A little bit of noise to can easily evolve into a big commotion. Every major figure in history did something to get a slim percentage of the population to talk, but as time passed, the multitudes began to take notice. Now, with social media playing such a critical role in the way society relays information, millions find themselves constantly aware of major events that occur around the world.

In 2005, social media did not play as much of a role in the communication of ideas and information as it does today, but it didn’t stop sports fans from catching on to the rising phenomenon of mixed martial arts, which boomed as a whole. Outside of North American soil, Pride Fighting Championships hosted legendary showcases, including a heavyweight title tilt between two future all-time greats in then-champion Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko and challenger Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. K-1 PREMIUM 2005 Dynamite!!, a co-promotion of K-1 and the now-defunct Hero’s promotion, delivered a New Year’s Eve showcase where Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto became the Hero’s middleweight champion at the expense of Genki Sudo, and heavyweight greats Ernesto Hoost and Semmy Schilt enjoyed a “K-1 rules” battle.

Stateside, World Extreme Cagefighting granted a launching pad for a then-undefeated young man named Brandon Vera, as well as former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez and former UFC welterweight Shonie Carter. The WEC, despite an influx of raw, hungry prospects and five successful events, flew under the radar for most MMA fans. Meanwhile, the well-known Ultimate Fighting Championship looked to capitalize on the momentum of a huge 2004.

With Randy Couture representing the pinnacle of the UFC light heavyweight division as the undisputed champion, and rivals Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and Tito Ortiz in the mix, the UFC could not possibly put on a bad year of events. Matt Hughes added to the UFC’s optimism, as he looked to usher in his second UFC welterweight title reign with a level of dominance that mirrored that of his first reign. The promotion prepared to press play in the wake of an unfortunate event that held up its heavyweight title picture, albeit temporarily, just one year earlier.

At around this time period, Pride’s heavyweight field ran deeper than that of the UFC. Sure, Frank Mir, Andrei Arlovski and others represented the UFC as top heavyweights, but remember that Emelianenko, Cro Cop and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira stood as three of the best heavyweights in the world. When Mir submitted Tim Sylvia at UFC 48 in 2004 to win the crown, he planned on changing people’s outlook on the UFC heavyweight division, seen at the time as one of the weaker divisions in the sport. However, an unfortunate motorcycle accident changed everything.

The accident left Mir unable to defend the belt against Arlovski, the next heavyweight in line after Sylvia, so when UFC 51 came on Feb. 5, 2005, live from Las Vegas, Arlovski drew Sylvia for the interim title. Arlovski did not let this one last long before he dropped Sylvia with an overhand right and then quickly found an Achilles’ lock. Sylvia tapped just 47 seconds in, and Arlovski would not stop his momentum train there.

Still believing that he would get to face Mir for the undisputed title, Arlovski went on to show Mir what else he could expect on his return to the cage. At UFC 53 on June 4 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., Arlovski found himself on the bill again. Originally, UFC 53 attempted to mark a return to Japan, as did UFC 51. In fact, many believed at the time that the UFC signed Pride phenom Cro Cop to contend for Arlovski’s interim title, but a lack of promotion caused the event’s relocation, and the Filipovic signing rumor proved itself as just that, at least for the time being.

So, instead of Cro Cop, it was “The Headhunter” Paul Buentello who found himself set to go against Arlovski at UFC 53. Buentello earned the spot with a stunning knockout of the late Justin Eilers and a submission win over Kevin Jordan. However, an injury delayed his opportunity, so Eilers stepped in. Eilers suffered a TKO loss to Arlovski, noted as one of the most diverse heavyweight strikers of that era. When Arlovski finally received Buentello, the UFC decided to raise the stakes.

Around the time of UFC 55, which marked the UFC’s return to Uncasville, Conn., Mir still could not compete due to injuries suffered during his accident. Therefore, the UFC decided that if Arlovski defeated Buentello at the event, “The Pit Bull” would emerge as the new UFC heavyweight champion, dropping the interim tag. Arlovski needed only 15 seconds to put Buentello’s lights out en route to capturing the undisputed crown.

