For many years during the “Zuffa Era” of the UFC, Memorial Day Weekend signified the start of the summer and a UFC pay-per-view to talk about.
These cards were stacked with title fights and high-profile bouts to pack the venues and generate high buy rates. Events were UFC staples that have recently disappeared and turned into a vacation like the rest of the world. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest Memorial Day cards over the years.
- Date: May 27, 2006
- Main Event: Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie
- Highlights & Other Notables: Hughes defeats Gracie in the first round to claim, then, GOAT status in the welterweight division. Only one decision on the entire card, with the other eight bouts ending in stoppages. Wins from Dean Lister, Diego Sanchez, and Mike Swick
- Date: May 26, 2007
- Main Event: Chuck Liddell vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson 2 for UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
- Highlights & Other Notables: “Rampage” finishes Liddell in the first round to capture Light Heavyweight Strap in what was a highly anticipated main event. One of the first events to get coverage by ESPN. Houston Alexander makes UFC debut in 0:48 second upset KO victory over Keith Jardine. Stoppage wins from Din Thomas and Alan Belcher.
- Date: May 24, 2008
- Main Event: B. J. Penn vs. Sean Sherk for UFC Lightweight Championship
- Highlights & Other Notables: Penn retains title after a third-round flying knee. Wanderlei Silva stops Keith Jardine in under a minute of the first round. Lyoto Machia wins a decision victory over Tito Ortiz. UFC debut for future interim champion Shane Carwin.
- Date: May 23, 2009
- Main Event: Rashad Evans vs. Lyoto Machida for UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
- Highlights & Other Notables: Machida KOs Evans in the second round to become the new Light Heavyweight Champion. Fight of the Night was a grudge match between The Ultimate Fighter 6 coaches Matt Serra and Matt Hughes, where Hughes won by decision.
- Date: May 29, 2010
- Main Event: Rashad Evans vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
- Highlights & Other Notables: Coaches from, the most-watched, Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter squared off in the main event of the evening. One of the highest anticipated bouts in UFC history at this time, helping to achieve a buy rate of over one million. Evans would win via Unanimous Decision. Wins also came from Michael Bisping and Antônio Rogério Nogueira on the main card.
- Date: May 28, 2011
- Main Event: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Matt Hamil
- Highlights & Other Notables: In what was originally supposed to be “Rampage” vs. Thiago Silva, Hamil was filled in as a replacement due to Silva failing a drug test. Former USA Military Veteran Brian Stann would receive the ovation of the evening in a KO victory over Jorge Santiago to open up the main card. Wins from Frank Mir, Travis Browne, Demetrious Johnson, and debuting former WEC bantamweight champion Renan Barao.
- Date: May 26, 2012
- Main Event: Junior Dos Santos vs. Frank Mir for UFC Heavyweight Championship
- Highlights & Other Notables: With the entire main card featuring heavyweight bouts all ending in stoppages. Wins by Dos Santos to retain his title, Cain Velasquez, Roy Nelson, future champion Stipe Miocic, and Stephan Struve. Also wins from Dan Hardy, a debuting Glover Texiera, and future ATT Head Coach Mike Brown.
- Date: May 25, 2013
- Main Event: Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva 2 for UFC Heavyweight Championship
- Highlights & Other Notables: Velasquez would retain title in the main event rematch via stoppage in the first round. Highlight KO victory for Junior Dos Santos over Mark Hunt. Victories by future champions Robert Whittaker, Glover Texeria, and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Also wins by title challengers Stephen Thompson and Donald Cerrone.
- Date: May 24, 2014
- Main Event: Renan Barao vs T.J. Dillashaw for UFC Bantamweight Championship
- Highlights & Other Notables: In one of the biggest upsets at the time, late replacement and +600 underdog, T.J. Dillashaw stopped Barao to become the new UFC Bantamweight Champion. Putting an end to a 33-fight unbeaten streak by Barao. Also wins from future champions Daniel Cormier and Robbie Lawler and top contenders Tony Ferguson and Michael Chiesa.
- Date: May 23, 2015
- Main Event: Daniel Cormier vs Anthony Johnson for Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
- Highlights & Other Notables: In what was originally scheduled to be champion Jon Jones taking on “Rumble” Johnson, one of his infamous arrests took place shortly before the event shaking up the MMA world. Stepping in was challenger Daniel Cormier who won in the second round via submission to become the Interim Champion. Chris Weidman retain his UFC Middleweight Championship against Vitor Belfort. Also scheduled was Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Donald Cerrone but Nurmagomedov dropped out, Cerrone would win against replacement John Makedessi with a jaw-breaking head kick stoppage. The exciting one-round barn burner between heavyweights Andre Arlovski and Travis Browne occured on this card, Arlovski would win via KO.
End of an Era
After UFC 187, Memorial Day would soon become host to a few international fight night cards and most recently in the past few years, a weekend off of fights. Partly due to the pandemic, the change appears to be more permanent since the UFC signed on with ESPN. Becoming part of mainstream sports, with over forty scheduled weekly cards, there is a need for a week off to regroup.
The summers are becoming more and more a primetime quarter for the MMA leaders with an emphasis on July 4th weekend aka International Fight Week. What used to be a hot weekend for fights has now been cooled off to help get ready for the fireworks.
As much as it may be nice to have these stacked cards to help lead into the summer, it is good to look back and appreciate what this weekend used to signify. With the weekend off, take time to spend it with loved ones and remember that immediately after, the UFC is coming back with a stacked summer.
Featured image credit to Embed from Getty Images