New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox. Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins. Ohio State University vs. University of Michigan.
Rivalries, in any sport, can turn normal games into spectacular events. History, pride and often times bad blood, on both sides, all collide at once, sparking emotions and adrenaline that result in memorable moments that stand the test of time.
Mixed martial arts is no different.
However, one would imagine that this combat sport would have more of them. On the contrary, we are often subject to post-fight hugs and high-fives more often than not, regardless of whatever is said in the pre-fight promotion.
It's a classy sign of respect for an opponent that is often replayed ad nauseum event after event. And one that might take a few fringe folks off guard, those who are expecting to see the "anything goes" brand of "human cockfighting" that doesn't exists at the professional level.
Not even close.
Even though we marvel at the sportsmanship, two grown men embracing after 15 minutes of back-and-forth combat, there is something to be said for a fight between two sworn enemies. It's special. There is more at stake than just a paycheck, another victory or even a belt.
That's the reason the UFC 132 main event between bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and number one division contender, Urijah Faber, has all the ingredients to blow the roof off the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 2, 2011.
You see, "Dominator" and "The California Kid" don't get along so well outside the cage. The genesis for their mutual animosity dates back to 2007, when Faber submitted Cruz with a guillotine choke less than two minutes into their 145-pound fight. Cruz eventually dropped 10 pounds and won a 135-pound division title.
That did little to squash their beef -- the champions still had to make awkward appearances together on the promotional circuit. In one such instance, Cruz allegedly signed his autograph numerous times over Faber's image on posters intended for fans.
It was, for Faber, a major sign of disrespect. And now, the relative newcomer to the bantamweight division, intends to use that incident and others to fuel his fire on Independence Day weekend.
"I think [not liking Cruz] makes it easier," said Faber. "I've never really been an emotional fighter, but that's because I usually feel kind of indifferent or I like the guy I'm fighting. In a situation, if I were to fight, it would be because I didn't like somebody. So I think it makes it easier."
For his part, Cruz takes a much more cautious approach, saying that he does a "pretty good job" of not making his fights emotional.
"I'm not real fond of Faber, but at the same time, once I get in a fight, I fight just as hard against someone I don't like as when I'm fighting someone I don't have a problem with," he said. "Once I get in there, it's not a big deal."
Make no mistake, this fight is a big deal.
First, it's a heated rematch that has been simmering for years. Second, it's for a world title. Third, it's the featured fight of the night on a major UFC pay-per-view (PPV) card. Lastly, it marks the Octagon debut for Cruz, a former WEC champion who carried his title over when the promotions merged last year.
There is clearly much at stake for both fighters, who are both very different skill- and experience-wise this time around. Depending on who you ask, of course.
"My hands have improved," said Faber. "I'm smaller and faster and at my more natural competition weight. I've improved. I feel like I'm in the prime of my life as far as conditioning and strength and everything else goes.
"You're looking at a guy that's never stopped, getting better and I'm almost eight years into it," he continued. "I've had a ton of great fights with some great experience under my belt. I've fought Jose Aldo. I've fought with broken hands. I've got more experience."
Cruz begs to differ. He's not impressed with the so-called evolution of Faber. Not when he compares it to his own significant strides, anyway.
"The only thing different about Urijah is his haircut and his years," he quipped. "That sums it up. With me, you can look at my past fights and see a big difference. I'm a completely different fighter since the last time I fought him. Kicks, ground game, wrestling -- my body has changed. It's been four years and everything's different for this fight. He'll be fighting a whole different person."
Not exactly. Cruz is still the same man who Faber can't stand, and vice-versa. There is something to be said, whether Cruz will admit it or not, for a bitter rivalry. It changes situations, ups antes and can even affect the final outcomes.
One outcome that will likely not change after all is said and done, win, lose or draw, will be their personal feelings. Neither fighter is making any empty promises that they intend to bury the hatchet once the fight ends.
"I'm sure we'll shake hands and get on," said Faber. "I'm sure beating the crap out of each other is good therapy. For the record, the last time we fought didn't settle anything afterward. Dominick was still pissed that he lost."
He'll likely be twice as "pissed" if he loses the rematch next weekend. Don't expect Faber to be too happy, either, if his hand isn't raised in triumph.