A light heavyweight slice of history unfolded that same year. Couture vs. Liddell 2 took place at UFC 52, but before the two squared off for Couture’s light heavyweight belt, they took their talents to a coaching capacity in a show called The Ultimate Fighter.

Everyone knows how it works with TUF nowadays, but at the time, it was a new concept that had not been previously attempted. Sixteen of the world’s top unsigned fighters lived in a house for an extended duration with little to no contact with the outside world. They competed for a six-figure UFC contract while training under the tutelage of top UFC athletes. It was appropriate that Couture and Liddell would head the teams for season one.

The two coached middleweights and light heavyweights, with the likes of Chris Leben, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Mike Swick, Bobby Southworth and others featured on the program. Leben served as something of the “wild boy” on the show, often getting into some sort of trouble. Koscheck emerged as an instigator and eventually came off as a villain to some viewers. A mess of insanity ensued, but it was Griffin who went on to meet Bonnar in the light heavyweight final and Sanchez who went on to meet Florian at middleweight.

Now, when most people think of The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale, they view Griffin vs. Bonnar as more of the landmark fight than Sanchez vs. Florian. However, Sanchez vs. Florian proved itself as a landmark before Griffin vs. Bonnar even went down. That middleweight pairing marked the first-ever final in TUF history. As for the result of the bout, Sanchez’s fast-paced, aggressive style gave Florian all he could handle and a little bit extra for almost three minutes. Sanchez landed his strikes with ferocity and earned a TKO win over Florian to become the very first Ultimate Fighter winner.

Griffin and Bonnar followed, and everyone knows what happened there. The two men came out trading leather and throwing leg kicks sparingly in a first-round battle of attrition that commentator Joe Rogan likened to “The War,” as many called the 1985 clash between former undisputed middleweight boxing champion Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns. Rogan gave Griffin a slight edge in the round, but neither man dominated it.

Still, it didn’t matter because both men came out looking to put on a fight, not a mixed martial arts bout. The crowd loved every bit of it, just the same. If Bonnar really did lose clearly in the first, he knew it and came back in the second, cutting Griffin open and coming close to winning on a TKO due to a cut. Even though Griffin continued on, Bonnar still found ways to defend Griffin’s offensive assault, especially in the Muay Thai clinch.

The third round brought a fitting conclusion to the fight, which demonstrated some sweet martial arts techniques. Griffin began the round with low kicks and more punches, while Bonnar looked for opportunities to counter. Griffin’s work inside the Muay Thai clinch started to pay more dividends, though Bonnar landed his short punches effectively in close proximity to Griffin. The round ended with Griffin working his Muay Thai clinch once more, and the two exchanged to close off one of the most important fights in UFC history.

It still holds to reason that the bout, which went in favor of Griffin by unanimous decision, packed the dynamite that the UFC needed to blast its way into mainstream prominence. Indeed, it did wonders for the promotion. Despite Griffin winning the contract and the light heavyweight bracket of the TUF contest, Bonnar received a contract as well. After the show, both men went on to lengthy UFC careers and met once more in the Octagon just over a year later. However, their careers would take different turns.

Whereas Bonnar stole a number of shows in entertaining affairs, Griffin brought his “jack of all trades, master of none” style all the way to marquee bouts with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Rashad Evans, Anderson Silva, a trilogy with Ortiz and a bout with Rich Franklin. His win over Jackson made history as he became one of the first TUF winners to claim UFC gold. Griffin’s rise to the light heavyweight title came for many reasons, but the UFC 52 title tilt between Griffin’s TUF 1 coach, Liddell, and Bonnar’s TUF 1 coach, Couture, proved a long-term catalyst for what Griffin would achieve.

