With 2015 nearly behind us, it’s time to look back to all that has passed, hopefully in appreciation for that which is to come.
2015 was a year of great change in the sport, specifically the UFC. Countless titles changed hands and all the while, the UFC continued to grow, proving that theirs is a product that will continue to thrive, no matter who wears the gold.
In the early part of 2011, prior to UFC 129 — which would provide the promotion with its biggest live crowd until this year — seven champions were assembled in a kind of roundtable summit, if you will.
Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Frankie Edgar, Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz were all on stage, dressed in suits and brandishing their title hardware. It was a powerful sight and it seemed like very few of those assembled could be defeated.
Now, a little less than five years later, none of them are champions and three of those great men — Cain Velasquez, Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo — have had their titles taken by stoppage.
2015 saw six new champions crowned as Velasquez was submitted by Fabricio Werdum, Aldo was knocked out quickly by Conor McGregor, Chris Weidman was stopped via TKO by Luke Rockhold, Anthony Pettis was battered from pillar to post by Rafael dos Anjos and Ronda Rousey, thought by many to be unstoppable, was knocked out by Holly Holm. Lastly, we saw Jon Jones, arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the game, stripped of his belt after causing a traffic accident and fleeing the scene.
Were the same championship group be assembled today, it would be nine in number and five of them would be new champions with no title defenses under their belt.
Normally, when a group of champions has enjoyed a respectable reign, their successors are viewed in a critical light; seen in many ways as nothing more than lucky upstarts that will not hold their titles for long. It’s a natural and healthy bit of skepticism that should be employed at all times, yet rarely is.
Yet, in the case of the new champions of 2015, the future of the UFC has honestly never looked brighter — proof that change is a natural and needed catalyst for growth in the combative sports. It was a fantastic year for fight fans and it sets up what could be the biggest event Zuffa has ever had in the year to come: UFC 200.
Here are the top five lessons we can take from 2015.