This Day in MMA History: Watch Griffin and Bonnar put MMA on the map

April 9th is a historic date in MMA history, featuring the fight that took the sport from an underground curiosity to a mainstream sport.…

By: Tim Bissell | 3 years ago
This Day in MMA History: Watch Griffin and Bonnar put MMA on the map
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

April 9th is a historic date in MMA history, featuring the fight that took the sport from an underground curiosity to a mainstream sport. The date also hosted one of the craziest rounds MMA has ever seen.

April 9, 2005: Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar tear the house down at the TUF 1 Finale

Before 2005 the UFC, and MMA in general, had a loyal and rabid fan base that hunted out content wherever they could find it. Though these fans were loyal, there weren’t many of them. That all changed thanks to The Ultimate Fighter.

The inaugural season of the reality show/MMA tournament aired in January 2005. It featured teams coached by contemporary icons Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. The pool of contestants for this season, who would all later be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, included Chris Leben, Kenny Florian, Josh Koschek, Diego Sanchez, Mike Swick and — of course — Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar.

Those fighters and coaches threw down an entertaining, and sometimes bizarre, season of television while setting the table for a live finale to crown the first ever TUF middleweight and light heavyweight tournament winners.

In the live finale, hosted at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, most of the cast got a chance to fight for a way into the UFC. The card delivered a lot of action — just two decisions and seven finishes by KO/TKO. It saw Leben TKO Jason Thacker, Koschek knockout Chris Sanford and Mike Swick finish Alex Schoenauer.

After those cast-mates did battle, Sanchez bested Florian via first round TKO to become the first ever TUF winner. Despite it being a thrilling performance, that set up a long and storied career for ‘The Nightmare’, the bout was completely overshadowed by what happened next.

Griffin vs. Bonnar in the light heavyweight final is one of the greatest fights you could ever see. It was bell to bell action with both men showing grit and guts as they endured each other’s best shots for 25 minutes. The engrossing contest ended with a decision win for Griffin. The fight, which attracted armies of viewers mid-action, helped the UFC become an overnight sensation. That fight, and the success of TUF overall, paved the way for the Spike-era of the UFC. An era that saw the UFC gestate so that it would eventually become the unstoppable force it is today.

Below you can check out some action from the historic fight, as well as some of the top moments from season one of TUF:

April 9, 2011: Nick Diaz TKOs Paul Daley

Griffin vs. Bonnar may be one of the most action-packed fights in MMA history, but for wildest round you can find a strong candidate in the archives of Strikeforce.

Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley took place at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, CA. The card saw a lot of finishes that night, including lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez stopping Tatsuya Kawajiri with elbows and Shinya Aoki getting Lyle Beerbohm with a neck crank. The card also included a majority draw between Gegard Mousasi and Keith Jardine.

The main event saw Nick Diaz and Paul Daley — two fighters with well earned and fearsome reputations — go toe-to-toe for Diaz’s Strikeforce welterweight title.

The fight lasted three-seconds shy of five minutes. And it was bonkers. Watch below as Diaz, who was dropped by ‘Semtex’ earlier in the round, rallies back to stop Daley with his patented punches in bunches.

The win was Diaz’s third title defense and his last before rejoining the UFC. His next fight was a decision win over B.J. Penn at UFC 137 in October, 2011.

Daley got a few more reps in at Strikeforce. He lost a unanimous decision to Tyron Woodley at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson in July, 2011 and a split decision to Kazuo Misaki at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey in March 2012. After Strikeforce was swallowed up by ZUFFA he plied his trade in BAMMA before signing a long term deal with Bellator.

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

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