What the UFC Brought in 2017

GSP was all smiles after making his return in 2017 and earning the middleweight title by defeating Michael Bisping at UFC 217. Photo Courtesy: Ryan Mallard
GSP was all smiles after making his return in 2017 and earning the middleweight title by defeating Michael Bisping at UFC 217. Photo Courtesy: Ryan Mallard

By Kyler Kuehler

UFC had another year worth recognizing for its accomplishments setting inspirations for 2018 in hopes of having a greater year. Even though the first of the year did not start out so great for the company with some rough spots, the year ended with enough memorable moments to reflect on.

Women’s mixed martial arts has always been fun to watch. Since it was introduced into the UFC in 2013 its continued. It grew more when the featherweight division was introduced opening the doors for female contenders of 145 pounds to finally prove what they have and why they deserve their place in the UFC. There are no official contenders for the division but there is plenty of competition to muster up. However, plenty of bantamweight contenders have shown great interest in moving up to the featherweight division along with fighters of other organizations willing to make a step in the company.

Yes, the women’s division added another weight class to increase more talent and help female athletes in changing weight classes. Before adding the flyweight division female fighters had to gain or cut pounds to make strawweight (115lbs.), bantamweight (135lbs.) or featherweight (145lbs.). Though it’s still new to the company fans might take a little time to grow to accept the division. Since the lower weight classes really are not as popular as the heavier ones. But just like the strawweight, fans really were not as accepting of them at first. Then when the talent grew, the popularity of the division did the same. It’s no doubt the flyweights will have the same outcome.

When former middleweight champion Anderson Silva set the title defense record of ten successful defenses it seemed his record would stand for many years. It even seemed impossible to beat. Current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson proved everyone wrong when he broke Silva’s record at UFC 216 against Ray Borg. Now he is the current record holder of eleven straight successful title defenses. He has proven to the world that he is one of the most dominant champions the UFC has to offer. Maybe now fans will begin seeing him face greater challenges; like bantamweight contenders Dominick Cruz, Cody Garbrandt or maybe current champion T.J. Dillashaw. I mean, he’s dominated the flyweight division, so why not try to become a dominant champion of two divisions.

It seems every year there is the one fight that stands out among them all. This year that fight was Eddie Alvarez versus Justin Gaethje at UFC 218. Throughout the fight, both these fighters gave everything they had. With each passing blow, fans were on their feet just wondering if that was it. The excitement this war brought revealed just how exciting and unpredictable the lightweight division is. It even gave way to more needed matchups. I mean, the lightweight division is possibly the most shark division in the sport. There’s always room for new talent, so why not give both these men a crack at the new uprising stars. Better yet, make them fight each again so fans can get a bigger taste of the action from the first go-round.

Every year the world sees plenty of knockouts and many great ones for the matter. The one that deserves recognition in 2017 was Francis Ngannou’s knockout of former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem at UFC 218. Heading into the fight Ngannou was labeled the heavy favorite. When the fight began he and Overeem locked on to each other making it appear Ngannou was in for a surprise. Surprise indeed, but not in a bad way. A surprise at just 1:42 in round one. Ngannou would score the most vicious left hand to Overeem’s chin sending him crashing down to the mat. Fans were both in shock and amazement for they never saw anyone hit Overeem that hard ever. Ngannou will finally receive his title shot against current champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 220. All there is to say is, “Can UFC 220 get here any faster!”

Conor McGregor has always been an efficient knockout artist in the sport of mixed martial arts from his boxing techniques. With his rise to fame and making comments about how he could hang with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather. The possible ‘money fight’ seemed near. The negotiations went through and these two gladiators went at it in the first ever boxer versus mixed-martial artist fight. In the first part, McGregor pressured Mayweather looking to be on his way to end his undefeated streak. But Mayweather came back proving why he is the greatest in the world and improving his record to an astounding 50-0. All in all the fight was one of the biggest in combat sports. It lands in second place for most pay-per-view buys in combat sports and boxing his story with 4.3 million buys. [Mayweather vs. Pacquiao holds the record of 4.6 million.]

Yes, the UFC has always had title changes every year. Though it didn’t have as many as 2015 and 2016 had with seven new champions. This year was most recognizable. It featured a fourth event (UFC 217) with three titles (UFC 33, 205 and 214). In the process, all three changed hands on the exact same card. Now that is not something you see every day. Making it more memorable is it happened on the second event held in New York City. The same place where current lightweight champion Conor McGregor made history in becoming the first fighter to hold two belts in two different divisions at the same time.

Like ‘Fight of the Year’ and all other awards the year is not complete without ‘Upset of the Year’. 2017 had a few, but none came close to the upset knockout by Rose Namajunas against dominant champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Jedrzejczyk was on a roll when she entered the UFC becoming more dominant and dangerous when gold was around her. It appeared she was going to be the next dominant female athlete. She was even predicted break Ronda Rousey’s title defense of six wins when she and Namajunas fought at UFC 217. Yes, she was so close and was even considered the winner before the fight even began. However, Namajunas proved she has changed from when she first began her UFC career showing odds are only numbers. What made this moment more of an upset was Namajunas being an all-around grappler and Jedrzejczyk being the striker. The only way fans believed she had a chance to win was on the ground. Well, guess what, she just knocked out the best striker in the division and did it in the first round!

Madison Square Garden once again held a major event. It couldn’t have been any bigger than the return of former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. Yes, the UFC has been longing for the return of one of the biggest stars in the sport. At UFC 217, he made his return with a submission victory at 4:23 in round three against Michael Bisping to become middleweight champion. Also, St-Pierre became the fourth fighter to be a two-division champion. About a month later though St-Pierre would be forced to vacate the title due to colitis. However, president Dana White confirmed he would receive an immediate title fight for the welterweight or middleweight upon his return. Don’t worry he will return once he’s healed. When he does he will be better than ever, thus continuing his legacy proving he is the best in the world.

Now that 2018 is upon us, fans can only sit back and wait for what the new year has to offer.