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Best UFC/MMA events of 2014, a Top 5 list

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On the third day of Christmas, Mania gave to me ... three pay-per-views (PPVs). Two brutal head kicks. And a brabo from underneath.

Our day of mixed martial arts (MMA) nostalgia -- and wine-fueled reminiscing -- continues as we bring you another of Mania's annual "5 Top 5's."

Picking out the best submissions, knockouts fights is pretty easy. Those kind of things stay with you.

The events, though? You've got to remember which collection of a dozen or so fights managed to be consistently awesome from beginning to end.

Luckily, we here at Mania have you covered.

Check out the top 5 MMA events of 2014"

5. UFC 172: "Jones vs. Teixeira"

(Photo credit: USA Today Sports)

The one-sidedness of the two headlining bouts at UFC 172, which took place inside Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Md., on April 26, 2014, make it easy to forget that this card had some truly great fights and finishes beforehand.

The event opened with two terrific knockouts from Chris Beal and Danny Castillo, the former of which earned a spot among my top knockouts of the year. A pair of entertaining scraps, Bethe Correia vs. Jessamyn Duke and Takanori Gomi vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg, followed before Joseph Benavidez's ridiculously brutal choke of Tim Elliott capped off the "Prelims" under card.

Featherweight prospects Max Holloway and Andre Fili went tit-for-tat in the first fight of the PPV main card before Holloway choked out the Alpha Male product with, of all things, a guillotine choke in the third round. Jim Miller only needed a fraction of that time to choke out Yancy Medeiros, defeating the big Hawaiian in the first frame.

Capping off the card's submission streak at four was Luke Rockhold, who countered a Tim Boetsch takedown attempt with a lovely inverted-triangle-kimura that had "The Barbarian" tapping in little more than two minutes.

As mentioned, though, things ended on a rather "meh" note. Anthony Johnson ran roughshod over Phil Davis, but couldn't manage to hurt "Mr. Wonderful" and Davis seemed disinclined to stick his neck out to change course. In the main event, Jon Jones took out Glover Teixeira's lethal right hand early on and spent the rest of the fight beating the snot out of him in a fashion that was entertaining from a visceral standpoint but devoid of drama.

Still, though, plenty of quality action beforehand.

4. UFC Fight Night 46: "McGregor vs. Brandao"

mcgregor brandao -- esther

In the interest of full disclosure, this was one of the very few events of the year I was unable to watch live. Everything I have seen, though, from UFC Fight Night 46, which took place at The O2 in Dublin, Ireland, on July 19, 2014, tells me this was one hell of a show.

Ireland was fired up and loud as hell from Paddy Holohan's "Prelims"-opening submission of Josh Sampo to Conor McGregor's headlining knockout of Diego Brandao.

We got some great moments along the way, including Cathal Pendred's comeback submission of Mike King and Ilir Latifi's nasty knockout of Chris Dempsey. While it may not have been the most stacked card of the year or the best in terms of pure fight quality, it was a terrific experience thanks to Dublin's wonderful crowd.

That's worth something in my book.

3. UFC 181: "Hendricks vs. Lawler 2"

(Photo credit: USA Today Sports)

Save for the Urijah Faber vs. Francisco Rivera eye poke debacle at the end of the "Prelims" (read more on that here), UFC 172 from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 6, 2014, had no truly bad moments. Every under card match was a quality fight, with the low point being the somewhat-entertaining Corey Anderson vs. Justin Jones bout that only happened because of a late injury.

Said "Prelims" also gave us one of the best knockouts of the year when Josh Samman nearly sent his left shin through Eddie Gordon's head (watch highlights here).

The PPV main card opened with a slugfest between Tony Ferguson and Abel Trujillo and never slowed down (watch highlights here). Todd Duffee proved that he's still a name worth remembering by starching Anthony Hamilton in the next fight, after which fellow heavyweight banger Travis Browne stopped Brendan Schaub late in the first (watch highlights here).

After that, it was time for the title fights.

Anthony Pettis showed no rust from his long time away as he expertly countered the relentless Gilbert Melendez, eventually choking out the Cesar Gracie-trained black belt with a guillotine in the second (watch highlights here). This set the stage for the eagerly-awaited rematch between Johny Hendricks and the man whom he defeated to earn the Welterweight tile, Robbie Lawler.

Lawler started strong with an early flurry, but seemed lost when Hendricks repeated his successful leg-kick efforts, battering the Miletich Fighting Systems veteran's lead leg with impunity. In the fourth, however, Hendricks' body began to fail him and Lawler took full advantage of the opportunity. The last minute or so of the fight saw Lawler attack with almost frightening aggression, hurling everything at the flagging champion until the bell.

This time, "Ruthless" walked away with the split decision (watch video highlights here), making a third fight between the two a top priority.

Personally, I can't wait.

2. UFC 178: "Johnson vs. Cariaso"

(Photo credit: USA Today Sports)

As much as it sucked to lose UFC 178's original main event, Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier, we still got a seriously awesome card at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sept. 27, 2014.

Admittedly, most of the "Prelims" were a bit underwhelming. There weren't any truly bad fights, save maybe Brian Ebersole vs. John Howard, but things didn't really pick up until the last under card bout, where Dominick Cruz absolutely annihilated Takeya Mizugaki.

The PPV main card delivered on every single fight.

In the first bout, Cat Zingano survived some scorching ground-and-pound from Amanda Nunes to stop the fading "Lioness" early in the third round. In the next fight, Tim Kennedy looked poised to stun Yoel Romero after being fairly well outclassed, stunning the Olympian late in the second round.

Then, the thing with the stool happened.

Once that nonsense was dealt with, Romero roared out of the gate, battering Kennedy with punches en route to becoming the first man to stop the Army Ranger in 13 years.

The Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier grudge match lasted less than two minutes before a crushing straight behind the ear sent "The Diamond" to the mat. The co-main event saw Donald Cerrone war with Eddie Alvarez in a delightfully violent fight that saw "Cowboy" weather an early assault to nearly stop Alvarez with leg kicks.

Finally, the new main event rightly received criticism for being an non-competitive match up, but at least Johnson did exactly what he needed to do and thoroughly owned Cariaso before submitting the challenger in the second round.

With Jones and Cormier, this could have been one of the best events ever. As is, it's still one of the best of 2014.

1. UFC Fight Night 55: "Rockhold vs. Bisping"


I believe the MMA fandom has a problem with conflating finishes with excitement and decisions with a lack thereof. If they needed a good argument for them, though, UFC Fight Night 55 from Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia, on Nov. 8, 2014, was it.

Every single fight on the card ended inside the distance. Only one got past the second round. There was only one fight that could really be called "underwhelming" and that was the gasfest between Soa Palelei and Walt Harris.

There were terrific knockouts, Marcus Brimage's head kick and Luis Smolka's Sweet Chin Music chief among them, and great submissions as well, especially the one-armed guillotine Luke Rockhold locked up in the main event against Michael Bisping.

Best of all, unlike many finish-filled events, it wasn't a product of mismatches - a good chunk of the winners were underdogs and several fights were very closely-contested before the finish.

It was an excellent event overall and proof that you don't need huge names for great fights.

Well done, boys.

We're over the hump -- just two more lists to go. We've been looking at fights and collections of fights, but we're going a bit more personal later this evening as we look for the best fighters of the year.

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