UFC fans around the world should be smiling, as two HUGE fights have just been announced in the last two days. UFC 209, March 4th in Vegas, will be an early favorite for Card of The Year. With an incredible heavyweight bout already scheduled, Mark Hunt & Alistair Overeem, these two new additions have sent this card over the top.
The rematch that everyone knew was a must book for the UFC, Woodley vs. Thompson, was announced by the Champ Tyron Woodley on his podcast, and this is gonna be huge. Tyron had tried to avoid the rematch, looking for a “bigger money fight” and claiming that since he’s the champ he can choose to fight or not to fight anyone, but when push came to shove, he and Dana White knew this was the fight to make. The first fight between these two warriors was absolutely epic, a 5-round thriller, that ended in a draw, which allowed Woodley to retain his belt. In Woodley’s mind, he won the fight, and it’s hard to argue against it if you watched the whole fight, but there was one thing everyone knew after the fight – we need to see that one again. Wonderboy faced his toughest opponent ever that night, and showed heart and battled back from some serious damage. Woodley has the ground game advantage as we know, with his incredible wrestling background, but Wonderboy proved that he could survive on the ground with The Champ. Now, the rematch may go the exact same way and we may see Woodley make another title defense, and finally move on from Wonderboy, but I expect Thompson to be back stronger than ever and hope he can pull off the win, perhaps leading to a trilogy fight sometime later in 2017? I hope so.
Next, the fight that every single fight fan on earth wants to see, Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov. These two have been clear about their desire to fight one another, but the terms have led to some serious stress, with Khabib being perceived as the bigger money draw, he was set to make about 200k more than Tony, but we saw Khabib tweet Tony last week saying that he would even pay Tony the 200k difference out of his pocket, just to make this fight. Khabib is adamant on fighting the best of the best, and providing fans with the fights that they want, and there’s not a UFC fan on the planet who can say they don’t want to see this fight. This fight will produce the TRUE #1 Contender for Conor’s Lightweight Belt, and with this fight landing in early March, and Conor set to return sometime this summer, I’m hopeful that it will be a smooth transition from the winner of this fight being Conor’s first 155 title defense. Tony and Khabib both have it all, and both will prove to serious challenges for Conor. Khabib is (in my opinion) the best wrestler in all the UFC, with a strong stand-up game to match it. But I think the edge goes to Tony in the stand-up, and as a brown belt in jiu-jitsu under the G.O.A.T Eddie Bravo and 10th Planet, he is no joke on the ground. Both of these men have battled their share of injuries that have delayed them in getting the title shots they deserve, but this fight will truly be epic. Tony can take a ton of damage, and will keep on coming, and Khabib will love every bit of that. I couldn’t be more excited that these two savages were able to finally make this fight happen, and although the contracts have not officially been signed yet, I don’t see how this fight doesn’t happen, and I know Conor McGregor will be watching this one very, very closely.
As the New Year rolls around, let's take a look back at the incredible 2016 that the UFC, and some of its biggest fighters had. Today's blog will be the first ever HCSN MMA Awards, where I will give you my winners, and why, for a few of the biggest awards in MMA; that is: Knockout of the year, Submission of the year, Fight of the year, and finally Fighter of the year.
Let’s start out with bang, and discuss the Knockout of the year.
My winner: Conor McGregor 2nd Round TKO of Eddie Alvarez
Conor McGregor had himself quite the 2016, as he started and ended on the same note, with a shiny new belt. He suffered his first UFC loss in 2016, when he was choked out in the second round by Nate Diaz, but if you ask me that loss was huge for Conor’s career moving forward because it made him step back, readjust, and come back stronger. He handled his defeat the same way he does his victories, humbly, and he was able to avenge that loss when he and Nate ran it back at UFC 202. What makes his TKO of Eddie Alvarez the KO of the year for me, is that not only did it get him his second UFC Championship, but also the way he won that fight. Eddie Alvarez could, and should have beaten Conor McGregor, and all it would have taken was him sticking to his initial game plan of wrestling and wearing Conor down. But what we saw, just like we have seen so many other times in Conor’s fights, is an opponent so hell-bent on shutting Conor up, and making him eat his words, that they try to stand and trade blows with him, a game that they will never win. Conor proved to us all once again that no matter what, we cannot count him out, and he will make good on his promises if you are stupid enough to let him.
Next, let’s take a look at the Submission of the year.
