The fights are done, the holidays are in full swing, and it's time to take a look back.
The 2015 combat sports campaign was a delightfully interesting year for mixed martial arts (MMA) ... for better or worse. Belts changed hands, legends fell from grace, Reebok happened and more. We've done our best to whittle things down and, as we do every year, offer our Five Top 5s, breaking down the greatest moments of the year.
We start by taking a look at the best MMA and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events of 2015.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: UFC 194, UFC 182
5. UFC on FOX 15
This card, which took place in April, started slow with a mediocre clash between Chris Dempsey and Eddie Gordon, but then it quickly found its groove. The "Prelims" undercard alone featured, among other things, Aljamain Sterling’s terrifically-slick arm-triangle against Takeya Mizugaki, Gian Villante’s comeback knockout against Corey Anderson, and Ovince St. Preux’s uppercut finish of Patrick Cummins.
Paige VanZant opened the main card by giving Felice Herrig a thorough drubbing, after which Max Holloway had himself a breakout performance by beating down and submitting Cub Swanson.
The co-main event was something of a foregone conclusion as "Jacare" Souza easily submitted Chris Camozzi for the second time, but Luke Rockhold stole the show in the main event by thrashing Lyoto Machida with startling ease.
Not a bad set of fights at all.
4. UFC on FOX 14
Not every fight was a winner (cough, cough Ryan Bader vs. Phil Davis, cough), but the card provided a goldmine of excellent moments, from Mairbek Taisumov’s savage beating of Anthony Christodoulou to Makwan Amirkhani’s eight-second thumping of Andy Ogle to Kenny Robertson’s knockout of Russian standout Sultan Aliev.
And that was all on the "Prelims" undercard.
On the main card, Sam Sicilia scored a thunderous one-punch knockout against Akira Corassani and Gegard Mousasi stopped Dan Henderson, setting the stage for Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Johnson. "Rumble," the underdog, ended the evening with a healthy dose of crushing disappointment for the Swedish fans by absolutely mauling Gustafsson for the first -- and thus far only -- knockout loss of the latter’s career.
.GIF material for days.
3. UFC 187
For a card as badly ravaged as this one to turn out so great is something of a miracle. It’s almost painful to look at the fights that could have been: Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor, Jon Jones vs. Anthony Johnson, and Donald Cerrone vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov were all booked for it at one point or another.
Alas, the injury bug and Jones’ driving are merciless.
After some fairly bog-standard "Prelims" matches, the main card began with a fun, competitive Flyweight scrap between Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga, which was immediately topped by a wild one-round brawl that saw Andrei Arlovski beat down Travis Browne.
A jaw-breaking head kick from Donald Cerrone to John Makdessi later, and it was time for the title fights.
Both Chris Weidman and Daniel Cormier showed their mettle by withstanding early rushes from Vitor Belfort and Anthony Johnson, respectively. Weidman pounded out Belfort late in the first round, while Cormier broke down Johnson before ultimately submitting him in the third.
UFC matchmaking may leave a lot to be desired at times, but the promotion made the most of a bad situation here.
2. UFC Fight Night 68
Finishes aren’t everything, but they sure are nice. None of the final eight fights went the distance and only one of those made it past two rounds.
The best part is that none of these finishes were a product of mismatches -- the biggest favorite on the entire card, Ricardo Abreu, was only at -200 when I wrote my article. Francisco Rivera, Anthony Birchak, Dustin Poirier and Dan Henderson all scored brutal one-round knockouts, while Ben Rothwell choked out Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan scored, crazily, a hook kick knockout of Derrick Lewis.
We even got to see one of the year’s best fights when Brian Ortega duked it out with Thiago Tavares, ultimately stopping him in the final minute of the fight with ground-and-pound.
It’s amazing what good matchmaking and game fighters can do.
1. UFC 189
Like this wasn’t going to be No. 1? The main card alone had two flying knee knockouts and the best fight of the year before the main event even happened.
The "Prelims" undercard featured some decent bouts, but didn’t really get into gear until the final fight on Fox Sports 1, an absolutely brutal one-round war between Matt Brown and Tim Means that saw each man rock the other before Brown forced the tap with a textbook Marcelotine.
The pay-per-view (PPV) main card was nothing short of spectacular. Thomas Almeida and Brad Pickett put on a striking display for the ages in the opening bout until the young Brazilian demolished "One Punch" with a flying knee. In the second bout, Gunnar Nelson showcased the variety in his game as he dropped vaunted striker Brandon Thatch before tapping him out with a rear-naked choke.
After that, Jeremy Stephens and Dennis Bermudez kept the momentum up with a three-round, back-and-forth battle that saw "Little Heathen" score the first technical knockout stoppage of Bermudez’s career with a jumping knee to the face.
And that was all before the title fights.
Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald went to absolute war in the co-main event ... and I mean "WAR." In an age where the term is grievously overused, the two showed just what it means to put everything on the line over five stupendously brutal rounds.
The card was so good that Conor McGregor stopping Chad Mendes for the interim Featherweight title was an anticlimax.
MMA just doesn’t get any better than that, Maniacs.
Next up: "The Best Submissions of the Year." Stop by in two hours, Maniacs, and have yourselves a lovely holiday.
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