Of course, Couture-Liddell 2 also showed three different things. First, it showed that even rivalries between fighters with competitive spirits and no bad blood can result in a classic bout, even if it only lasts one round. Second, the bout showed that clinch fighting brings interesting and exciting exchanges, especially when a matchmaker books a guy like Couture, noted for his work in the clinch, against a guy like Liddell, who can stand and strike with the best of the best whenever he doesn’t floor it on his attempts to find a knockout. Third, consider not that Liddell finished Couture to become the new champ, but that Liddell backpedaled away from Couture while landing the straight right that knocked “The Natural” out. That photo finish highlights the style of a prime Liddell in the sense of showing that the man could score a finish from anywhere, even on the defensive. It also showed that “The Iceman” knew how to deliver, something that was in doubt after his prior loss to Couture.

The year had started off with a similar encounter, albeit one that did not result in a title win for either of the two men involved. Nevertheless, when former champions Ortiz and Vitor Belfort headlined UFC 51, the last card to ever receive a non-title headliner despite containing two title bouts, it marked a monumental moment in UFC history. Belfort won and lost to Couture in a pair of 2004 bouts for the light heavyweight belt. Ortiz, coming off his UFC 50 win over Patrick Cote, was taking on Belfort in his last UFC-contracted bout. Hence, the bout with Belfort marked Ortiz’s only fight in 2005, but both men made their shots count.

First of all, let’s just state right off the bat that this one ended in a split decision win for Ortiz. Why should we start off by mentioning the result before talking about the fight? We do this because the identity of the bout’s winner varies depending on who gets asked the question.

So where does Belfort’s argument lie? The first Brazilian to win the crown at 205 pounds, Belfort started strong in both of the first two rounds, landing effectively and securing his best shots of the fight to hurt Ortiz. Most of the support for Belfort’s case came from this. Belfort controlled the Octagon via his boxing, and even when he was taken down, he kept this guard tight and fought Ortiz from off of his back while taking Ortiz’s punishment from the top.

Ortiz’s case towards the win contradicted this. Ortiz’s takedowns and punishment from the top saw him land elbows that connected with conviction. Some would even counter the argument of Belfort’s output from his back by saying that while Belfort did throw shots from his back, he did not land with them as cleanly as Ortiz did from the top. Also, Belfort could not land effective strikes in round three due to clear exhaustion, though Ortiz showed the same and essentially held Belfort down for all of the round.

The bout only marked Ortiz’s second fight since the loss to Liddell, and although beating Belfort did more to cement his case towards another title shot than did the win over Cote, Ortiz would fight a few more times before finally getting back to the title he once held. Meanwhile, Belfort did not fight in the UFC again until he fought and defeated Rich Franklin at UFC 103. Instead, he made a run towards Pride, Strikeforce, Cage Rage and other promotions in a trek to reinvent himself.

Reinvention saw many different forms. Few appreciate it now, but it did come when the other of the two title bouts on the UFC 51 card took place in the form of Evan Tanner vs. David Terrell. Tanner formerly fought at light heavyweight and made the move to 185 pounds after losing to Franklin at UFC 42. With the UFC middleweight title vacant after Murilo Bustamante relinquished it in 2002, Tanner vs. Terrell made sense as a means to reinstate the belt.

Tanner’s first-round finish of Terrell surprised a number of people, especially after it appeared that Terrell would force a tap from a guillotine choke. Tanner fought out of the choke, secured a half-guard and mixed ground-and-pound in with elbows to score a TKO of Terrell. The win proved big for the promotion. Tanner became its first middleweight champion in three years, but his reign would not last all that long.

Franklin found his way down to middleweight and rematched Tanner at UFC 53, this time with Tanner’s belt and a coaching spot on The Ultimate Fighter 2 at stake. Tanner created one difference in the rematch by knocking Franklin down, but after that happened, Franklin found an opening to take control. The rest of the bout saw Franklin dictate the action until midway through the fourth round, when a cageside physician halted the fight. This meant that Franklin would coach TUF 2 opposite UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes.

With the two men reigning over different weight classes, Hughes didn’t fight Franklin after the reality show’s second season, but he did see action. In his second-to-last year as part of Miletich Fighting Systems, Hughes rematched Frank Trigg and defeated Joe Riggs. Whereas the Riggs fight flies under the radar as a non-title affair (Riggs missed weight), the rematch with Trigg emerged as UFC President Dana White’s all-time favorite bout in all of combat sports.