My winner: Miesha Tate Def. Holly Holm via Rear-Naked Choke
Miesha Tate has spent almost her entire MMA career in the shadow of Ronda Rousey, but when Holly Holm KO’ed Ronda, Miesha’s stars finally began to align, as she would be the first choice to take on Holly in her first title defense. Going into the 5th and final round, Holly Holm was just minutes away from her first successful title defense, make no mistake about it. But something deep inside Miesha Tate drove her to keep on going, and with 2 minutes left in the round, Miesha once again took Holly to the ground, working relentlessly until everything seemed to fall into place for her, and she was able to take Holly’s back and lock in the RNC. Miesha Tate became the first UFC title challenger in the organizations history to go into a final Championship round, losing on the scorecards, and finish the champ in the 5th round. While the rest of 2016 did not prove to be Miesha’s year, after she suffered a loss to Amanda Nunes in her first title defense fight, and then to Raquel Pennington just a few months ago, and Miesha has since announced her retirement from the sport, but no one, and no loss can take away from her heart and the will to be a champ that she showed at UFC 196.
2016 had its fair share of incredible fights, from January to December there are candidates, and truth be told this was probably my hardest choice, but I went with one of the underdogs.
My winner: Cub Swanson def. Doo Ho Choi (via unanimous decision)
I was fortunate enough to have watched all of the top candidates Fight of the year live, from Lawler vs. Condit, to Diaz vs. McGregor 1 & 2, but for me, Swanson vs. Choi was probably the greatest fight I have ever seen. That opinion may not be the most popular, but from the opening moments of the fight to the very last seconds, I couldn’t sit down. Doo Ho Choi is a future superstar in the UFC, but Cub Swanson proved to the entire world that he’s not done yet. Choi’s power was well documented heading into their UFC 206 bout, but it was his chin that proved to be the most dangerous part of his body. Cub Swanson hit Choi with big shot after big shot, rattling his brain in ways that I could never imagine, but yet Choi continued to press forward, throwing bomb after bomb himself. The second round of this fight is personally hands down the best round I have ever seen. Both men had each other just seconds away from unconsciousness, yet neither would fall. If you still have not watched that fight, I beg of you to do so.
This last award was one that I struggled with the most, because there were so many fighters who had themselves and incredible 2016 and could make a case for this award. But in the end, I must give credit where credit is due.
My winner: Cody Garbrandt
This award easily could have gone to Conor McGregor, for avenging his first loss and securing a second world championship; or Stipe Miocic, who started and ended his 2016 with first round Knockouts, adding a world championship in the middle, ruining Fabricio Werdum’s Brazil homecoming; and lastly, Amanda Nunes, who showed the world that not only is the Ronda Rousey-era over, but that there is a new Queen in town.
But after his UFC 207 performance, Cody Garbrandt has stolen the show. Cody came into 2016 relatively unknown, a Team Alpha Male prospect who made noise by getting in Conor McGregor’s face on the Ultimate Fighter, before making even more noise inside the octagon. Before his UFC 207 title winning performance, Cody had 3 fights in 2016, none of which made it out of the first round. Cody’s power is undeniable, and we all knew that, but what he showed against Dominick Cruz, one of the greatest MMA fighters ever, was pure brilliance. His footwork and head movement made it virtually impossible for Cruz to land any real big shots, while Cody just toyed with him, landing bomb after bomb. What’s next for Cody is likely either a rematch with Cruz or a title defense against TJ Dillashaw, both fights that if Cody can once again dominate in the fashion that he has, could land him very high up on the UFC’s Pound-for-Pound best fighters list. There has also been rumors of Cody looking to jump up to 150 and fight Conor in a catchweight bout, but at this point, he’s gotta take a number and get in line, because every single fighter on the roster wants a piece of Conor and his big-money-fights. The sky is truly the limit for Cody at this point, sitting 11-0 with 9 KO’s, 7(!!!!) of which have come in the first round. I personally doubted Cody, thinking he was nothing but big bombs, expecting him to gas out or be caught late in the fight by Dominick, but he absolutely proved me wrong.
2016 was in my opinion the biggest and greatest year in the UFC’s history, and I am very excited to see what 2017 has in store.
PS – Feel free to drop a comment on who you thought should have/could have won any of these awards. I am just thankful there were so many incredible fights/fighters/finishes this past year that we can even have a discussion about each one.