2016 was one of the biggest years in UFC history. Throughout the year, the company played host to some of the best fights to hit our screens, as well as put on some of the biggest and baddest fight cards the sport has ever seen.
Voting for Champions Fight of the Year was no easy task, with so many contenders for the crown. Even at the tail end of the year, the promotion was providing some of the most enthralling fights we’d ever seen.
In a featherweight bout at UFC 206, Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi went through an absolute war against one another that saw Swanson coming out as the decision winner. Further showing that the smaller guys could throw down, the dethroning of the dominant Dominick Cruz by the underdog Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207 was another amazing fight. At UFC 199, we were treated to Reyes and Kim going toe to toe in a brutal fight that saw each man engage in a wild brawl, with Reyes eventually stopping Kim in the third.
- Carlos Condit vs. Robbie Lawler
- Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi
- T.J. Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz
- Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2
- Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha 2
- Michael Chandler vs. Benson Henderson
- Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson
However, when you include the narrative around a fight, the press coverage, what’s at stake and a rivalry in the vein of Batman vs. Joker, there was only ever going to be one winner for Champions Fight of the Year.
Winner: Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 2
The surrounding context to the second fight between Diaz and McGregor was like something from a Hollywood blockbuster. McGregor had finally tasted defeat for the first time in the UFC, blemishing his untouchable aura.
Avenging his loss was his only focus, and we watched him drop everything, including movie roles, to prepare for the rematch. The Irishman was adamant that he could defeat the Stockton native at 170lbs, and their rivalry provided iconic moments throughout the buildup to UFC 202, including the infamous bottle throwing press conference.
Conor McGregor entered the rematch prepared for a five round war. Utilizing his leg kicks against the taller Diaz proved to be a key strategy. Conor fought intelligently throughout the fight, not rushing in to capitalize on the ground when “The Notorious” one dropped the Californian to the mat on various occasions.
However, it wasn’t an entire one way street. Nate Diaz looked like he could go all day without tiring, and in the fourth round, he almost finished the fight. Forcing Conor up against the cage, the Irishman endured a barrage of punches, as one landed after another, making every MMA fan in Ireland cover their eyes. However, just when all seemed lost the Dublin man finally escaped.
At the death of the fifth and final round, Diaz scored his only takedown of the fight, but it was too little too late. McGregor ran out a split decision winner, paving the way for his history making fight with Eddie Alvarez at the NYC debut of the UFC. Add into the mix that the UFC had just been sold for $4 billion, and one of their biggest star had just come back to win two of the biggest fights in his career while making history in the process, and Diaz vs. McGregor 2 is without a doubt the most important and iconic fight of the year.
Runner-Up: Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit
Robbie Lawler has garnered a reputation for putting on some of the most vicious fights we’ve seen inside the Octagon, and at UFC 195 he did just that. Putting on a fight of the year contender and also round of the year for 2016, Lawler and Condit battled through an exhausting and violent five rounds, as the two warriors beat the living hell out of one another.
Lawler looked to land the more devastating of the exchanges, arguably best seen in the second round when he dropped Condit in brutal fashion. Although Condit outlanded Lawler in every round of the title fight, including a massive 22 to 11 in the third, it was the champion who ran out the winner. The fifth and final round saw Lawler continuously push forward, nearly erasing all the work that Condit had put in the prior 20 minutes. Each man ate massive blows, but it was “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler that retained his title. An argument can made for both men as to who won, but really it was the fans who won.
Original article from Champions.co written by Scott McCann for Creators.co