The UFC year in review: Part One

Championship titles changed hands nine times over 2016 (so far)

BY Simon Maguire 13:32 Saturday 24 December 2016, 13:32 24 Dec 2016

Conor McGregor dejected after losing his fight to Nate Diaz. Image: ©INPHO/Raymond Spencer

It has been a bumper 2016 so far for the UFC, with championship titles changing hands nine times in the year to date.

The promotion's year will culminate with the return of Ronda Rousey at UFC 207 when she faces Amanda Nunes for the women's bantamweight title. Dominick Cruz defends his bantamweight title against Cody Garbrandt in the co-main event in Las Vegas on the 30th December.

We look at how the year panned out for some of the sport's biggest names:

 

January

Fight of the month

The first major event of 2016 saw welterweight champion Robbie Lawler put his belt on the line against Carlos Condit. "The Natural Born Killer" took the fight to the champion from the outset, and despite having landed more strikes by quite some distance, Lawler eeked out a split- decision win.

Image: John Locher AP/Press Association Images

Biggest talking points

The bout between former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and TJ Dillashaw - for the title - made headlines. Cruz has previously been stripped of the belt through injury and had only fought once since 2011, but went toe-to-toe with Dillashaw and took a split decision to regain his place at the top of the division. 

Eddie Alvarez set up a title shot at lightweight after overcoming Anthony Pettis via split decision after wrestling the kickboxer consistently throughout, on his way to an even bigger profile fight towards the end of the year.

Best knockout

Heavyweight Stipe Miocic knocked out former champion Andrei Arlovski to become the number one contender.

 

February

Fight of the month

England's Michael Bisping set up an impressive 2016 beating Anderson Silva by unanimous decision in London.

Biggest talking points

Rafael Dos Anjos broke his foot in training two weeks out from his champion-versus-champion super fight with Conor McGregor - Nate Diaz eventually stepped in, but McGregor's vision of becoming a two-weight world champion would have to wait.

Best knockout

The month began with Stephen "Wonder Boy" Thompson stopping Johny Hendricks early in the first round, as he steamed towards an eventual title fight.

 

March

Fight of the month

After Rafael dos Anjos dropped out, Conor McGregor opened up the path for a number of challengers to step forward and take on the Irishman, with the promise of changing their "bum life" with a big pay cheque.

To save the PPV event, Nate Diaz stepped in and the two met at the welterweight limit of 170 lbs. The Irishman attacked Diaz from the outset and dominated the first round, only to gas out in the second and lose via submission to the Jiu Jitsu black-belt. 

Nate Diaz in action against Conor McGregor
Image: ©INPHO/Raymond Spencer

 

Biggest talking points

McGregor's loss was one thing, but Miesha Tate also submitted Holly Holm in the co-main event to become women's bantamweight champion. After Rousey had dominated for so long, the title began to look more achievable for the contenders in the division.

Best knockout

Mark Hunt knocked out Frank Mir later in the month, the aftermath of which was captured in this well-timed shot.

Mark Hunt celebrates knocking out Frank Mir
Image: ©INPHO/Photosport/Patrick Hamilton

April

Fight of the month

Jon Jones returned to the Octagon and beat Ovince Saint Preux to become interim light-heavyweight champion.

Biggest talking point

The UFC was thrown into chaos when McGregor announced his shock but brief retirement from the sport after falling out with the company over his media obligations.

The Irishman argued he was paid to fight, and flying to America for press conferences - disrupting his training in Iceland - was interfering with his preparations.

After a public "civil war" (as he called it) with the UFC, McGregor was eventually pulled from the flagship UFC 200 event where he was due to have a rematch with Diaz. 

Best knockout

Glover Teixeira stopped Rashed Evans in Florida in the first round with an impressive knockout blow.

 

May

Fight of the month

Cris "Cyborg" Justino made her long-awaited debut in the octagon (but at a catch-weight of 140lbs) stopping Leslie Smith in the first round.

Biggest talking points

A new heavyweight champion was crowned when Stiope Miocic dethroned Fabricio Werdum via a first round stoppage at UFC 198 in Brazil. 

Best knockout

Cody Garbrandt made some waves in the bantamweight division, stopping Thomas Almeida in the opening round of their fight at the end of the month.

 

June

Fight of the month

Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz settled their rivalry, with Cruz coasting to a unanimous decision in their rubber match to retain his bantamweight title. 

Biggest talking points

There were plenty of exciting fights, as Stephen Thompson went to Rory MacDonald's Canadian stronghold and outclassed him to win a unanimous decision and secure a welterweight title fight.  

However, perhaps the biggest talking point was when respected MMA journalist Ariel Helwani was temporarily banned from all future UFC events for breaking the news that Brock Lesnar was due to fight on UFC 200 - before the promotion had announced it. Helwani's ban was lifted shortly after a huge media backlash against the company.

Best knockout

UFC 199 saw one of the biggest shocks of the year when Michael Bisping knocked-out Luke Rochold to become middleweight champion. 

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