Best UFC Fights of 2016
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz II- UFC 202
Most know the story. Conor McGregor is one of the bigger superstars the UFC has ever seen. His bombastic personality combined with his vicious knockout power have put him on a level above all other champions in the UFC. Riding high coming off his historical 13 second KO of (at the time) no. 1 pound for pound Jose Aldo, Conor decided to jump up in weight to fight Rafael dos Anjos. 9 days before the event, RDA pulled out with an injury, leading Nate Diaz to step in, but at a catchweight. In classic McGregor fashion, Conor said "fuck it, let's do 170lbs". The combination of jumping up two weight classes and taking the fight at short notice lead to McGregor's downfall, as he was rocked by the bigger Diaz's punches and shortly after choked out for the one blip in his UFC career.
Conor was classy in defeat, but immediately set about getting his revenge. After some back and forth between Conor and UFC brass, the bout occured at UFC 202. Still a 5 round welterweight fight, so there were no more excuses, Conor isolated himself in Iceland and put together a training camp that allowed him to beat Diaz by majority decision. Both men was bloodied and exhausted by fight's end. It rarely went to the ground, so was mostly a striking battle, but more than anything, it was a war of attrition. Conor answered questions about his heart and cardio by going 5 hard rounds, winning and adding to his legend.
Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi- UFC 206
This fight was just wall to wall insanity. Grizzled vet Swanson against babyfaced newcomer Choi, and both men went to the Wanderlei Silva and Chris Leben school of striking and defense. It wasn't the prettiest or most technically sound fight (although it did have some impressive sequences) but it was unadulterated violence and heart that we don't see too often. If there were ground battles in this fight, they were very brief. 3 rounds of mental striking, and despite having a chin of titanium, Choi suffered his first UFC loss to the battle-hardened vet Swanson. Not the highest profile fight or the biggest stars involved, but it was MMA at its most insanely violent.
Robbie Lawler vs Carlos Condit- UFC 195
Both Lawler and Condit have a penchant for exciting, FOTN worthy performances, but these guys set the FOTY bar high early in the year. 5 rounds of heart and chaos. Condit had a very compelling argument for winning the fight, losing by split decision. He contemplated retiring following this fight, ultimately returning and losing via smothering first round submission to Demian Maia. I hope he gets it together and rematches Lawler sometime in 2017. It might not be for a title, but Condit vs Lawler II as a FOX main event sounds awesome to me.
Alan Jouban vs. Belal Muhammed- UFC Fight Night: dos Anjos vs Alvarez
Belal's fighter nickname is "Remember The Name", and he ensured that with his UFC debut. Ridiculous chin, all out aggression, Muhammed is a fighter's fighter. For his part, pretty boy model Jouban fought his ass off and won the fight. Considering how stacked that weekend was, with UFC 200 on a couple of nights later, it's quite an achievement for two prelim guys to have the best fight out of approximately 30 star studded fights in Vegas.
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson- UFC 205
All the attention for UFC's Madison Square Garden debut centered around Conor McGregor;s pursuit of a second world title, but Woodley and Wonderboy stole the show. It ended up being a draw, an accurate reflection of how the fight played out. Woodley's one punch power shone, as did Thompson's unorthodox karate skills. The best thing about the result is that it mandates a rematch coming soon!
Robert Whittaker vs. Derek Brunson- UFC Fight Night Melbourne
One round of insanity. Whittaker handled Brunson's bullrush and put him away with a beautiful combination which included a head kick, vaulting the Aussie into title contention.
Donald Cerrone vs. Matt Brown- UFC 206
On any other card, one that didn't have Swanson vs. Choi, this would be a clear FOTN. We saw the best of Cowboy Cerrone, and the best of Matt Brown, and what a violent spectacle it was. The head kicks were also a feature here.
Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson- UFC 204
It was ridiculous that 46 year Hendo got a title shot. But dammit, it was exciting as hell watching him nearly win the title in the first couple of rounds with his vaunted power that never left him. Bisping showed heart in working his way back to a decision win, but Hendo acquitted himself extremely well in his final career fight.
Tony Ferguson vs. Lando Vannata- UFC Fight Night Sioux Falls
Gotta love a good underdog story. Late replacement Vannata very nearly finished no. 1 ranked Ferguson in the first round before El Cucuy rallied and got the winner's purse with a second round Darce choke,
Until next time, take care,