When it comes to the UFC, there are few things that get fans excited for a big fight more than intense staring down.
While the UFC’s biggest stars are often intimidating at the weigh-in, some of the best staredowns in the promotion’s history took place right before fight time.
Of course, some fighters are a lot more intimidating than others – or at least they try to be. However, when two combatants come together, both trying to scare their opponent, it’s hard not to look forward to the war that might ensue.
Here are the five most intense staredowns in UFC history.
#5. Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg – UFC 52
Matt Hughes’ welterweight title rematch against bitter rival Frank Trigg at UFC 52 is often cited as Dana White’s favorite fight of all time.
The fact that White loved fighting should come as no surprise. Not only did it offer a ridiculous amount of action in one round, but it also saw one of Hughes’ greatest comebacks of all time. He submitted Trigg shortly before he was about to finish himself.
However, fans who were wondering at the time how good the fight could be would probably have been swayed by the intense staring between the two men as referee Mario Yamasaki gave them their pre-fight instructions.
Neither man seemed to be listening to Yamasaki, instead going nose to nose to drive the other one nuts. Eventually, Hughes pushed his rival away, only for “Twinkle Toes” to respond by blowing a kiss at the champion.
It was quite a wild moment, especially as Hughes had a reputation at the time for being a largely meek fighter.
While embracing famous rivalries with the likes of Georges St-Pierre and BJ Penn, it’s safe to say that no opponent got under his skin like Trigg.
#4. Wanderlei Silva vs. Keith Jardine – UFC 84
Ask any longtime MMA fan who is the most intimidating fighter of all time, and former PRIDE champion Wanderlei Silva is often cited. Silva has always been known for his intense looks. When he joined the UFC in 2007, things didn’t change.
When The Ax Murderer was paired with another tremendously intense fighter in the form of Keith Jardine in 2008, it was hard not to be excited. Sure enough, both men looked pumped to the gills during their performances. As they entered the octagon, it became even more intense.
Silva walked straight towards Jardine as usual, hunched his shoulders from side to side without breaking his gaze. He looked ready to kill. Somehow ‘The Dean of Mean’ looked even more intense. He chewed on his mouthpiece, a snarl on his face, his goatee almost made him look like Satan himself.
There was no way the fight was going to be anything more than entertaining, and Silva and Jardine didn’t let anyone down. After a frantic brawl in the opening seconds, “The Ax Murderer” stunned his opponent and wouldn’t let up, teeming with punches and putting him down in under a minute.
The fight remains Silva’s biggest highlight reel moment in the octagon, and the intense staring down only added to the occasion.
#3. Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida – Ultimate Fighter 9 final
Although his promotion career didn’t end the way he would have liked, Diego Sanchez remains one of the most intense fighters in UFC history. In its heyday, The Nightmare was also one of the most entertaining.
Sanchez not only regularly produced true classics in the octagon, but also kicked his opponents in the face before their fights like few others. His stardowns were so intense that Joe Rogan once dubbed him the “king of mean heists.”
In 2009, however, “The Nightmare” seemed to have no equal when it came to the art of staring down. Coordinated with Clay Guida at the TU 9 Finale, the two men faced each other at the weigh-in, and things didn’t change when they got into the octagon.
With a line of security guards separating them, Sanchez approached Guida after he was announced, and “The Carpenter” didn’t flinch an inch.
The two lightweights glared at each other as if they were ready to go to war and when the fight started they didn’t disappoint by brawling wildly from the start in one of the craziest moments in UFC history.
Remarkably, the fight actually went the distance, with Sanchez winning a decision. The action he spawned, however, immediately marked him as a great fight of all time – and the tone was definitely set by one of the promotion’s most intense staredowns.
#2. Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit – UFC 143
Stockton bad boy Nick Diaz has always been known for his ability to get under the skin of his opponents. Part of this ability comes from his intimidating behavior before a fight.
Over the years, we’ve seen Diaz routinely attempt to psychologically overwhelm his opponents by setting out with them. He famously hit BJ Penn right in the head at the weigh-in for their 2011 fight
However, his most intense staredown definitely came before his UFC interim welterweight title fight with Carlos Condit. The two men didn’t have any real rivalry before they were brought together but no one would have believed it when they went head-to-head when referee Steve Mazzagatti tried to give them directions.
Neither Diaz nor Condit pressed their foreheads together like two rams and appeared ready to back down, and were eventually separated by Nevada State Athletic Commission officials.
Unfortunately, the wild stares didn’t quite result in the fireworks that fans would have hoped for in the fight itself. Instead, Condit delivered a far more intellectual performance than anyone expected, using his punching power and movement to largely tear Diaz apart en route to a decisive victory.
It was almost hard not to be disappointed that the two welterweights didn’t just brawl. With an intertitle at stake, however, it’s hard to blame The Natural Born Killer for taking the smarter approach.
#1. Cain Velasquez vs Junior dos Santos – UFC 166
in one last job interviewFormer UFC middleweight challenger Chael Sonnen called former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez the scariest fighter in the promotion’s history.
To be honest, it would be difficult for anyone to disagree with him. In his prime, Velasquez not only had a fearsome reputation and near-unmatched fighting skills, but he was also a truly sinister-looking fighter.
With a huge head and a mean look, any fighter would have been justified in retreating before Velasquez. However, that was not the case with Junior dos Santos.
The Brazilian knockout artist became the first man to defeat Velasquez when he stopped him from capturing the heavyweight title in 2011. When Velasquez reclaimed his title a year later, it wasn’t long before the rise started a trilogy fight.
Unsurprisingly, everyone was excited for the third fight as it pitted the top two heavyweights of their generation against each other. To make things even more memorable, they also treated fans to the most intense stardown in UFC history.
Interestingly, the staredown didn’t come during the pre-fight briefing. Instead, it happened when dos Santos was introduced by announcer Bruce Buffer.
‘JDS’ had a simple routine during its announcement. He glared at his opponent, then walked towards them, whirled his right hand around and pointed at the ground.
However, Velasquez had none of it. As dos Santos approached him, Velasquez stepped forward and the two men faced each other nose to nose for a moment before “JDS” stepped back into his corner.
It was an incredibly intense moment, but that was also a clear message from Velasquez he was the more intimidating fighter. He proved it minutes later when he punished his Brazilian opponent for five rounds en route to a TKO win.
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