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7/4/16: Five Best UFC Fights of 2016 (Thus Far)
5. Jake Matthews vs. Johnny Case (UFC Fight Night 85): This undercard fight from the Fight Night event in Brisbane, Australia, is an underappreciated fight. The 21-year-old Matthews, fighting in front of a home country crowd, was likely down two rounds to the 27-year-old Case into the final frame, and he pulled off a come from behind submission with just 15 seconds left in the fight. It was a fun, back and forth, at times thrilling fight with a lot of entertaining ground exchanges that was the highlight of the UFC’s return to Brisbane.
4. Marco Polos Reyes vs. Dong Hyun Kim (UFC 199): Speaking of undercard fights, I can’t remember another card opener with the level of excitement and action seen in this fight from the beginning of June. Much like the Matthews-Case bout, there was a ton of back and forth action, but this one was almost entirely about the striking offense of both fighters. Though there was almost no defense to speak of, both were putting together technical combinations that were doing nothing but damage, but both showed such ridiculous ability to absorb that punishment that they kept getting back up and fighting back when they went down. That was, of course, until Reyes finally landed several pinpoint strikes that put an end to Kim’s night in the third.
3. Michael Bisping vs. Anderson Silva (UFC Fight Night 84): This was a fascinatingly odd fight back in February in London, and opened the door for Bisping to somehow become the UFC Middleweight Champion. Bisping was great in the first ten minutes of this fight as Silva opted not to engage much, and he even knocked the former long-reigning Champ down on a couple of occasions. When Silva finally picked up his pace in the third, he nearly finished the fight. That flying knee he landed to close the round could have ended things, but Bisping was allowed to continue into the fourth. Silva let him off the hook, arguably lost that fourth round, then beat Bisping up some more in the fifth in what was simply a “too little too late” display. Still, it was a great main event for the fans in London, with a crowd-pleasing decision.
2. Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz (UFC 196): The fascinating way this played out makes it easy enough to understand why the UFC was willing to run it back. McGregor seemed like he was cruising in the early going of the fight, piecing up Diaz’s face with strikes consistently and seemingly on his way to yet another significant victory in the Octagon. Then the strikes weren’t having much effect on Diaz’s output, and McGregor left his hands down which in turn left him open to a great counter-strike that turned the fight on a dime. McGregor wobbled, tried to shoot in to bring the fight to the ground, wound up on his back, and got beat up before Diaz found his neck. It was a thrilling second round, and one of the most entertaining and newsworthy fights of 2016.
1. Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit (UFC 195): Despite a lot of fun finishes, entertaining fights, and major moments thus far in 2016, nothing has matched the thrilling first main event of the year. The welterweight war between Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit lived up to every single expectation for the matchup when it was made. There was significant damage from both, insane striking exchanges throughout the fight, and as heart-pounding a final frame as you could get in a title fight. Neither fighter would go away, and both were doing everything they could to win or survive at various times throughout the bout. Best fight of the year, and it’s still going to be hard to beat through the final six months.
[Photo (c) Joshua Dahl via USA Today Sports]
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