(5) Tyron Woodley
I’ll be honest; I hadn’t bought in on Tyron Woodley going into his fight with Robbie Lawler. He seemed like a smaller version of Anthony Johnson with some power taken away, and I had already seen Anthony Johnson lose a title fight a year earlier because he just couldn’t keep up the pace. I could not have been more wrong. Woodley looked cool and collected as he starched Robbie Lawler in the first round and became the UFC Welterweight Champion. He has a tough fight coming up in Stephen Thompson, but if 2016 has taught me one thing, its that Tyron Woodley only needs one punch.
(4) Stipe Miocic
The heavyweight title in the UFC has had in interesting couple years. Cain Velasquez looked like he would be as dominant a champion as we had ever seen before his body betrayed him more than once and the title jumped to a couple different sets of hands. Enter Stipe Miocic, a quiet and unassuming fighter who reminded me a lot of Chris Weidman before he won the UFC Middleweight Championship by knocking out Anderson Silva. A similar situation took place in Curitiba, Brazil when Miocic knocked out Fabrico Werdum and became the UFC Heavyweight Champion. He took his belt home to Cleveland, Ohio where he survived the onslaught from Alistair Overeem and retained his title in front of a screaming crowd. He still has Cain Velasquez and Fabrico Werdum to deal with, but this kid is the real deal, and will be very interesting to watch.
(3) Eddie Alvarez
The man once regarded as one of the best fighters outside the UFC finally captured UFC gold this year, and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest 155 pound fighters in MMA history. Alvarez traded in his characteristic razor thin decision win in the UFC for a first round knockout of Rafael Dos Anjos, and with that knockout now comes the rumblings of a potential super fight with Conor McGregor, a fight that long ago was supposed to go to Dos Anjos. Alvarez has earned every bit of praise that he is getting, and only time will tell what 2017 will hold for the slugger from Philly.
(2) Dominick Cruz
Cruz has had a really tough couple of years. Injury after injury forced the UFC to strip him of his title, and he had to watch as Renan Barao and TJ Dillishaw took over his division. He came back and looked sensational against Takeya Mizugaki, only to have the injury bug strike again and take him out of competition for another 18 months. But when he came back, he destroyed all of his skeptics with his 5 round masterpiece against TJ Dillishaw and won a close, but in my opinion clear, decision. He has since defended his belt, shook the monkey off of his back that is Urijah Faber, and has started his transition into his post fight life with colour commentary. I appreciate everything that Dominick Cruz has brought to this sport, and hope that he can ride off into the sunset with his belt around his waist.
(1) Nate Diaz
For the second day in a row Nate Diaz is on top of my list, and he has definitely earned his space with the 2016 that he had. Diaz went from a well known talent that couldn’t seem to find his place in the company to one of its most important draws at UFC 196 when he shocked the world by submitting Conor McGregor in the second round. He may of lost the rematch, but Diaz has put himself a the top of the company in relevance to casual and hardcore MMA fans, as well as earned himself a lot of money in 2016. It appears as if the trilogy fight isn’t happening any time soon, so we will just have to wait and see what lies in store for Diaz in 2017. I’m sure it will be brash, shocking, and very entertaining to watch.
(Jared Dodds of Mississauga, Ontario has been a passionate MMA fan since he was 13 years old after he stumbled upon his dad watching Mintauro Nogueira vs. Frank Mir at UFC 92. He follows UFC, Bellator, Invicta, and even non-MMA productions such as Glory kickboxing. He wrestled in high school and has spent time outside of school learning specific techniques that are important parts of MMA. He hopes to fill the shoes of Jamie Penick, who once helmed the Daily Top Five List, and credits Jamie with helping him acquire more knowledge and passion for the sport of MMA.)