested punches to the head. Unable to escape, the ref would stop the bout and Hughes would complete the comeback win. Aside from retaining his belt and winning the Fight of the Night bonus, Hughes became the first fighter to stop Penn in a bout.
2. UFC 34 – Hughes vs Newton
In his first welterweight title fight, Hughes was set to fight then title holder, Carlos Newton. In dramatic come-from-behind fashion, Hughes won the belt with one of the greatest KO slams in MMA history. Newton had locked on a tight triangle on Hughes but he used his strength to lift Newton up in the air and put him against the top of the cage. With his last ouch of strength before getting choked out, he slammed Newton on his head and knocking him out cold in the process. This fight not only showcased his strength but also his resilience which has become one of his greatest traits.
1. UFC 52 – Hughes vs Trigg
Speaking of come-from-behind wins, this one may be one of the craziest of all time. After defeating GSP and regaining his title, his first title defense was against Frank Trigg. After Hughes got rocked by an undetected low blow, Trigg would advantageously follow up with vicious ground-and-pound and attempt a rear naked choke which was defended for almost two minutes. In what would be one of the greatest momentum shifting transitions ever, Hughes would escape the hold and pick Trigg up above his shoulder. Hughes could have slammed him down immediately but that wouldn’t be epic enough. Instead, he proceeded to carry him across the cage, slam him, throw in some ground-and-pound and then ended it with a rear naked choke of his own. To top it off, he would also win the Submission of the Night. The adversity from the low blow, the submission escape, the tide-changing slam, and using the same submission that he nearly fell victim to is why it is one of the most epic fights in history.