So far 2015 has featured an impressive rebound year of great fights and cards following a down year in 2014, and MMA fans everywhere have benefitted.
With today being Thanksgiving, it’s time to take a quick look back on the contests that have truly defined 2015, with some being true game-changing classics.
It’s been a great year for fights, and it’s only about to heat up even more given the UFC’s jam-packed December lineup. For now, let’s be thankful for these five great scraps of 2015.
5.) Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes – UFC 189:
There isn’t another bout that could kick off this list as effectively, as this mid-summer spectacle came together just weeks before McGregor was scheduled to face heated rival Jose Aldo for the belt. But when the longtime champ was forced out of the scrap with a rib injury, Mendes filled on short notice and did rather admirably given the circumstances.
Using his wrestling to take McGregor down as expected, ”Money” was dominating position despite eating some absolutely hellacious body shots early on. However, McGregor weathered the storm effectively, getting up to plaster Mendes with an absolutely vicious straight left to finish the fight with follow-up shots at the end of the second round. An epic interim title fight that defined the UFC’s summer, and quite possibly its buzzing featherweight division for some time to come.
4.) Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey – UFC 193:
This November 14 bout from Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, undoubtedly rearranged the women’s bantamweight landscape in the most shocking way possible.
Rousey came into the fight on a highly-publicized torrid streak of dominant wins, with her popularity at an all-time high thanks to her bad blood-fueled win over Bethe Correia at August’s UFC 190. The undefeated Holm brought none of the beef to the bout that Correia did, but ultimately she exhibited a calm confidence because apparently, she had figured out how to beat the champ.
Using a movement heavy gameplan that used her range advantage to the fullest, Holm peppered a charging Rousey with hard shots to make it look like the former champ was gassed early in the first round.
When the first minute of the second round was over, Holm was the new champ and Rousey laid flat on the canvas after one of the most brutalizing knockouts MMA has ever seen, simultaneously creating one of 2015’s most iconic moments in the process.
3.) Andrei Arlovski vs. Travis Browne – UFC 187:
This matchup between two of the heavyweight division’s most powerful sluggers may quite possibly be the greatest one-round UFC bout in history.
Former heavyweight titleholder “Pitbull” came into the fight with two wins over Brendan Schaub and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in his return to the octagon, and Browne needed to regain the momentum he had lost by exhibiting up-and-down results in his previous two fights. That resulted in both fighters laying it all on the line in a barroom brawl-inspired slugfest, with each one taking their lumps and getting dropped at one point or another.
In the end, Arlovski pulled off the huge knockout in probably the most exciting non-title fight of 2015, further etching himself into UFC history and sending Browne back down the ladder to answer the question of whether or not leaving Greg Jackson’s camp was the right decision.
2.) Daniel Cormier vs. Alexander Gustafsson – UFC 192:
This 205-pound title affair at October’s UFC 192 from Houston became the next great light heavyweight title bout to feature Swedish slugger Alexander Gustafsson. It also became the second one that he lost by disappointing split decision to the current champ.
And after an absolutely massive takedown from “DC” early, it also began like his classic UFC 165 loss to Jon Jones, with Gustafsson keeping his range to pepper the champ with a ton of shots from the outside. Cormier fought back in the clinch with some thunderous uppercuts, but it was “The Mauler” who nearly finished the fight with a game-changing knee in the third round that almost had the champ out cold.
But somehow Cormier persevered to keep the pressure on Gus in the later rounds, picking up a decision win to extend his title run and cap off an insane 2015 where he fought Jones, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, and finally Gustafsson. Good stuff, and an absolutely classic bout to be thankful for in 2015.
1.) Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald – UFC 189:
There’s not much left to say about this fight other than that it was undoubtedly the most heated, back-and-forth war of 2015, and that’s certainly saying quite a bit.
Following a packed 2013-2014 where he fought seven times in the UFC and capped it off by winning the welterweight title over Johny Hendricks at UFC 181, Lawler returned to the cage following some time off and met his toughest challenge.
The highly touted MacDonald had finally fought his way to a UFC title shot and came to fight, using his length to pepper Lawler with some extremely accurate shots early on Yet while he wasn’t landing with as much volume, Lawler made his shots count more by landing thudding one-two combinations in the second round to bust MacDonald up and create the now iconic image of “The Red King” bleeding profusely from his nose.
But rather than turtle up and accept his fate, MacDonald sucked it up and came back strong badly rocking “Ruthless” with a huge third round head kick that actually hit the champ on the back of the neck. He swarmed with a flurry of punches and elbows, but somehow Lawler survived, turning it up in the later rounds to brutally break MacDonald’s nose with one final devastating straight left in the fifth round.
By the time an exhausted MacDonald collapsed to the canvas as Lawler celebrated his epic win with a badly split lip that was literally hanging off of his face, MMA fans everywhere knew they had just witnessed one of th greatest UFC fights of all-time, and that’s truly something to be thankful for.