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The Top 10 UFC fights of 2006

What makes a great fight? First, there's the drama, and this can only really be put into play when both fighters, at one point or another, seem as if they could win. Second, there's the stage; the bigger it is, the better it is.

And sometimes the drama in the end? whether it's a hard to score bout or a stoppage? makes things even better.

Taking all of this into consideration, here's a list of the 10 best UFC fights of 2006.

Honorable Mention: Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell vs. Randy "The Natural" Couture III

Event: Liddell vs. Couture 3 on 2/4/06

Result: Liddell wins via KO at 1:28 of round two

The Skinny: This one gets an honorable mention simply because of the magnitude of the fight. In terms of the actual battle, with the exception of one takedown attempt by Couture that Liddell was able to thwart, this was a one-sided contest in the current UFC champ's favor.

Actually, when it comes to Chuck Liddell, it seems that all of his fights are rather one-sided. Thus, it seemed important to get at least one of his contests on paper somewhere (it was between this and the Ortiz encounter).

10. Sean Sherk vs. Nick Diaz

Event: UFC 59: Reality Check on 4/15/06

Result: Sherk wins via unanimous decision

The Skinny: Here's why this one made it. On the feet, things were very even. Further, Diaz shirked most of "The Muscle Shark's" takedown attempts.

Thus, the fight was very hard to score. In the end, Sherk won via unanimous decision, and if a decision had to be rendered that was probably the right one. Still, this was one of those fights that no one actually lost. It would've been interesting if it had been held back when there were no time limits in the initial UFC days.

Then who would've won is anyone's guess.

9. Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar II

Event: UFC 62: Liddell vs. Sobral on 8/26/06

Result: Griffin wins via unanimous decision

The Skinny: Griffin clearly won this one unlike the first epic encounter. That said, it was another standup battle that both fighters probably had a shot to win in the final round. Though it certainly didn't live up the hype, that doesn't mean anything.

After all, the hype was insurmountable. There's no way that the second fight could've lived up to its billing as the first encounter will go down as one of the best in MMA history.

8. David Loiseau vs. Rich "Ace" Franklin

Event: UFC 58: USA vs. Canada on 3/4/06

Result: Franklin wins via unanimous decision

The skinny: Loiseau had just gotten done turning the tables on former UFC Middleweight Champion Evan Tanner with a flurry of dangerous elbows. Thus, he represented Franklin's greatest challenge in awhile. Further, Franklin needed a signature fight to prove his worth and toughness (people were questioning his chin).

This one served to answer some of the questions on "Ace". In sum, Franklin dominated Loiseau? who eye was blown up like a Thanksgiving Day float for a good portion of this fight? during most of the standup exchanges. Further, Franklin also showed his versatility later in the fight by easily winning the ground battle. In fact, one of the most amazing parts of this fight was the fact that Loiseau survived

However, in the third round Loiseau mounted a comeback of sorts, connecting with an outstanding left hook that floored Franklin. Here's the thing, though; Franklin survived. And with that and his clearly superior conditioning (he fought strong through the entire fight) Rich Franklin gained a measure of respect.

7. Hermes Franca vs. Jamie Varner

Event: UFC 62: Liddell vs. Sobral on 8/26/06

Result: Franca wins via submission (armbar) at 3:31 of round three

The Skinny: Franca came into this one after having won five straight. He was clearly on the rise. That said, Varner took it to him.

Hard takedowns and good ground and pound by Varner had him winning this fight entering the last round. Then another takedown put Franca on his back. But this time, Franca transitioned from what looked like an omaplata attempt into an armbar. Without that surprising submission to end things, Franca would not be getting a look at the lightweight title right now.

6. Pete Sell vs. Scott Smith

Event: TUF 4 Finale on 11/11/06

Result: Smith wins via KO at 3:25 of round two

The Skinny: In the end, this was one of the most dramatic endings to a fight ever!

Sell and Smith were having a reasonably good standup war. Then in the second round, Sell floored Smith with a shot. It was looking like it was over, and it was.

But not in the way that most thought. In sum, Smith launched a single shot from the ground that took Sell? who looked like he was about to win? out. Afterwards, Smith indicated that he only had one shot left in him.

Sure did.

5. Georges St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn

UFC 58: USA vs. Canada on 3/4/06

Result: St. Pierre wins via split decision

The Skinny: This fight had huge ramifications as the winner was promised a shot at Matt Hughes (St. Pierre ended up getting hurt afterwards, leading to Penn's shot).

