In one of the toughest categories of 2016, any one of the five nominees for ‘Fight of the Year’ at the Ninth Annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards could easily claim this silver statue – the standard was off the charts. To help you decide who to vote for, he’s a rundown of the action.
Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit (UFC 195)
You just can’t have a ‘Fighter of the Year’ nominations list without a Robbie Lawler fight! It was the first pay-per-view of 2016 for the UFC and even then the general consensus was Lawler vs. Condit had the makings of a classic. It was a close, back and forth affair which is still hotly debated today. While many believed Condit had done enough to get his hand raised the judges on the night scored it 47-48, 48-47, 48-47 in favor of Lawler via split decision. There was power, technique and heart on display for the full 25 minutes and ended with both men having to rest their arms on top of the cage, totally exhausted, which has become an iconic image in it’s own right. They gave everything they had that night and is rightly deserved to be in this nominations list.
Michael Bisping vs. Anderson Silva (UFC Fight Night 84)
It was a fight Michael Bisping had been chasing for year and for many it appeared to have been his ‘championship’ fight having come so close but yet so far to an actual title shot. The setting couldn’t have been better. It was at the 02 Arena in London, England, a city where both men had previously fought under the Cage Rage banner. While many predicted this to be the start of Anderson’s comeback, it was Bisping who showed the heart, character, grit and determination to come back from a third round controversial flying knee knockdown at the buzzer to regain his composure, stick to the game plan and outpoint Silva for a unanimous decision from all the 3 judges. It was, at the time, the highlight of Bisping’s career but would kick-start a 2016 title-winning campaign that would bag him a ‘Fighter of the Year’ nomination.
Michael Chandler vs. Benson Henderson (Bellator 165)
Proving that the UFC doesn’t have all the best fighters or the best fights, Bellator, a promotion with a history of classic lightweight fights, added one more to that list as well as to this year’s nominations. Reigning champion Michael Chandler against former UFC champion Benson Henderson proved to be a war that lived up to top billing. Back and forth and highly competitive, while the general feeling was that Chandler comfortably won the fight, it did go down to a split decision in his favor (48-46, 46-48, 48-47). With this win it further cemented Chandler’s legacy as a legit world-class, elite level fighter in the 155lb weight class.
Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 2 (UFC 202)
Don’t call it a comeback. He wanted the rematch at 170lb and that’s what he got. After losing to Nate Diaz via second round rear naked choke submission, Conor McGregor got revenge and tied what will no doubt at some point become a trilogy at 1-1 when he went the distance with the Stockton bad boy sealing a majority decision victory 48-47, 47-47, 48-47. The brash Irishman was quick to let his detractors know that the king was back, and was he ever. His coach, John Kavanagh’s motto is you win or you learn. Evidently McGregor learned in their first encounter and made all the right adjustments to implement a game plan and strategy which would not only win him the fight but produce a classic and highly competitive affair between two of the sports most polarizing figures.
Cub Swanson vs. Doo Ho Choi (UFC 206)
The build up was all in favor of ‘The Korean Superboy’, who was widely regarded as the hottest prospect in the UFC’s 145lb division. Cub Swanson felt as though he was the forgotten man coming into this fight. What would unravel over the course of their 15-minute battle would be a back and forth, rock em, sock em robots level of action which had everyone in their arena on their feet applauding as the result was announced. Swanson took the unanimous decision victory 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, but it was a fight where the stock of both men went up. Now forever a fight that will always been worth replaying, this was mixed martial arts at its rawest and purest.
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