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UFC Trilogies: Another Chapter Written

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Over the 28 year history of the UFC, there have been numerous rivalries that have not only been highly competitive but have also helped the promotion get to where it is today. Some of the biggest names in mixed martial arts history have graced the UFC octagon and because of this have had their run-ins with fellow legends. And when their paths cross, fight fans have been treated time and time again to some very memorable matchups, and if lucky, sometimes even three of them.

Hall of Famers such as Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture granted fans one of the “OG” trilogies. Couture shocked the world after knocking out The Iceman in their first encounter, thus setting them up to become coaches on the very first season of The Ultimate Fighter heading into the first rematch. Liddell would get the better of his counterpart in fights two and three, solidifying himself as one of the biggest stars that the UFC has ever seen. This rivalry was at a time when the UFC needed it the most and paved the way for rivalries to follow for years to come. 

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LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 16: (R-L) Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell exchange punches at UFC 52 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 16, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Fast forward to the legendary battles between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, where fans witnessed one of the most miraculous comebacks in UFC history. After losing the first fight to Maynard, Edgar found himself on the brink of defeat once more in their second bout, having been dropped numerous times early in the fight. However, in the most Frankie Edgar fashion you can think of, he fought back and poured on the attack the remainder of the fight, so much so that the rematch ended in a split draw.

Edgar would ultimately get the last laugh by winning the third fight between the two warriors and is one of the most unique trilogies ever because the series ended 1-1-1 with no clear-cut winner. Frankie Edgar of course would go on to have the more legendary career, but not without thanks to one of his greatest rivalries, Gray Maynard. 

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HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 08: (R-L) Frankie Edgar punches Gray Maynard during the UFC 136 event at Toyota Center on October 8, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, two of the greatest talents to ever grace the UFC octagon, had one of the most memorable trilogies to date. A rivalry between two men that could make an argument to be on anyone’s GOAT list. Not only did they give fight fans a trilogy, but one of, if not the most important trilogy in UFC history, with each fight taking place for the coveted heavyweight championship. Fight one going to Cormier, in a bout he made history by moving up a weight class and becoming a two-division simultaneous titleholder.

The rematch is where Stipe Miocic got his revenge, overcame adversity, and made one of the greatest mid-fight adjustments in championship history to dethrone Cormier. The third and final matchup would see these two settle their differences over a dog fight that would go all five rounds. Miocic would reign supreme once more and officially put an end to their trilogy and Cormier’s career.

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – AUGUST 15: (L-R) Stipe Miocic punches Daniel Cormier in their UFC heavyweight championship bout during the UFC 252 event at UFC APEX on August 15, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

These are only three trilogies throughout the UFC’s history, but some of the more notable without question. And there is no better way to finish this article than by discussing the most recent chapter written in this storied book of rivalries. That being the trilogy between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor

Poirier and McGregor first shared the octagon back in 2014, where The Notorious would come out unscathed after disposing of his foe in less than two minutes. Fast forward to January of this year and the same hatred these two once shared for one another seemed to be all but gone. Mutual respect, hugs, and even hot sauce gifts led up to their matchup on Fight Island at UFC 257. The Diamond would shine bright on this night by becoming the first man to knock out Conor McGregor in his professional career, thus evening the score at 1-1. 

On July 10, 2021, less than six full months removed from their second bout, fans would see the trilogy fight take place as the UFC returned to Las Vegas with its first full crowd at the T-Mobile arena since March of last year. All of the smiles, handshakes, and hugs were off the table for this one. McGregor was looked at as his old self, constantly barraging Poirier with attacks and trash talk much like their meeting in 2014, if not worse. This time, however, the narrative was much different, as Dustin Poirier was able to keep his emotions in check during fight week to focus on the task at hand.

There was electricity in the air, with stars and celebrities sitting cage side from across the globe and the lights were shining bright on these two superstars. McGregor came out of the gates ultra-aggressive, displaying his full arsenal of strikes like the Conor McGregor of old. He implemented a very leg kick-heavy approach, similar to his rematch against Nate Diaz, and was landing them often against “The Diamond”. Poirier was able to weather the storm and land a very good counter combination that rattled McGregor and forced the clinch.

“The Notorious” then did something that shocked everyone and pulled the guard to attempt a guillotine submission. While it was tight for a few moments, the black belt expertise of Poirier allowed him to cage walk to a safe position, and from there, he would rain down nasty ground and pound, hurting McGregor badly and nearly finishing the fight. However, with around ten seconds remaining in the first round, the two would get back to their feet and what came next is something no one wants to see happen to any athlete, whether you love them or hate them. Conor McGregor would take a misstep after an exchange and his tibia immediately snapped, thus causing referee Herb Dean to step in and stop the fight between rounds.

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JULY 10: (L-R) Conor McGregor of Ireland kicks Dustin Poirier in their welterweight fight during the UFC 264 event at T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Poirier would come out victorious officially via a TKO (Doctor’s Stoppage). The two men would continue to exchange bitter words at one another before leaving the octagon and while many would like to see them go at it once more, there are equally as many fans, if not more, that would like this chapter to come to a close. No matter which side of this fence you sit on, one thing is certain. Poirier will now find himself fighting for the Lightweight Championship against Charles Oliveira in his next outing. Two men that display the definition of Poirier’s famed saying “Paid in Full”. A feel-good title fight for the ages, sure to leave fans satisfied no matter the result.

For “The Notorious”, recovery must come first and foremost. Injuries like this can be devastating and to see the biggest star in MMA history suffer to this felt especially eerie. Should McGregor make a full recovery within the next year, fans could still see the Irishman make another appearance in the UFC octagon. While it may not be a number one contender fight or a fourth bout with Poirier, there is one fight that seems to check all of the boxes. And it just so happens that it would be another trilogy fight, but this time against the famed Nate Diaz. The two are tied at one win apiece and the third fight is long overdue. No matter what comes next for McGregor, there will always be eyes on him and that is what was, is, and always will be so special about “The Notorious”. 

Who do you think could be involved in the next big UFC trilogy? Let us know in the comments below!

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Dominic Sallee is a Combat Sports writer. He focuses primarily on the UFC, with plans to venture out with pieces from other MMA organizations in the future. Along with writing, Dominic is also the Co-Host of the Below Average Joe's MMA Podcast, which produces 2-3 new episodes per week about all things in the MMA community!