Arguably one of the best pound-for-pound mixed martial art fighters of all time, Matt Hughes is a two-time welterweight champion best remembered for defending the title seven times and defeating all the available challengers in the division.
A member of the UFC Hall of Fame, Hughes once had the record for most wins in the UFC with 18. He had a number of memorable fights, which includes those against future Hall of Famers Georges St-Pierre and BJ Penn.
A former All-American wrestler, Hughes began his MMA career in the late 90s fighting in different organizations, racking up an impressive record before making his UFC debut. It was during this rendezvous that he developed his signature move – the slam.
Hughes would make his UFC debut in UFC 22, winning a unanimous decision over Valeri Ignatov. He made a dazzling return in UFC 26, defeating Marcelo Aguiar via TKO.
However his streak ended when a familiar foe stepped in front of him inside the octagon. Early in his career, Hughes suffered his first setback against Dennis Hallman. He would then incur his second defeat against Hallman in UFC 29 when the submission specialist coolly shrugged off the slam and went on to apply armbar hold.
A TKO loss to Jose Landi-Jones followed, but it was full steam ahead afterwards for Hughes.
Hughes was given a shot at the welterweight crown in UFC 37 and he took it from Carlos Newton in fashion. Newton had him already locked in a triangle choke, but he lifted the champion and slammed him to the mat. Newton immediately lost consciousness after the vicious smash. Hughes’ move is now considered as one of the greatest in MMA history.
He would then defend the title five times before submitting to Penn in UFC 46. A couple of months later, Hughes would reclaim the crown when he defeated St-Pierre in UFC 50. After defending the crown anew against Frank Trigg, he had non-title fight wins over Joe Riggs and the legendary Royce Gracie before meeting Penn in a rematch.
In what is being called as one of the best welterweight matches of all time, Hughes defeated Penn via TKO in the third round of their match in UFC 63.
St-Pierre will have his retribution in UFC 79 when he submitted Hughes via TKO to take away the crown that will be with him for more than half a decade.
Things went spiraling down for Hughes after losing the title to St-Pierre. After winning a unanimous decision over Chris Lytle, he lost to St-Pierre and Thiago Alves. Wins over Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie, and Ricardo Almeida followed, but brutal losses to Penn and Josh Koscheck followed.
Hughes announced his retirement after his loss to Koschek, compiling a record of 45 wins and nine losses.