Throughout more than 500 UFC events, only four have featured three title fights at the top of the card. That number will increase to five with Saturday's UFC 251 event at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The event kicks off the Fight Island series of events for the UFC, with the welterweight, featherweight and bantamweight titles all on the line.
The previous times the UFC has placed three title fights on a card have run the gamut from some of the most memorable events in UFC history to arguably their worst card. We have ranked the five three-title-fight cards from best to worst, though without UFC 251 in the books, we're left to speculate on the strength of this weekend's event alone.
1. UFC 217
Welterweight Championship -- Georges St-Pierre def. Michael Bisping (c)
Bantamweight Championship -- TJ Dillashaw def. Cody Garbrandt (c)
Women's Strawweight Championship -- Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (c)
This is the only card on the list where all three titles changed hands. In the main event, Georges St-Pierre ended a lengthy retirement to challenge Michael Bisping for the middleweight championship in St-Pierre's first fight at 185 pounds. At the betting window, the fight was nearly a pick 'em. But in the cage, the legendary former welterweight king scored a dramatic submission to win the title, creating another memorable moment to add to his legacy. TJ Dillashaw scored an upset of Cody Garbrandt to win the bantamweight title in the co-main event, but the biggest shocker on the card came when Rose Namajunas -- who entered the fight as an underdog upwards of +570 -- upset Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the first title fight of the night. Namajunas scored a first-round knockout to capture the strawweight title and end Jedrzejczyk's three-year run of dominance with the belt.
With three upset title changes, UFC 217 had a dramatic edge that is entirely unique. St-Pierre returning from retirement to bump off Bisping in a battle of UFC legends and Jedrzejczyk's legendary run coming to an end are the standout moments from the show. But Dillashaw's crushing knockout of Garbrandt can't be overlooked as a key part of the post-Dominick Cruz era for the bantamweight division.
2. UFC 251
Welterweight Championship -- Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Jorge Masvidal
Featherweight Championship -- Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Max Holloway
Bantamweight Championship (Vacant) -- Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo
Barring the fights playing out in an unusually disappointing way, UFC 251 has the potential to be the best three-title fight card in UFC history. Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns was a compelling fight on paper, but when Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Jorge Masvidal, the fight in the welterweight division came together. For however long it lasts, the welterweight title clash is almost guaranteed to provide bell-to-bell action. Meanwhile, Max Holloway will attempt to build on his already impressive legacy when he tries to regain the featherweight championship from Alexander Volkanovski and Jose Aldo gets a shot to win a title in a second weight class when he battles Petr Yan for the vacant bantamweight title.
That's as stacked a card as you can ask for on paper. Between the all-action main event and legacy-defining bouts for some of the greatest fighters to ever set foot in the Octagon, UFC 251 could absolutely stand at the top of this list when the dust settles. For now, it checks in just below UFC 217.
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3. UFC 205
Lightweight Championship -- Conor McGregor def. Eddie Alvarez (c)
Welterweight Championship -- Tyron Woodley (c) drew Stephen Thompson
Women's Strawweight Championship -- Joanna Jedrzejczyk (c) def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
The only card on the list featuring four then-undisputed champions. Featherweight champion Conor McGregor made the jump to lightweight to take on champ Eddie Alvarez in the night's main event, ultimately scoring a second-round knockout to become dual-champion. In the co-headliner, Tyron Woodley put his welterweight title on the line against Stephen Thompson, with the challenger coming into the bout as the favorite. Woodley and Thompson battled to a memorable draw, winning Fight of the Night honors in the process. In the third title fight on the card, heavy favorite Joanna Jedrzejczyk put up the women's strawweight championship against Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Jedrzeczyk dominated the fight, winning four rounds on all three official scorecards.
While the Jedrzeczyk defense was more of the same during her dominant championship run, the two headline bouts provided memorable action and helped define legacies. Woodley was an underdog champion who didn't yet have people believing he could handle dynamic fighters like Thompson, but the draw and subsequent win in the rematch were key to establishing him as a fighter the UFC tried to brand as the greatest welterweight ever. McGregor was already an established mega-star, but being a two-division champion has been so key to the Irishman's legacy.
4. UFC 245
Welterweight Championship -- Kamaru Usman (c) def. Colby Covington
Featherweight Championship -- Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway (c)
Women's Bantamweight Championship -- Amanda Nunes (c) def. Germaine de Randamie
As far as heated rivalries go, it's hard to top Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington. Usman made the first defense of his title against Covington in the UFC 245 main event. It was a fantastic fight before Usman finally cracked and finished Covington late in the fifth round. In the co-main event, the UFC's hype for Max Holloway as the greatest featherweight in history came to an end with a masterful performance by challenger Alexander Volkanovski. The first title fight on the card featured another relatively one-sided title defense by Amanda Nunes as she outworked Germaine de Randamie in a defense of the women's bantamweight championship.
UFC 245 was a solid card, and the main event between Usman and Covington was a Fight of the Year contender with high action and a dramatic finish that lived up to the trash-talk hype leading to the event. Volkanovski's title win was a solid upset that ended a dominant championship run for Holloway. But the Nunes vs. de Randamie fight ranks low in terms of compelling action and matchmaking compared to many of the other title fights on these cards, delivering a small hit to UFC 245's place on the list.
5. UFC 33
Light Heavyweight Championship -- Tito Ortiz (c) def. Vladimir Matyushenko
Lightweight Championship -- Jens Pulver (c) def. Dennis Hallman
Middleweight Championship -- Dave Menee def. Gil Castillo
UFC 33 was the promotion's debut in Las Vegas and marked the UFC's return to pay-per-view. Unfortunately, the event was an absolute dud as far as Octagon action goes; the event has been called "the worst show ever" by UFC president Dana White on more than one occasion. Tito Ortiz was supposed to defend his light heavyweight title against Vitor Belfort, but an injury led to replacement opponent Vladimir Matyushenko getting the call. Ortiz dominated Matyushenko to take a wide win on the scorecards. Jens Pulver successfully defended his lightweight title against Dennis Hallman in a competitive but largely uninteresting battle and Dave Menee became the inaugural middleweight champion with a win over Gil Castillo.
Every fight on the UFC 33 pay-per-view broadcast went to the judges' scorecards and none of the fights were exciting or memorable, making for a huge disappointment in what was supposed to be a milestone event for the UFC. Ortiz vs. Belfort was a fight that had the kind of star power to cover for the lack of action, but Matyushenko was a poor replacement for the Brazilian brawler, though that's no fault of the promotion or the fighters. UFC 33 is the obvious choice for worst three-title fight card in UFC history.