It takes a true warrior to strike back when the chips are down and find triumph in the face of adversity, but thankfully in MMA we are spoilt with such stories almost on a monthly basis. That’s why shortlisting 2016’s best ‘Comeback of the Year’ nominees was so tough. Here’s a reminder of why we choose the final five.
Michael Bisping (vs. Anderson Silva, UFC Fight Night 84)
‘The Count’ started the greatest year of his career with an absurd come-from-behind victory over the GOAT, Anderson Silva. At the end of the third round, right at the buzzer, the Brazilian landed a flying knee which knocked Bisping out! Yet while Silva climbed atop of the cage to celebrate, referee Herb Dean was trying to get the fourth round going, the knee landed after the buzzer, the fight was not over! Bisping, picked up by coach Jason Parillo, rallied, dug deep and some how won the fourth round en route to a dramatic but deserved unanimous decision points win.
Nate Diaz (vs. Conor McGregor, UFC 196)
Busted open and bleeding profusely, Conor McGregor couldn’t have started the first fight with Nate Diaz any better, lighting up Stockton’s favourite son with some clinical boxing. But Diaz was far from done and when the featherweight champion started to tire from loading up throughout the first five minutes, Diaz rallied back. His own boxing took over in the second round and when McGregor desperately dove for a takedown, he entered Nate’s world. By mounting McGregor, he eventually took his back and slapped on the rear naked choke handing the Irishman his first loss in the UFC. Were you surprised?
Dan Henderson (vs. Hector Lombard, UFC 199)
The first round had Henderson almost knocking out by Hector Lombard to then almost being knocked out and submitted himself. This was about as back and forth of a fight you’re likely to see. Later in the fight, Henderson cracked Lombard’s head and when the Cuban went for a takedown, Henderson transitioned into a takedown of his own and then drove his skull into Lombard’s knocking him out and then followed up with a forearm to the face just for good measure before the referee called it off. Old man Hendo proved his still had it!
Miesha Tate (vs. Holly Holm, UFC 196)
UFC 196 comes up again on this year’s nominations shortlist with a great example of a submission when you need it the most – when the stakes couldn’t be higher. Miesha Tate was challenging then bantamweight champion Holly Holm for the title and to say the fight wasn’t going her way would be a massive understatement. Holm was on cruise control for the first four rounds and was just minutes away from retaining he belt she took form Ronda Rousey. But, out of nowhere, Tate was able to slap on a rear naked choke at the 3:30 mark of the fifth round, forcing Holm to go to sleep. After numerous failed attempts Tate was finally the UFC women’s 135lb champion.
Dominick Cruz (career)
Following multiple ACL injuries and subsequent rehabs, Dominick Cruz literally spent years away from the sport. But 2016 finally marked the return of ‘The Dominator’. He started the year by reclaiming the UFC bantamweight championship from TJ Dillashaw at UFC 199 with a slick unanimous decision. He then ended a trilogy a decade in the making by defending his UFC bantamweight champion against Urijah Faber for a second time, winning once again by decision. And although his year ended with a loss to Cody Garbrandt, the fact Cruz managed to compete in three title fights inside 12 months is remarkable.
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