The 10 most important cards in UFC history

What was the best fight in UFC ever? (2:26)

UFC stars Luke Rockhold, Dominick Cruz, Daniel Cormier, Urijah Faber and president Dana White cast their vote for the best fight in UFC history. (2:26)

As the UFC closes in on its landmark UFC 200 card on July 9 in Las Vegas, it's important to remember how it got here.

Looking back over the promotion's 23 years, there are three factors to consider when creating a list of the most important numbered UFC events.

The first is the entertainment factor. Which fights had you on the edge of your seat, producing the types of moments you had to discuss with your friends at work in the days that followed? The second is financial. Sometimes it's the pay-per-view, attendance or live gate numbers alone that can make an event important. Finally, it needs to be an event that had a role in the development of both the UFC and mixed martial arts as a whole.

These are the events that helped get the sport to where it is today, creating superstars who became legends.

10. UFC 40: Vendetta (Nov. 22, 2002)

Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Main event: Tito Ortiz TKO3 Ken Shamrock, defends light heavyweight title
Of note: Set UFC mark with $1.54 million gate; the reported 150,000 PPV buys were the most since UFC 5

Why it mattered: The bad blood between Ortiz and Shamrock had been building for years and boiled over in this grudge match. The rivalry garnered interest from mainstream media outlets such as ESPN, USA Today, and Fox Sports Net's "Best Damn Sports Show Period," and the event went on to outsell its more recent UFC cards by a 3-to-1 margin on PPV. On the undercard, Chuck Liddell provided a sizzle-reel knockout of Renato "Babalu" Sobral by landing a head kick before finishing with punches. Seven total UFC champions (including Shamrock's SuperFight title) competed on the card. It also marked the debut of Joe Rogan on color commentary.

9. UFC 31: Locked and Loaded (May 4, 2001)

Venue: Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Main event: Randy Couture UD Pedro Rizzo, defends heavyweight title
Of note: First event with modern-day weight classes

Why it mattered: In the second event under Zuffa ownership, eight fighters who either had or would go on to hold UFC gold competed on this card. Couture-Rizzo was considered the fight of the year in 2001, Chuck Liddell recorded a first-round KO over Kevin Randleman, and UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn made his pro debut, beating Joey Gilbert via first-round TKO. Also of note, Shonie Carter scored a highlight-reel spinning-back-fist KO of Matt Serra. The sport was growing up, and this event had a lot to do with it.

8. UFC 194 (Dec. 12, 2015)

Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Main event: Conor McGregor KO1 Jose Aldo, unifies featherweight titles
Of note: $10.1 million gate, 1.2 million PPV buys

Why it mattered: The night "Mystic Mac" became a living legend. During the week leading up to the main event, McGregor predicted exactly what would happen in his one-punch, 13-second KO of Aldo, who hadn't lost in a decade. The knockout snapped Aldo's six-year title reign (including WEC) and elevated McGregor into the level of superstardom we see today (see McGregor-Mayweather hype). In the co-main event, Luke Rockhold took the middleweight belt from Chris Weidman with a fourth-round TKO.

7. UFC 47: It's On! (April 2, 2004)

Venue: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas
Main event: Chuck Liddell KO2 Tito Ortiz
Of note: $1.4 million live gate, 105,000 PPV buys

Why it mattered: Immediately after the fight, Joe Rogan said, "I've never seen Chuck go at somebody with that kind of intensity." Fans clamored to see this one, but it took more than a year for the fight between the former training partners to materialize. Liddell made Ortiz feel his power at the end of the first round. In the second, Liddell threw a barrage of punches to earn the stoppage. The win, which followed a 2003 in which Liddell went 1-2, set up a legendary run for "The Iceman." After coaching the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter," he captured the light heavyweight title the following April from Randy Couture, part of a stretch in which he recorded seven straight wins by knockout, capped off by a second TKO win over Ortiz at UFC 66.

6. UFC 71 (May 26, 2007)

Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Main event: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson KO1 Chuck Liddell, wins light heavyweight title
Of note: $4.34 million gate, beginning of consistent mainstream coverage

Why it mattered: The end of the Liddell era, which set the foundation for the sport's mainstream evolution. This was the event that proved to mainstream media that MMA and the UFC were here to stay, with Liddell gracing the cover of ESPN The Magazine during the buildup to the fight. It was notable for producing a SportsCenter debate between the UFC's Joe Rogan and boxing promoter Lou DiBella on the merits of the sport. Let's just call it a TKO win for Rogan. ESPNEWS covered the weigh-in live and provided additional live coverage after the event. The following week, Sports Illustrated ran a cover featuring the headline "Ultimate Fighting: Too brutal or the future?"

