Three is the magic number. The ancient Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, viewed the number as deeply significant, underlining harmony, wisdom and understanding.
In the UFC, the number three takes a slightly different meaning: blood, guts and war. The sport has been blessed with a rich history of trilogy fights, and Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor will become the 14th trilogy in the sport when they meet this weekend.
The lightweight rivals’ two fights have been punctuated by alomst seven years, but following Poirier’s impressive win on Fight Island at UFC 257, the American will look to prove that his victory six months ago was no fluke.
So, as the lightweight stars prepare to clash for a third, and likely final, time in Las Vegas, Sportsmail looks back at some of the best trilogies in the UFC.
Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier are hoping to add to the UFC’s rich history of trilogies
Chuck Lidell v Randy Couture
Result: Lidell 2-1 Couture
This three-fight cliffhanger between two of the UFC’s biggest stars was a significant moment for the sport, with a huge number of new fans following mixed martial arts as a result of the bitter rivalry Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture.
Liddell had been enjoying a seemingly unstoppable rise when he met Couture in 2003, and the former Olympic wrestler served up a huge shock after securing a third round TKO over his light heavyweight rival.
Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture’s thrilling rivalry put a legion of new eyes on the UFC
Liddell avenged his shock defeat to Couture and went onto win the third and final bout
Liddell exacted revenge over Couture two years later with a first round knockout, and the hysteria surrounding the light heavyweight pair saw the UFC schedule a trilogy bout in 2006.
The pair’s meeting at UFC 57 shattered PPV records with 400,000 punters tuning in as Liddell secured a second round TKO victory, and Couture announced his retirement from the sport following the defeat.
Frankie Edgar v Gray Maynard
Result: Edgar 1-1 Maynard
Curiously this trilogy did not result in a clear victor. That is because the second fight between these two lightweight stars was one that is remembered fondly by UFC fans.
Edgar and Maynard first met in 2008 as up-and-coming 155-pound stars, and Maynard, nicknamed The Bully, emerged victorious, winning via judges’ decision.
Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard fought three times and ended up tied at one win apiece
Their second bout will go down as one of the greatest fights ever with a split decision draw
And it looked as though The Bully was on course for a second victory when the pair met for the lightweight title three years later, having knocked Edgar down three times during their five-round war.
But The Answer dug in and rallied to somehow earn a split decision draw, sending the tie to a decider nine months later.
Once again Edgar had to survive a Maynard onslaught and came on strong to knock The Bully out in the fourth round and end one of the most thrilling trilogies in UFC history.
Georges St-Pierre v Matt Hughes
Result: GSP 2-1 Hughes
Sometimes there is a rivalry that launches a fighter into the stratosphere. For Georges St-Pierre, his battle with welterweight master Matt Hughes helped make him a UFC superstar.
The Canadian was earmarked as a future star when he met a rampant Hughes for the first time, with the American securing an armbar submission with just 10 seconds remaining of round one.
Georges St-Pierre’s rivalry with 170-pound king Matt Hughes shot him into UFC superstardom
Five wins on the trot saw GSP challenge Hughes for the welterweight championship and the Canadian put in a phenomenal performance, dominating the all-conquering champion and winning by second round TKO.
GSP subsequently lost the world title in his first defence, against Matt Serra, and faced Hughes for the interim title and the chance to settle the trilogy with a win.
The third fight left fans with no doubt as to who reigned supreme over the 170-pounders, executing an armbar submission to round out the series 2-1 in his favour.
Stipe Miocic v Daniel Cormier
Result: Miocic 2-1 Cormier
Daniel Cormier’s UFC career will be best remembered for his bitter rivalry with Jon Jones, but the fan-favourite also played out an enthralling battle with a heavyweight legend in his twilight years.
Cormier, having conquered the light heavyweight ranks while Jones sat out owing to various misdemeanours, chanced his arm at a move up in weight class.
Heavyweight veterans Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic played out an enthralling trilogy
Miocic avenged his initial defeat to Cormier with two resounding victories over the American
Cormier retired from the sport after his points decision loss to the Ohio firefighter last year
When the former Olympic wrestler met the all-conquering Stipe Miocic in 2018, he was officially undefeated during his career at heavyweight. Despite that, it was still a huge shock when Cormier knocked out the Ohio firefighter in the first round.
The heavyweight veterans met for a second time in 2019 and Miocic, determined to exact his revenge over Cormier, did just that with a TKO in the fourth round of a back-and-forth war in California.
The coronavirus pandemic halted plans of a third and final match between the heavyweight pair, and they met at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas in a behind-closed-doors clash.
Miocic utilised the smaller cage to put pressure on his rival, and put in the better work to secure a decision victory and clinch the trilogy over Cormier, who announced his retirement in the aftermath.
Cain Velasquez v Junior dos Santos
Result: Velasquez 2-1 Dos Santos
It is a rarity for two heavyweights to hold undefeated records, but when Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos first met in 2011, the pair were at the top of their respective games and appeared unstoppable.
Cain Velasquez etched his name as a UFC great after winning his trilogy over Junior dos Santos
The Californian crowd was heavily in favour of Velasquez, with a huge Mexican-American contingent offering their support for the wrestler. However, Dos Santos sprung a major upset, landing a knockout inside two minutes of the fight.
Velasquez avenged his surprise defeat one year later, with a dominant performance that saw him win by judges’ decision. With the series tied at 1-1 Velasquez and Dos Santos met in October 2013 and Velasquez put the rivalry beyond doubt with a fifth-round TKO to secure his status as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
- Watch the unmissable trilogy fight – UFC® 264: POIRIER vs MCGREGOR 3. Main card live from 3:00am on BT Sport Box Office, with late prelims on BT Sport 2 at 1:00am, and early prelims live exclusively on Fight Pass from 11:00pm this Saturday, 10th July.