First MMA fight where both opponents would be competitive today?

What’s the first MMA fight ever where both opponents could be thrown in the UFC and be competitive – not at the top, but win some fights in the division? (Assume that they are the same fighter they were in that fight – no new training methods, nutrition, S&C work, etc.)

Some that come to mind:

-Tom Erickson v. Murilo Bustamante (1996): I feel confident that version of Big Cat would beat up some guys outside the top 10, and that the 1996 Bustamante had the skills to win a few fights at today’s MW. (By 2001, I think that version of Bustamante beats some good UFC MWs).

-I’d have to watch it again, by MAYBE Paulson v. Hume (also 1996).

-Maybe Randy v. Mo Smith (1997). I think both guys had skills in 1997 to beat some of the lower ranked HWs of today.

-I think Carlos Newton and Sakuraba had the skills in 1998 to get some WWs to the mat and submit them.

What do y’all think?


Couture vs Belfort 1? Young Belfort would probably annihilate most fighters in the first round, but lose if they survived, just like the rest of his career.


That’s a good one, and I thought about including it! I didn’t at the time that I made the thread because I wrongly conflated Vitor’s performance with his performance against Sak – I forgot that the problem wasn’t that Vitor didn’t show up against Randy, but that Randy showed up against Vitor and broke him!

I think you’re right. That Vitor blitzes several UFC HWs and puts their lights out. And that Randy clinches several UFC HWs and beats them up.


Liddell vs Couture.

The first WMMA fight…

I have no clue, but the skills to win a couple fights, I’d guess…

Coleman vs Frye 96
Conan vs Smith 96
Severn vs Shamrock II 96
Bas vs Frank 96
Bas vs Funaki 96
Barreto vs Randleman 97
Vitor vs Telligman 97
Vovchanchyn vs Castello Branco 97
F. Shamrock vs Enson 97


June Cunningham vs Rebecca Ward 1832.

Professional weight cutting has ruined the sport…

Good ones! I feel especially confident that Coleman/Frye could win fights, and that Frank and Enson could.

It seems like 1996 is the earliest year we can find fights where both guys had legit shots of winning UFC fights today, and that most early examples are 205 or HW.

I think Newton/Sak and Hume/Paulson are the first lighter ones.

Rumina Sato started fighting in 94. Seemed to be a freak athlete, a Sakuraba type who somehow became better than most BJJ blackbelts on the ground, despite not having training partners at that level. I believe he was the first non-BJJer to submit a black belt in MMA. He fought to a draw with John Lewis in 96. I don’t recall how good Lewis was, but I remember one of the Team Quest guys being very impressed after rolling with him–said it was harder to break his posture than Couture’s. So Lewis vs. Sato might be it.


Coleman/Fedor ?

Fedor vs Cro-Cop
Big Nog vs Herring 1
Royce vs Saku 1

Matt Hughes vs BJ Penn

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Ruas vs Goodridge was in 1998 but it’s a nice addition. Goodridge skill set would be competitive with any era of 205/265 and Ruas even then had a well rounded skill set.

Depends on if they still get to juice or not.

Shamrock vs Severn.

Severn could wrestle a lot of the division and Shamrock could probably sub a few.

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Severn/Tank in 95.

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