With a number of record-setting events and growth, 2016 was definitely a year to be remembered in the history of mixed martial arts (MMA).
The sport blasted into the mainstream like it never has before thanks in large to the never-ending media coverage granted to dual weight champion Conor McGregor, whose rivalry with Nate Diaz will most certainly go down as one of the most storied ever. And of course “The Notorious” followed up his rebound win over Diaz with a lightweight title-winning knockout of Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, so it’s tough to pick anyone but the popular Irishman; yet he also lost a fight and 2016 also featured so much more from many other fighters on the roster.
For example, Dominick Cruz came back from the worst streak of injuries the UFC has ever seen to win back his bantamweight title from T.J. Dillashaw before defending it against Dillashaw’s onetime friend and mentor Urijah Faber at UFC 199. Also at that event, Michael Bisping shocked the world with his first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold to win the middleweight title. Add that to “The Count’s” close wins over Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson, and the brash Brit is certainly a top contender.
Pound-for-pound ruler Demetrious Johnson also extended his streak of title defenses at 125 pounds by two. Welterweight champ Tyron Woodley stormed back with a first-round knockout of Robbie Lawler in July only to retain his title in a thrilling bout with Stephen Thompson at UFC 205. As for “Wonderboy,” he’s a contender for the award with three huge bouts against three champions throughout the year.
Amanda Nunes surprised everyone by destroying Miesha Tate to win the women’s 135-pound belt at UFC 200. Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic cut a quiet path of dominance through the UFC’s biggest division by knocking out Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, and Alistair Overeem for a monumental 2016.
It was an absolutely insane year for MMA in 2016, so it’s hard to pick one clear-cut winner for the best fighter. Who is your pick?