5. UFC 196 (March 5, 2016)

Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Main event: Nate Diaz SUB2 Conor McGregor
Of note: $8.1 million gate, 1.5 million PPV buys

Why it mattered: Pandemonium! Originally set as a lightweight superfight between McGregor and 155-pound champion Rafael dos Anjos, RDA pulled out with a broken foot. On 11 days' notice, Diaz stepped into the limelight. Never has more noise been made at a news conference held at a UFC gym than the madness produced at their first one in Torrance, California. The fun continued all the way to fight night, when Diaz did what seemed impossible: beating the seemingly infallible McGregor. Diaz burst into stardom after the fight, while McGregor's wallet and profile didn't seem to take a major hit despite the defeat. Not to be forgotten, Miesha Tate pulled off one of the most dramatic submission victories in title fight history by choking Holly Holm unconscious in the fifth round to capture the women's bantamweight title.

4. UFC 129 (April 30, 2011)

Venue: Rogers Centre, Toronto
Main event: Georges St-Pierre UD Jake Shields, defends welterweight title
Of note: 55,724 attendance, $12.075 million gate

Why it mattered: The first stadium show, with an attendance record that held until this past November's UFC 193 in Australia. The live-gate record still stands. In the UFC's first foray into Ontario, Canada, GSP owned the night in his native country with a unanimous decision victory over Shields. The card marked the final fight in the Hall of Fame career of Randy Couture, who was knocked out by Lyoto Machida with a jumping front kick. It also featured the UFC debuts of Jose Aldo and Benson Henderson, who came over from the WEC. The UFC has gone on to hold just three other events in stadiums (UFC on Fox: Gustafsson vs. Johnson in Sweden, UFC 193 in Australia and UFC 198 in Brazil).

3. UFC 189 (July 11, 2015)

Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Main event: Conor McGregor TKO2 Chad Mendes, wins interim featherweight title
Of note: First event with Reebok kits, $7.2 million gate

Why it mattered: It was a magical night in Las Vegas, with amazing finishes in all five PPV bouts. Starting with Thomas Almeida's flying-knee KO of Brad Pickett, the momentum kept building through Gunnar Nelson's submission and Jeremy Stephens' own flying-knee KO. In the co-main event, welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald put on an all-time classic, with Lawler getting the stoppage in the fifth round while down on the cards. Before the main event, the atmosphere at the MGM Grand was electric, with Aaron Lewis and Sinead O'Connor performing the walkout songs. McGregor rose from hyped contender to champion by knocking on Mendes, setting off a stream of Irish fans to celebrate in Vegas that night.

2. UFC 1 (November 12, 1993)

Venue: McNichols Arena, Denver
Main event: Royce Gracie SUB Gerard Gordeau to win eight-man tournament
Of note: The Gracie family reigned supreme

Why it mattered: From the very first bout of the night, with Gordeau kicking Teila Tuli square in the face 26 seconds in, combat sports changed forever. I think commentator and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown put it best in his analysis by saying, "I think it was totally on the face. Awesome, awesome. Tooth came out." But the card is best remembered for putting Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and the UFC on the map. Gracie needed only 4:55 to submit three opponents (Art Jimmerson via mount, Ken Shamrock via rear-naked choke, Gordeau via choke) en route to winning three of the first four UFC tournaments.

1. UFC 100 (July 11, 2009)

Venue: Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas
Main event: Brock Lesnar TKO2 Frank Mir, defends heavyweight title
Of note: UFC-record 1.6 million PPV buys

Why it mattered: Capped by Lesnar's mauling of Mir in their rematch and the legendary WWE heel promo he delivered after the main event, UFC 100 is still the card that media and fans look back to as "the one." The main card started with Yoshihiro Akiyama defeating Alan Belcher and his massive Johnny Cash tattoo in the fight of the night. Dan Henderson then knocked Michael Bisping out with a hellacious punch that was so devastating, Henderson still sells shirts on his website with an outline of his body flying in the air about to level Bisping. Georges St-Pierre dominated Thiago Alves to defend his welterweight title. The card was so stacked that Jon Jones made his third appearance with the company on the undercard, submitting Jake O'Brien.