With Australia’s own Jamie Mullarkey and Casey O’Neill both returning to the Octagon this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Santos v Walker, the lads at the Run It Back MMA Podcast thought they’d count down the top 5 greatest UFC fights involving an Australian fighter.
- Rob Whittaker v Yoel Romero 2 (UFC 225)
At number 5, we have the highly anticipated middleweight rematch between Rob Whittaker and Yoel Romero that went down at UFC 225.
The tension in this one was palpable, however through the first two rounds, Bobby Knuckles was on point with his movement, feints, and ability to land on Romero, then Round 3 happened.
Yoel started landing, and had the champion dazed within the first minute of the round.
Whilst The Solider of God couldn’t finish the fight, he certainly swung the momentum in a BIG way, which had Whittaker scrambling to survive.
Needless to say, the Aussie saw his way to the seat, and managed to regain his composure to wrestle back control in the fourth round – where he outstruck Yoel at will.
Things were looking good for the champ, however 90 seconds into the final round, and Whittaker was once again on the mat seeing stars.
Somehow Bobby was able to weather yet another storm, and defend his way to the final bell.
Whilst Whittaker took out three rounds to earn a split-decision victory, many who watched the fight felt that Yoel was the more dangerous fighter, and deserved to get the nod.
It truly was one of the closest Middleweight fights in UFC history (the outcome is still strongly debated to this very day among fight fans), and that’s why it goes down as the 5th greatest Aussie UFC fight of all-time.
- George Sotiropoulos v Joe Lauzon (UFC 123)
Even though he was riding a 7 fight winning streak heading into UFC 123, Geelong’s-own George Sotiropoulos somehow found himself entering as the underdog against The Ultimate Fighter 5 contestant Joe Lauzon.
Despite a fast start from Lauzon, the Aussie was able to weather an early storm, before taking full control in the second round, with Sotiropoulos locking in a kimura – that was arguably held a little too long after the referee called an end to the fight.
The win earnt Sotiropoulos Fight of the Night honours (“50G’s baby” – actually, it was more like 15G’s back then…), and a nomination for Submission of the Year in 2010.
Unfortunately, that’s where the fairytale run ended for the Aussie black belt, who then suffered 5 successive defeats before calling it a day in 2014.
Regardless, his ability to weather an early onslaught at UFC 123, and lock in one of the better kimuras we’ve seen, has earnt George Sotiropoulos #4 on the countdown.
- Brad Riddell v Jamie Mullarkey (UFC 243)
Heading into UFC 243, very few pundits had predicted that two UFC newcomers would end up stealing the show… okay, Israel’s Adesanya’s performance in the main event was something special too.
However, Brad Riddell and Jamie Mullarkey went to WAR on the prelims, in a fight that earnt them the prestigious Run It Back MMA Podcast’s Fight of the Year honours.
Both fighters entered the contest riding impressive winning streaks, and it was clear that both fighters were in peak form.
Whilst Mullarkey landed a nice jab early, it was the City Kickboxing prodigy who controlled much of the opening round.
Rounds 2 and 3 however were where this fight stepped up a notch, with both fighters managing to staggering their opponents on several occasions.
In the end, Riddell earnt himself a unanimous decision victory (29-27, 29-27, and 30-26), to go along with a $US50,000 performance bonus for his efforts.
It wasn’t all bad for Mullarkey (despite the broken jaw), he has since fought twice in the UFC, and comes into this weekend’s fight against Devonte Smith fresh off of a 46 second KO of Khama Worthy at UFC 260.
Let’s go The Hooligan!!!
- Robert Whittaker v Yoel Romero (UFC 213)
About 10 minutes into the most important fight in his life, and things weren’t going well for Robert Whittaker.
After losing the opening rounds decisively, Whittaker found himself not only trailing on the scorecards, but also severely injured – after Yoel landed a leg kick which aggravated a serious training injury suffered in camp.
It was one of those moments where even the most optimistic Aussie fight fans were thinking about our post-fight plans to drown our sorrows.
However, it was AT THIS PRECISE MOMENT that the legend of Bobby Knuckles was born.
Against all the odds, no stability in his leg, and no room for error, Whittaker was close to perfect across the final 15 minutes of the fight, where he controlled the pace of the fight, landed at will, and completely shut down Yoel’s wrestling.
And what’s more, when the fight was there to be won in the final round, it was The Reaper who was sprinting to the finish line – where he landed an astounding 31 significant strikes to see out a unanimous decision victory to claim the interim UFC Middleweight belt.
Not only did the fight earn official Fight of the Night honours, it was the manner in which Whittaker was able to compose himself against the steepest of odds to secure UFC gold for the very first time that made it so impressive and why Whittaker v Romero at UFC 213 goes down as the #2 Aussie fight of all time.
- Alexander Volkanovski v Brian Ortega (UFC 266)
Recency bias you say? Not a chance!
Last weekend’s Featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega will go down as one of the all-time great title fights, irrespective of era.
Let’s face it, every single round in the fight was edge-of-your-seat entertainment, but it was the 3rd round that will go down in history as one of, if not the greatest round, of all time.
Whilst Volkanovski did dominate for much of the fight, there were a number of big moments that could have seen the 12 pounds of gold change hands.
None more so than when Ortega pounced on a down opponent midway through the third round, to lock in one of his patented guillotine chokes.
The rules of engagement are simple. Nobody gets out of the Brian Ortega guillotine. Period.
Fortunately, Alexander Volkanovski never read the rule book. “I heard him gargling” Ortega said after the fight.
At home, we all saw him flopping around like a fish in distress. And the ref saw him gives a thumbs up to his corner. And somehow, Volkanovski did what nobody had ever done before him.
Got caught in a T-City Guillotine and lived to tell the tale. Not only did he live to tell the tale, he then flopped himself into a T-City triangles just for fun, and rubbed salt into Ortega’s wounds when Volk managed to successfully defend against Ortega’s 2 favourite submissions.
The round ended with Alex “THE GREAT” landing bombs on a fallen Ortega, with Herb Dean poised to stop the fight just as the bell sounded.
Whilst many thought that Ortega was done (including his corner, who physically had to lift him off the canvas), somehow T-City willed himself to the finish line, at times landing heavy blows on the champion, leaving fight fans all across the world stunned and the contest they had just witnessed.
This fight will go down in the history books as a unanimous decision for the Aussie champ (49-46, 50-45, 50-45), however we’ll never forget just how close the title came to changing hands.
Through sheer will and determination, Volkanvoski etched himself in the history books forever, with the win at UFC 266 capping off a 20-fight win streak, which includes wins over Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo, Max Holloway (x 2), and now Brian Ortega.
And something tells us that he’s only just starting to get warmed up…
All about the Volkanovski-express #toot #toot
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 26, 2021