MMA IN 2015
Another year, another bunch of great fights, another load of behind the scenes weirdness and our favorite fighters disappointing us with their out of ring antics. But that’s MMA for ya.
This was the year of damaged legacies and rising legends.
Anderson Silva, the G.O.A.T, came back, looked okay, picked up a win for himself. Then failed a drug test for three different banned substances. His excuse? Tainted Viagra.
Fedor Emelianenko, the other considered greatest of all time, threatened to make his return. Did he sign with the UFC and test himself against some of the other similarly aged yet still very dangerous heavyweights? No, he’s heading to Japan to fight a nobody for an easy paycheck.
Jon Jones had been putting together the greatest career ever seen inside the octagon. His record is a list of legends and champions, all of whom he beat easily. Shogun, Rampage, Machida, Rashad Evans, Belfort, and it just goes on. He was racking up title defences, looking to break all records, and after fairly easily dispatching his “greatest challenge” in Daniel Cormier earlier this year, cementing his legacy as the true greatest ever. Then he hit a pregnant woman’s car with his own and fled the scene, only to come back to grab his drugs, and then flee again. This was not the first example of Jones’ unruly behaviour and here he had blown his last chance. He was stripped of his title. And all those records he was close to breaking, they now seem a long way off.
But as far as legends surrounding certain fighters go, no one’s took a bigger hit in 2015 than Ronda Rowdy Rousey’s. But at least this was through no real fault of her own. Except perhaps believing her own hype.
Ronda’s first fight in her pro career took 25 seconds. 49 for her second. 25 for her third. 39 for her fourth. This was a chick who was just running through everyone. She had her judo and she had her armbar submission and no one could stop it. In her first eight fights, in which she became the Strikeforce champion and the UFC champion, she finished all of them with arm bars. And all but one inside the first round. There was no doubt about it, she was a beast. She was so dominant that we all overlooked that her stand up skills, which she seemed to think were top notch, were weak. She would rush forward with little head movement and wildly throw. The result? She started knocking people out cold. Maybe we were wrong… maybe her stand up skills were good, despite looking awkward and amateurish. Everyone in the world started falling over themselves to call her the most dominant athlete on the planet. The best ever. If we all believed it, why wouldn’t she?
While all this was happening one of the most decorated female boxers to ever compete was beginning a career in MMA. Her name was Holly Holm and her stand up skills were formidable. But as a boxer she’d have no ground game. No defence against an armbar, right?. So she had her first fight, scored herself a TKO via leg kicks. Second fight, body kick. Third fight, punches. Fourth fight she turns a chick’s lights out with a blistering head kick. This woman finishes fights. People start saying maybe she’s the one to dethrone Rousey. Hell, I said it. I was hyping her up to anyone who would listen. And then she joined the UFC. Her first fight with the promotion is a dull split decision victory. The second is a bit better but hardly the performance expected from the once believed legend killer. The hype on Holm dies down. Against tougher competition she doesn’t look anywhere near as formidable as she once did. Rousey would dump her on her head and snap her arm off.
So who do they put her up against next? Yep, Ronda Rousey. Nobody wanted this fight. Holly’s last two fights combined for 30 minutes of somewhat tentative action. Ronda’s last three fights combined for one minute and four seconds of domination. Then it started and it was clear who the better fighter was. Ronda’s stand up was as bad as we all thought it was. This was just the first time she was going up against a fighter who knew what to do with it. Ronda tried to use her judo. Holly knew how to counter. Ronda came forward, Holly landed a punch. Ronda shot for a takedown, Holly circled and landed two punches. And that fearsome armbar? Not a factor if Ronda can’t touch Holy let alone lock in a sub. Early in the second round it was clear Ronda was done, and then Holly put a stamp on it with one of the best head kick’s you will ever see and it was over. The legend was dead. The most dominant fighter on the planet was dominated. Holly Holm is the new UFC women’s Bantamweight champ. And a new legend was born.
Conor Mcgregor, already a legend in his own mind, did a similar thing as Holm when he knocked out Chad Mendes to become interim champ, and then went on to knock out the widely believed pound for pound great Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. Before 2015 he had his doubters. He doesn’t have so many anymore. There is no star in sports like this guy. He’s brash, cocky, funny, intelligent, and backs up every single thing that he says. Expect 2016 to be all about this dude.
Right, on to the best of’s…
Debut of the Year
Everyone is talking about Sage Northcutt, the insanely jacked 19 year old who can bend a frying pan with his bare hands, and you know what, he deserves to be talked about. He’s likable, if a little vanilla, and he’s got talent.
But for me the newcomer that most impressed was Amirkhani. He fought twice this year and got finishes in both. He’s got vicious knees, as evidenced in the video above, and a great ground game. I see him doing big things next year.
Comeback of the Year
Uriah Hall v Gegard Mousasi
If you are a Uriah Hall fan then the first round of his fight against Mousasi would not have been pleasant viewing. He was taken down instantly and just man handled. He amounted almost zero offence and had no way of getting back to work.
But all rounds start on the feet and Hall took advantage of that, landing an awesome spinning back kick and following it up with a flying knee. He was on the wrong side of an arguable 10-8 round and then came back with an impressive finish. Great comeback.
Submission of the Year
Ronda Rousey v Cat Zingano
So this is why you don’t run straight at a judo specialist. You will get thrown and then locked into one of the weirder armbars I’ve ever seen. Slick move though.
Knockout of the Year
So this proved impossible for me to decide. So how about I post a bunch and let you make up your own mind.
Stephen Thompson v Jake Ellenberger
Second time in that round he’d knocked him down with a spinning kick. Beautiful.
Thomas Almeida v Brad Pickett
Pickett put on a show in the first round in a thrilling back and forth war. Then in the second Almeida landed the bomb.
Paul Felder v Danny Castillo
Sorry about the video. But damn!
Conor McGregor v Jose Aldo
That’s just something that no one thought was possible. The build up to this fight felt like an eternity. The fight itself was blink and you missed it. Insane.
Holly Holm v Ronda Rousey
Oh… yeah, this wins.
Fighter of the Year
Who else was it going to be? The man has brought more eyes to sport than ever before. A future icon.
Come back shortly for the run down of the top fights of the year.