Ironically, in the same year that future UFC heavyweight Heath Herring earned a disqualification loss (later a no-contest) at the K-1 show for knocking out Yoshihiro Nakao after a kiss during the staredown, Trigg and Hughes went nose to nose before Trigg blew Hughes a kiss. Hughes shoved Trigg back, and things turned real once the bout began. Of course, things were already real between the two. Hughes’ final successful title defense before B.J. Penn ended his first title reign came against Trigg. “Twinkle Toes” recalled that loss as a simple off-night, whereas Hughes famously said, “That’s day one stuff right there,” referring to Trigg’s inability to defend the rear-naked choke.

Nevertheless, the trash talk happened, the kiss happened, and Trigg landed what appeared to be an illegal knee to the groin, likely unintentional, but still enough to force Hughes to look at the ref. Trigg swarmed in, feeling as though the knee hit the intended target of the body, and almost scored the TKO upset over Hughes.

Hughes recovered, but Trigg soon found himself in position to win with the same rear-naked choke that Hughes used to put Trigg out in their earlier encounter. Somehow, Hughes remained conscious long enough to escape, reset to his feet, pick Trigg up, run the entire length of the Octagon and slam the twinkle right out of Trigg’s toes. Ground-and-pound followed, and Hughes found himself creating an opportunity to lock up a rear-naked choke again. With blood trickling from his eye, Trigg needed to tap or risk blacking out.

With the win, Hughes began his second UFC welterweight title reign, and many thought he would get a second successful defense in against Karo Parisyan, but an injury prevented Parisyan from seeing Hughes, and so Riggs filled in. Riggs couldn’t make the 170-pound limit, though, so the bout became a non-title affair.

Hughes vs. Riggs co-headlined underneath Franklin’s UFC middleweight title tilt with TUF 1 alum Nate Quarry. Hughes got the fight to the ground, found an arm and locked in a kimura, forcing a tap at 3:28 of the first round. Later, Hughes’ opposing TUF 2 coach, Franklin, scored a one-punch knockout of Quarry that cemented a successful title defense and still stands as one of the more emphatic knockouts in MMA history.

Franklin and Hughes coached heavyweights and welterweights during the show, with Franklin’s team enjoying eventual heavyweight winner Rashad Evans. Evan’s only heavyweight bout in the UFC came the night he won the heavyweight bracket over Team Hughes’ Brad Imes, but in launching the career of the then-undefeated Evans, the bout proved critical.

At the time, Imes came in at 3-0, with his wins coming at WECs 12, 13 and 14. The man nicknamed “Mr. Gogoplata” never actually finished a fight via gogoplata prior to his time on The Ultimate Fighter 2. Additionally, he never faced an athlete that could wrestle like Evans, who would spend much of his UFC run looking to prove that he could do more than just wrestle.

When Evans came to the heavyweight finale, his hands told the story of the bout. Despite looking like the smaller heavyweight, he worked Imes with combinations. It also did not help that Imes bullied Evans around with takedowns and Muay Thai knees, but once the late first round hit and Evans put Imes on his rear end, the tempo changed.

Evans started to open up more with his shots, while Imes fought to keep bullying Evans. The third round came and went, with Evans landing yet another combo that put Imes on his hind parts. However, time ran out before Evans could finish things off. The bout ended in a split decision and gave Evans the heavyweight crown for season two of The Ultimate Fighter. But the real change began when Evans dropped to light heavyweight in 2006.

The UFC would also change in 2006, not only in popularity, but also in the magnitude of the fights. The promotion hadn’t yet realized how much noise it had made before Liddell vs. Ortiz finally happened, but once 2005 ended with Liddell on top and Ortiz chomping away at the bit to get his vengeance, the fans caught on to the commotion.

Photo: Chuck Liddell (L) fights Randy Couture (R) (Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.