Nearing the end of 2015, MMA has provided us with some relatively memorable moments in a little under 11 months.
Like a thankful fellow making his way to the dinner table for the third time on Thanksgiving, we’ve had our fill of exciting fights in 2015. If we’re lucky, several of the highly anticipated matchups scheduled for the final days on the calendar year will, like that fabled remaining piece of store-bought pumpkin pie, put us over the edge. We’re looking at you, December.
So take a break from expanding what known capacities you have of ingesting gravy-covered goodies and take a peak at the five MMA bouts we’re thankful for in 2015.
Travis Browne vs. Andrei Arlovski (UFC 187)
Just over 4:40 of total action, you likely needed a glass of water and a chair after watching the first and only round between Travis Browne and Andrei Arlovski at UFC 187. As is usual in a standup affair between two heavyweights with the sort of power that comes natural to a man of 230-plus pounds, one of these men was destined to fall.
At first it seemed as if destiny would side with Arlovski, who clipped the athletic heavyweight striker within the first minute of their scheduled three-round bout. But just as the end was coming for “Hapa,” right when you thought his equilibrium would compromise his chances of winning this bout, Browne landed a winging punch that reminded us of all those times Arlovski’s chin failed him.
“The Pit Bull” managed to get back to his feet before landing several more fight-ending punches that forced the referee to step in, in what quickly became the defining moment for Arlovski’s return to the UFC as a viable title contender in the division.
Justin Gaethje vs. Luis Palomino I (WSOF 19)
WSOF 155-pound titleholder Justin Gaethje stopped Luis Palomino via third-round TKO in March, only to do it again five months later. The rematch wasn’t quite the barnburner we expected based on the previous encounter focus, so let us focus our attention on the original matchup.
A ton of back-and-forth action that favored the 27-year-old champion, Gaethje’s first victory over Palomino ensured his name would at least be included in the conversation as a top-10 lightweight.
Immediate rematches, being what they are, are often afforded to matches with close and/or controversial finishes. Gaethje-Palomino provided neither, but that didn’t stop WSOF from placing these two lightweights inside the cage on back-to-back outings. MMA fans, typically up in arms about something (anything!), had no reason to complain here. Their match at WSOF 19 was just that good.
Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm (UFC 193)
While this is the only fight on the list that wasn’t remotely competitive, you can’t deny what excitement it brought out on you. A fan or critic of Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm’s victory likely opened your eyes and mouth as widely as they’ve been for any fight in 2015.
Rousey fell and, unless you’re comatose, you reacted.
We’re not necessarily thankful that Rousey lost (we’re not here to pick favorites within matchups), but we’re certainly thankful the moment happened. It was a spectacle in a fight expected to bring nothing short of an eye-opening moment. With millions around the world watching on TV and about 56,000 people watching in person, Holm provided one of — if not the — most memorable MMA moments of 2015. Quite possibly the most memorable moment in the history of MMA.
Daniel Cormier vs. Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 192)
Originally painted as an unfair title opportunity for Alexander Gustafsson, the Swedish fighter was rarely ever counted out in the weeks leading up to his championship fight with newly crowned king Daniel Cormier. A striker vs. grappler matchup lived up to all the expectations, but not in the way you’d think.
It was Cormier who get the better of the tall Swedish striker, while Gustafsson had the edge in the grappling exchanges against the Olympic-caliber wrestler.
Five rounds of light heavyweight title action that comes only second to Gustafsson’s first shot at UFC gold — when he went five historic rounds against Jon Jones over two years prior — UFC 192’s main event legitimized the division’s top two fighters in the brief-lived post-Jones era.
Lawler vs. MacDonald II (UFC 189)
Largely overlooked by the Conor McGregor show that took place in the main event at UFC 189, Robbie Lawler’s first title defense against a familiar foe in Rory MacDonald stands a good chance of surviving the onslaught of spectacular December matchups as Fight of the Year.
A combined 156 significant strikes and zero takedowns in a little over four rounds, the champion left the contest with his mouth barely attached to his face. The challenger didn’t fare much better, as “Red King’s” nose was covered in red.
If not for a TKO stoppage, the judges were well on their way of announcing MacDonald the winner. Particularly unaware, Lawler stormed out of his corner to start the fifth round, stopping the young Tristar fighter with one of the most soul-crushing punches you’ll likely see in 2015.