2015 was an explosive year in the world of mixed martial arts. From Holly Holm’s shocking win over Ronda Rousey to Conor McGregor’s ascension to the most polarizing figure in the sport, the year was full of big storylines.
Going into 2016, there are plenty of big fights to look forward to. New UFC champions in multiple divisions have also opened up several new possibilities.
So with that said, here are the top five fights we want in the coming year.
Luke Rockhold vs. Vitor Belfort
Though Yoel Romero deserves the next shot at the middleweight title, the new champion — Luke Rockhold — seems to prefer a fight with Vitor Belfort.
Following his win over Chris Weidman, in which he became the new UFC middleweight champion, Rockhold said he’d like Belfort on a “silver platter” on the FOX Sports post-fight show.
Of course, Rockhold wants revenge more than anything. Back in May 2013, Belfort knocked Rockhold out with a spinning back kick in Rockhold’s first UFC fight. Since then, Rockhold has won five fights in a row, all via stoppage.
Would Belfort be able to put Rockhold down again and win the title so close to 40? Or would Rockhold be able to exact revenge for a loss he obviously feels was a fluke?
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Conor McGregor
For this fight to happen, McGregor would have to make the jump from featherweight to lightweight. Whether or not he would vacate the featherweight title would be another question.
It seems like the latest trend for any UFC fighter who gets a win is to call out McGregor. Nate Diaz was one of the latest to do so in an obscenity-laden tirade following his win over Michael Johnson this past Saturday.
But McGregor isn’t stupid. He’s going to take the fights that make the most sense — and the most money. He’s earned the right to do that.
A fight with Rafael dos Anjos would be that fight. It would be a super fight between two of the UFC’s premier divisions. Dos Anjos is coming off a win over a very tough Donald Cerrone, an opponent he absolutely destroyed.
RDA has won five fights in a row and among the opponents he has defeated are Benson Henderson, Diaz, Anthony Pettis and Cerrone. That’s not a bad list.
McGregor might have a tougher time creating the bad blood between he and dos Anjos that he did with he and Jose Aldo — the kind that drives pay-per-view buys — but it would still be a great fight.
If McGregor doesn’t move to 155 and stays at 145, a fight between he and Frankie Edgar would make a lot of sense and would deserve a spot on this list.
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Urijah Faber
If current UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw is unable to defeat Dominick Cruz in their fight in January, a potential fight with Urijah Faber would lose a little of its appeal.
But only a little.
Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male to join Elevation Fight Team in 2015. At first, it seemed Faber was in support of the move. But in recent interviews, Faber has talked about Dillashaw’s bad temper and inconsideration of others disrupting team training sessions.
There have been several instances in UFC history where teammates refused to fight each other. Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck come to mind. For some time, Faber and Dillashaw were in that same category. But now they’re no longer teammates. It’s time to settle their differences in the cage.
Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones
These two men just do not like each other. That may never change.
Jon Jones could easily go down as the best MMA fighter of all time. He’s already beaten Daniel Cormier in convincing fashion once. However, some poor personal decisions on his part led to an indefinite suspension from the UFC. They also led to him being stripped of the light heavyweight title.
Jones has since been reinstated. But while he was gone, a new champion had to be crowned. That ended up being Cormier, who pounded out Anthony Johnson to win the vacant title.
Since their first fight, Jones has had time to sit and stew about his bad choices. He’s had to think about the consequences that led to him losing his title. He’s also had to listen to Cormier continue to verbally bash him.
Meanwhile, Cormier has done some stewing of his own. Though he is the current champion, he knows he has to beat Jones. He knows how one-sided the first fight was. He hears the critics calling him a placeholder for Jones.
They will meet again. When they do, many fans will tune in with keen interest.
Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey
There is no question that this will be the most anticipated fight of 2016. Holm shocked the world when she knocked out Rousey to win the women’s bantamweight title in Australia. The result immediately drew comparisons to the night Mike Tyson was knocked out by James “Buster” Douglas.
Though it remains to be seen how much time Rousey will need to be ready to fight again, UFC President Dana White has already confirmed that she will get the rematch.
If Rousey can be ready by July, there is a good chance the fight will happen at UFC 200. That is when all the questions will be answered.
Is Holm really Ronda’s Kryptonite? Or did Ronda just have too many personal obligations before the fight? Does Ronda need to find a new coach, or can Edmond Tarverdyan teach her the boxing skills that she’ll need to overcome Holm?
But there may be a more important question. What would another loss do to the career of Rousey?
If Ronda were to lose to Holm again, particularly in the same fashion as the first fight, it could signal the end of her career. That is shocking, considering many felt that Rousey would not only finish her career undefeated, but would go down as the biggest name in MMA history.