The end of the year is nigh and along with that goes to looking back at the biggest, best, and most shocking fights and finishes of the year. Take a stroll down memory lane with us as we pick our favorite moments from the year of 2015.
Knockout of the Year
Jose Aldo’s defeat at the hands of Conor McGregor will live on with everyone as one of the biggest shocks of 2015, but it was also one of the most effortless and devastating KOs ever. Aldo had never really been too hurt before and McGregor finished him in 13 seconds. It was beautiful to watch and is out pick for KO of the year.
Submission of the Year
Demetrius Johnson’s submission of Kyoji Horiguchi may have not been the best submission overall, but it is a record in its own right. It was a finish that literally came at the last second with Horiguchi tapping at 4:59 of the title fight in the fifth round. The latest finish ever and Johnson’s second submission in a row. That it is a record breaker makes it stick out in our mind as the submission of the year.
Upset of the Year
While most people will point to Conor’s knockout of Aldo as the upset of the year, I am more prone to pick Holly Holm’s knockout of Ronda Rousey. Conor was a legit threat who had knocked out four tough fighters in the four previous fights leading up to the Aldo bout, where Holm had two decision victories over mediocre talent before fighting Rousey. No one gave her a chance, but she barely looked winded after knocking out Rousey, a fighter who had only been out of the first round once. It was truly something special to watch when someone as dominant as Rousey fell, and it was her dominance that propelled this fight to the upset of the year.
Fight of the Year
This was really a toss-up between Andrei Arlovski’s riveting knockout of Travis Browne, or Robbie Lawler’s fifth round finish of Rory MacDonald. Both Lawler and Arlovski share a similar fate in that a few years ago everyone saw them as fighters well past their glory days and now one of them sits atop the heap at 170 while the other is a legit contender to his former title. Still, it has to go to Lawler who was well behind, according tot he scorecards, leading into the fifth round, and without him knowing had to finish the fight to retain his title. The Iowa native did just that with a beating so and that he made the Canadian born MacDonald tappet due to just legit pain inflicted on his body. It was a fight that kept you on the edge of your seat as two of the best Welterweight just put leather to face over the course of nearly 25 minutes.
Breakthrough Fighter of the Year
This award goes to a fighter that may have been around a while but never really took the leap and made something of his career which can be akin to Robbie Lawler winning his title last year. This year, the fighter who broke through is none other that Rafael dos Anjos who even though he only fought twice made the most of his time in the cage. Coming off a three round shellacking of Compton born fighter Nate Diaz, dos Anjos took not he very dominant champion Anthony Pettis who had beaten nearly everyone put in front of him. Despite being in the UFC for seven years, no one gave the Brazilian a chance but he proved them wrong by putting it to the former champion with improved punches for five rounds. He followed this up with a fight where everyone was split as he took on Donald Cerrone for the title in a rematch two years in the making. Dos Anjos won the first fight, but Cerrone’s eight fight winning streak made him a logical choice as well. Cerrone’s infamous late starting really paid dividends for the Lightweight champ, as he finished the fight in a little over one minute of the last Big Fox card to end the year. A potential fight with super moneymaker Conor McGregor has RDA’s name on everyone’s lips more in the last few weeks than it ever has in the last seven years.
Newcomer of the Year
Love him or hate him, Sage northcutt is a fighter to watch. No fighter has ever had this much hype when just fighting on the undercard of a UFC fight. While not the most polished fighter, Northcutt is just 19 and already has two wins in the UFC with finishes. Also, he has a third fight line dup already. Who knows where his career goes, but eh was a newcomer to the sport, at leas the UFC, that helped garner a few more eyeballs to his fight cards.
Comeback Fighter of the Year
This came down to three fighters. The first was Demian Maia who entered 2015 with a record of 1-2 and was 37 years old. Most people put his career behind him but now has won three straight over tough young fighters and could be on the cusp of a title shot. Frank Mir who went 2-1 this year, but those two wins were first round knockouts and and people were calling for his retirement. None the less, neither of those fighters had the comeback year that Daniel Cormier had in 2015. Cormier started the year off wrong with the long awaited fight between him and Jon Jones finally going off and Cormier suffered a loss to the one man he despised most and proclaimed he would beat. He was 36 years old and if it took him two years to climb back to the top, he would be 38 before he saw the inside of a cage with Jon Jones again or the title. No doubt he contemplated retiring because there was really nothing left to do after that loss. Then, luck struck as Jon Jone messed up again and stripped of his title and Cormier was entered into a title fight with a little more than a month to prepare. He went on to submit Anthony Johnson and retain his title in a fight against Alexander Gustafsson. Now, he enters 2016 the same as 2015 with a fight against Jones looming, but this time he does it as the champion while Jones is the challenger.
Overall Fighter of the Year
This came down to two fighter realistically. First is Demetrious Johnson who completed his sixth and seventh title defense, obtained dan even more dominant win over John Dodson, and has essentially cleared out his division. Then you have Joanna Jedrzejcyk who won the title via TKO against a very competent Carla Esparza, destroyed Jessica Penne’s nose in Germany, and thrilled fans with a spectacular performance over the very tough and big Valarie Letournaeu. At the end of the day, it just boils down to Joanna truly becoming a star and having a year of going from near obscurity to a UFC darling in 365 days. She pulled out a win not he same card that Ronda Rousey lost her title, and has the potential to be a huge star. Not only that, she is lined up to potentially coach TUF next’s season and that will most likely only endear her to fans more. For all these reasons and so much more, Joanna “champion” Jedrzejcyk is our fighter of the year.