2016 was an epic year for the UFC and fans are hoping for more of the same in 2017.
2016 was an epic year for the UFC and fans are hoping for more of the same in 2017.

By Kyler Kuehler

After a successful year in 2015, the UFC continued to impress in 2016 with many great matchups and major headlines that caught the attention of fans around the world. Though there were many events that took place that being said I cannot place every event on this list, but after careful consideration, I have narrowed it down to a few choices that I believe are most worthy of being recognized for the year 2016.

Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit have always been fun fighters to watch and when fans finally got to see them inside the octagon for the first tim,e they were given a fight that would go down as one of the greatest welterweights along with one of the greatest fights to ever take place in the sport of MMA. In this five round war for the welterweight title both these fighters laid everything on the line not willing to give in as they reminded the world of just how exciting the sport is. Though the fight also ended in a very controversial split decision as Lawler would remain champion, it still began the year of right giving fans a great first impression of what to expect in the coming year ahead.

Before he won the UFC Heavyweight Title at UFC 198 Stipe Miocic was probably one of the most underrated fighters in the company as many or maybe even most fans never even imagined him becoming champion. After many powerful victories, he finally received his first title shot at UFC 198 against Fabricio Werdum where he would go and knockout the former champion in the very first round. With this victory, Miocic not only proved to everyone why he was a major threat to the heavyweight division but at the same time ended a 52-year-old Cleveland Sports curse. His capture of the title even persuaded president Dana White to have Miocic headline the first ever Cleveland card (UFC 203) against former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem where he would get to successfully defend the title in front of a crowd of over 18,000 with another knockout in Round 1.

This was possibly the most anticipated matchup all year as both of these top dogs in two different weight classes met twice in one year (both in welterweight division), which had fans on the edge of their seats. Why these two epic showdowns are worthy of being recognized is all from what these two fights revealed about each of these amazing athletes. In the first fight Diaz would make a major comeback in Round 2 after losing big in the first round where he saw McGregor gassed and quickly took advantage of this opportunity by bringing him to the ground and defeating him via submission to the rear-naked choke. This left fans to realize the Irishman was not as unstoppable as they believed. But McGregor would make a comeback in their second meeting as he would go on to avenge his first UFC loss defeating Diaz via majority decision (48-47, 47-47, 48-47) that not only turned out to be one of the greatest fights of the year but set up a possible trilogy fight fans have been dying to see.

Former Light heavyweight Champion Jon Jones had some rough spots over the past year as he was involved in a hit-and-run incident causing him to be stripped of the title and suspended indefinitely from the UFC back in April of 2015. However five months later Jones would be reinstated to the company. When his return was announced fans could not wait to see him back in the octagon and on April 23 at UFC 197 he faced Ovince Saint Preux where he would win via unanimous decision (50-44, 50-45, 50-45) making his name known once again that he was back to reclaim his belt. Though things would take a turn for him again just three days before his rematch against current champion Daniel Cormier at UFC 200 he would test positive for banned substances causing him to be removed from the card and earn a year suspension. Though he only fought once during the entire year it still was a big event to take place in the UFC.

Another epic moment was made in the year when Michael Bisping received his first ever UFC title shot against a man who he formerly faced before and lost to via submission in Round 2. Now it looked to be that this rematch would not end any different from their first meeting leaving Bisping as a major underdog in this contest and only given seventeen days notice to prepare for the bout. Though Bisping proved everyone wrong as he would go on to knockout Rockhold in the first round thus ending his short-lived reign as champion and finally receive what he had been striving for since entering the octagon of the UFC. It just goes to show that odds are only numbers and anything can happen in this sport.

This year was filled with epic fights, but none were as intense as the Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi bout. Why this fight is worthy of being a part of this list is all that these two athletes brought to the octagon showing that you do not have to be a big name in order to put on a great performance with both fighters giving it their all and not leaving anything on the table. Even for how epic each of these athletes fought placed their matchup in a running for ‘Fight of the Year’, which originally looked to be Diaz vs. McGregor II, but after what fans witnessed; it was clear Swanson and Choi will claim that award this year. Just goes to show that any fight can turn into an intense war.

Every year the UFC has to be recognized for bringing new champions and this year seven of the ten titles changed hands this year with some changing hands multiple times. Women’s Bantamweight: Miesha Tate (196) and Amanda Nunes (200), Bantamweight: Cody Garbrandt, Featherweight: Jose Aldo (promoted after Conor McGregor was stripped of title), Lightweight: Eddie Alvarez (Fight Night 90) and Conor McGregor (205), Welterweight: Tyron Woodley, Middleweight: Michael Bisping and Heavyweight: Stipe Miocic. Now that these champions walk into the new year they along with the fans will get to see what awaits them and who will remain champion and who loses the gold.

Ronda Rousey had been in the shadows for over a year after her knockout loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193. Though when news broke out about her return at UFC 207 against current champion Amanda Nunes fans lost their minds as they believed this to not only be the biggest moment of the year but a possible comeback for the former champion to prove why she is still the best in the world. With Rousey returning to the octagon in a new physical form it looked like she was indeed going to reveal a new fighter and regain her fame as the face of the company, but her fame upon return would be short lived as Nunes would go on to defeat Rousey in less than fifty seconds in Round 1. With Rousey’s return turning into another big loss seems like it should not be a part of this list, but it deserves it’s spot because we cannot forget that if it had not been for Rousey then the women’s division would not be in the UFC or as big as it is today.

Ever since MMA was created the state of New York had a real issue against the sport and did not want to have anything to do with the sport in any way. But over time New York grew to appreciate the sport and after being banned for over twenty years, the state finally legalized MMA in the state earlier this year and on November 12 the second event (UFC 205) took place. This event was possibly the biggest event the UFC ever held as it not only contained great matches and set a record for highest attended UFC even in the United States, but history was made as Conor McGregor became the first fighter to ever hold two titles in different weight classes.

Now that the year is over, fans can only standby for what 2017 brings, which they hope will turn out even better. Maybe we receive more intense fights and epic title changes that show just how unpredictable this sport is and why everyone should be watching it.

“2017 here we come!”