clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Best UFC/MMA fights of 2015, a Top 5 list

New, comments
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

End of the line, Maniacs.

After a fun-filled Christmas, we've reached the final installment of MMAmania.com's "Top 5s of 2015," our retrospective of this year in fighting. We've seen the best eventssubmissionsfighters, and knockouts. Now, we look at the fights.

No point in putting things off. Let's dig in:

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jon delos Reyes vs. Roldan Sangcha-an, Jeremy Stephens vs. Dennis Bermudez, Justin Gaethje vs. Luis Palomino

5. Brian Ortega vs. Thiago Tavares

(Photo credit: USA Today)

Ortega, who entered UFC as the RFA Featherweight Champion and began his career in the organization by choking out Mike de la Torre, but lost some luster when he tested positive for drostanolone. He’d been out of the cage for 10 months when he took on Thiago Tavares, an incredibly skilled grappler in his own right who figured to be a tough test for "T-City."

He was, but Ortega passed.

Ortega began the fight content to work from the bottom against his fellow black belt, a decision which paid early dividends as he cut Tavares open with an elbow and repeatedly threatened with armbars. He even managed to sweep into mount at one point, but as the fight progressed, the badly-bleeding Tavares found more and more success chipping away at him from guard despite sporting multiple gruesome cuts.

With both men fading, the third was contested almost entirely on the feet as they traded heavy punches. Just before the final minute, Tavares’ chin betrayed him and a 2-3 sent him to the mat, where Ortega quickly moved to mount and pounded him out.

4. L.C. Davis vs. Hideo Tokoro

"Game" is a horribly over- and mis-used term in MMA. Too often, it’s applied to the likes of Diego Sanchez, trying and failing to make up for heinously bad striking technique by striking a lot. Hideo Tokoro is game like few others in the sport, a 15-year veteran who has duked it out with multiple generations of elite Bantamweight and Featherweight fighters. His submission-before-position grappling has led to a lot of losses, but it’s also made him a beloved figure among those who know him.

Though he came up short against Davis, who put forth an admirable effort in his own right, he certainly demonstrated the reason(s) he’s such a fan-favorite.

The fight was a lovely cavalcade of great scrambles, wild striking, and brutal submission attempts. Davis controlled the early portion of the fight with effective left hands, avoiding the Japanese veteran’s leglocks but suffering a pair of flash knockdowns late in the first. In the second round, he floored Tokoro twice in return, only for the latter to immediately go back to hunting submissions.

The third round was one of the best of the year. Tokoro scored yet another knockdown in the opening moments and, save for a brief pause when an upkick was incorrectly deemed illegal, the pace never let up. Amid some insane scrambles, both men came achingly close with submission attempts, Tokoro with a nasty kimura that slipped from his grip and Davis with a guillotine he couldn’t quite finish before the bell.

Davis ultimately took the split decision, but neither man’s stock dropped here. It was truly a terrific effort by both fighters.

3. Thomas Almeida vs. Brad Pickett

This was just a terrific, back-and-forth striking battle that forced both men to dig deep. Just a great, great fight.

I have given Pickett grief for his predictable striking in the past, but his peekaboo boxing was absolutely on point as he tore into Almeida with punches, exploiting the young Brazilian’s upright stance. He repeatedly tagged him with left hooks as they exchanged and even managed to score a knockdown with one, then sent him down immediately after with a flush knee.

There’s a reason, however, why dipping down isn’t always wise when strikes other than punches are involved. Almeida dropped him with a standing elbow and, for the rest of the round, looked to catch "One Punch" with a knee as he stepped in.

He found his mark early in the second with a gorgeous flying knee, scoring the first knockout of Pickett’s career in the process.

It’s always fun to see a clash of striking styles, especially when they end like this.

2. Andrei Arlovski vs. Travis Browne / John Lineker vs. Francisco Rivera

Technical fights are fun, but nothing riles you up quite like a brawl. Despite neither fight lasting more than a round, they crammed in an unreasonable amount of action into too little time. I simply couldn’t decide, and considering how many great fights deserve attention, I figured a tie was warranted.

In a vintage performance, Andrei Arlovski slammed right hand after right hand into Travis Browne’s iron head, showing no regard for his own infamous chin. He connected with counters, backhands, everything in the books, wobbling and dropping the Hawaiian over and over. As he tried to finish him off, however, Browne came back with a monster right that sent Arlovski to the floor.

"The Pitbull" would not be denied, and returned to his feet to smash Browne with an uppercut and straight right for the technical knockout finish.

Lineker vs. Rivera didn’t have that kind of momentum shift, but that’s only because they just didn’t have time. The two bantamweights blasted the absolute hell out of each other for two minutes and eight seconds with nary a moment of peace. Rivera’s plan to force a technical fight with Lineker broke down almost immediately and they simply traded massive punches until Lineker capitalized on a desperate shot to lock up a guillotine for the finish.

What makes this fight so crazy is that both Lineker and Rivera throw the kinds of punches that set off car alarms in the parking lot and yet neither went to sleep. Lineker in particular shrugged off some right hands that by all rights should have taken his head clean off and sent it careening at lethal speed into an unfortunate audience member.

There’s a reason this immensely-frustrating brawler is one of my favorite guys to watch in the sport.

1. Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald 2

(Photo credit: USA Today)

Was there ever any doubt that this would top the list? We’ve gone over this amazing fight before and it hasn’t lost anything with age. These men are warriors in every sense of the word and we could not have asked for a better 21 minutes of action.

No matter what happens for the rest of their careers, nothing can take this away from them. They’ll be part of MMA history for ages to come.

2015 was certainly one for the ages. And 2016 looks like it's got the goods to top it.

Have yourselves some happy holidays, Maniacs!