The 2016 UFC calendar year delivered 40 entertaining, action-packed fight cards, and with the 12 months of scraps now in our rear view, I’m going to take a moment to reflect on my top 10 favorites of the year. These are all my opinion, so feel free to voice your own in the comments below. 10) Yair Rodriguez vs Alex Caceres (UFC Fight Night 92, Aug. 6) This was a very fun fight in the UFC’s featherweight division that saw Rodriguez and Caceres main event a UFC card for the first time. Rodriguez was heavily favored at the sportsbooks heading in, but Caceres put up a great fight, taking the undeafeted Mexican to the judges’ scorecards, where Rodriguez took home a split decision victory. Many expected Rodriguez to make short work of the vetern Caceres in this contest, but “Bruce Leeroy” surprised many with his performance and came an inch close of victory in what was one of the best fights of the year. 9) Anthony Pettis vs Charles Oliveira (UFC on FOX 21, Aug. 27) “Showtime” made his 145-pound debut in this contest and nearly finished Oliveira with a body kick and follow up strikes in the opening stanza, however the Brazilian survived and turned it on in the second round. It was one round a piece heading into the third, where it appeared that the tides are turning, as Oliveira was the fresher fighter heading into the third and final round of action. Pettis gave it his all, though, and ended up catching Oliveira in a tight guillotine choke submission, forcing a tap and snapping a three fight skid with his first and only victory in the UFC’s featherweight division. He followed that bout with a third round TKO loss to Max Holloway at UFC 206 in a failed bid for the UFC’s interim-featherweight title, and following the loss he announced his plans to move back up to the lightweight division, where he once was Champion. 8) Michael Bisping vs Anderson Silva (UFC Fight Night 84, Feb. 27) A lot of controversy came with this bout, as many felt Silva should have been declared a winner by knockout when he hurt Bisping at the closing of the third round. Nontheless, these veteran middleweights went to war for five rounds, and Bisping walked away with a unanimous decision victory on the judges’ scorecards. It was a very entertaining five round battle in Manchester that saw both Bisping and Silva have their moments. This is a fight Bisping had always been wanting, and it was something special to see him not only get it, but also get his hand raised. Even though I lost money betting against on Silva, I was able to appreciate this moment for the Brit, who went on to challenge Luke Rockhold on short notice at UFC 199 and defeated him via first round knockout to become the new UFC Middleweight Champion. 7) Dan Henderson vs Hector Lombard (UFC 199, June 4) Lombard had Henderson hurt early in this contest, but Hendo survived the early onslaught to come back and knock Lombard out in highlight reel fashion in the second round. This was such a great fight that it took away the sting the money I lost on Lombard would have made. Henderson gave a great speech after the fight and said it could be his last. However, after Michael Bisping shocked the world and defeated Luke Rockhold to become the UFC middleweight champ later that night, Henderson changed his tune and wanted a title shot for his swan song. Knowing he had a memorable win over Bisping, he knew it was a likely possibility. It is also worth noting that I was live in attendance for this one. 6) Gian Villante vs Saparbek Safarov (UFC Fight Night 102, Dec. 9) What a fun fight in the UFC’s light heavyweight division! This bout was pure fireworks and earned ‘Fight of the Night’ honors on a card that had other serious contenders. Both Villante and Safarov landed a great amount of significant strikes in this contest, both fighters nearly putting the other away on a number of occasions, until Villante finally managed to get the job done halfway into the second stanza. This was truly an entertaining scrap and many called it the best light heavyweight fight in the UFC in a long time. 5) Michael Bisping vs Dan Henderson II (UFC 204, Oct. 8) Bisping defeated Henderson via unanimous decision after five incredible rounds of main event action to successfully make his first UFC middleweight title defense. The Brit wanted to knock Henderson out and get revenge for the brutal knockout he suffered at UFC 200, but he was the only who ended up nearly getting knocked out again. After surviving trouble a number of times, Bisping managed to get the better of Henderson on the feet, outstriking him en route to a unanimous decision won on the cards. It may not have been the way Bisping wanted to win this fight, but it was a spectacular bout and a great one for Hendo to go out on, despite coming out a hair short of victory. 4) Robbie Lawler vs Carlos Condit (UFC 195, Jan. 2) For most, this was the number one pick of the year. I think that maybe you could make an argument that the fifth round is the round of the year, and I don’t think it is, but I don’t think that this fight, as a whole, was the most entertaining fight we saw in 2016. The first time around, I was confident that Robbie Lawler won this fight. Upon second viewing, I thought Condit won, scoring the bout for him 48-47. However, rounds three and four were very close so I would not call it a robbery, especially considering I was certain Lawler had won when I was watching live. This was a very fun five round war that will definitely go in the books. It also marked the last time Lawler successfully defended his UFC Welterweight title. 3) Tyron Woodley vs Stephen Thompson (UFC 205, Nov. 12) This was a tremendouly entertaining championship fight that took place inside Madison Square Garden for the UFC’s inaugral New York City fight card. The bout ultimately ended in a Majority Draw that saw the champ nearly finish Thompson on a number of occasions, both by T/KO and submission. Personally, I had scored this bout 48-47 for Thompson, but I don’t think a Draw is a bad call, as many feel the fourth round was a 10-8 for Woodley. I did not score it a 10-8 because that round ended with “Wonderboy” being in superior position. In my opinion, if a round ends with you losing, then you should not receive a 10-8 score for that round. That aside, this was a very fun fight and definitely one of the most entertaining of the year. This fight made the UFC 205 fight card. 2) Marco Polo Reyes vs Dong Hyun Kim (UFC 199, June 4) This could very easily be my number one pick, and I keep changing my mind about it, but I’ll settle at number two. I arrived to the arena and got to my seat in time to see the end of the fight, but I had been following updates on my Twitter feed and everybody was raving about what a fantastic fight it was. Afterwards, I got home and watched the fight in whole and witnessed an instant classic. It was an incredible and worth war that ended with Reyes knocking Kim out in the third round, after both fighters nearly put each other away a number of times. 1) Cub Swanson vs Doo Ho Choi (UFC 206, Dec. 10) This was the last truly great fight I saw and it is definitely an instant classic. I was watching this fight in a bar full of Koreans in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. I randomly ended up there, not planning to be watching one of the greatest fights of all time featuring a Korean fighter in a bar full of Koreans. This was a very memorable fight that had me jump up to my feet several times, and I ended up watching it again several times when I got back home. Both 145-pounders had their moments in this contest, but it was Swanson who got the better of Choi for the majority of three rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory on the judges’ scorecards. Both Swanson and Choi displayed great chins in this fight, as they both came close to putting the other away on a number of occasions, though it was Swanson who came closer. Swanson versus Choi was an excellent fight and definitely the most memorable of the year for me.
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