Penn came out in customary fashion. In other words, he started things off by bloodying St. Pierre on his feet. St. Pierre's nose gushed red for a good portion of the fight because of the beating he took early on.

Still, come the second round St. Pierre started to take over. By the last, he was getting takedowns at will on an opponent whose tank had clearly run dry. This decision was a highly controversial one. That said, with the UFC's scoring system (round by round) rather than PRIDE's (the whole fight) it was the correct one.

4. Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin

Event: UFC 59: Reality Check on 4/15/06

Result: Ortiz wins via split decision

The Skinny: The TUF fighters were getting a lot of heat from people who believed that they hadn't necessarily earned their position in the UFC ranks. So would Griffin prove them all wrong when he took on former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz?

Not initially. Ortiz took Griffin down and pounded on him viciously. Most who were watching the fight likely wondered aloud if it would be stopped in the first round.

But then Griffin got up. Amazingly, Ortiz looked tired (what happened to that amazing cardio?). Griffin then won round two on his feet, successfully sprawling out of takedown attempt after takedown attempt.

In the third, Ortiz and Griffin were pretty even on their feet. However, Ortiz secured a takedown toward the end, and it is probably that takedown that won the fight for him.

Afterwards, Ortiz explained that he was hurt coming into the fight.

Regardless, with the controversial split decision loss, Griffin gained a lot of respect.

3. Diego Sanchez vs. Karo Parisyan

Event: Fight Night 6 on 8/17/06

Result: Sanchez wins via unanimous decision

The Skinny: This was an outstanding fight! In short, Diego Sanchez showed his ground and pound skills early on. Then Parisyan surprised him with some excellent judo takedowns and submission attempts that made Sanchez look rather outclassed.

However, in the end Sanchez's superior conditioning took over. At the fight's conclusion, "The Nightmare" was pounding on Parisyan unmercifully on the way to a clear decision victory. And with the win, the masses finally began to respect Sanchez's game.

2. Kendall Grove vs. Ed Herman

Event: TUF 3 Finale on 6/24/06

Result: Grove wins via unanimous decision

The Skinny: This was an absolute war! Grove won most of the standup exchanges. That said, this fight had very little to do with striking on the feet.

This was an epic ground battle where both fighters escaped submission attempt after submission attempt with skill and heart rarely witnessed.

Halfway through the final round, it looked as if Herman had won. But then at the end of the round, Grove secured a rear naked choke. Herman somehow managed to finish the round without passing out or tapping. That said, he probably wasn't getting out of that one.

Due to the way this one ended, Grove snatched the victory.

1. B.J. Penn vs. Matt Hughes

Event: UFC 63: Hughes vs. Penn on 9/23/06

Result: Hughes wins via TKO at 3:53 of round three

The Skinny: The last time these two did battle, Hughes lost via rear naked choke in the first round. Since then, however, he'd rattled off five straight. Still, many wondered aloud if he could defeat a fighter that seemed constructed to defeat him. After all, Penn's unbelievable takedown defense, unfathomable submissions from the guard, and outstanding striking skills appeared to be exactly what the doctor ordered. In that sense, this fight meant a whole lot to both combatants. A win would put Penn in the running for best pound for pound fighter in the world (if he wasn't considered the best already). A win for Hughes would probably allow him the right to lay claim to being the greatest mixed martial arts fighter of all-time (one of only a select few who could truly do that).

In sum, this was one of the greatest MMA battles ever.

Penn started off things dominating Hughes on their feet and shirking his takedown attempts. In the second round, Hughes finally got things to the ground. Unfortunately for him, Penn secured a triangle and seemed to have him dead to rights. Yet somehow Hughes survived it, eventually breaking free toward the end of the round.

Penn's tank went empty in that round. Further, he reportedly hurt his ribs.

Thus, the third round was a different story. Hughes started things off pounding Penn on this feet. His opponent seemed unable to respond. Then Hughes did the unthinkable.

He took Penn down.

As the announcers wondered why he'd chance such a thing, Hughes gained side control. Then he transitioned to his patented crucifix position. From there he rained down punches on Penn until the referee pulled him off.

This one was the best of the year for several reasons. First, both fighters were in real trouble during the fight. Second, the stage really couldn't have been bigger. Last, the drama was unbelievable.

Here's hoping for a trilogy.

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