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MMA Roundtable: McGregor, Anderson and 2015

Conor McGregor reacts after defeating Jose Aldo during a featherweight championship mixed martial arts bout at UFC 194, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Photo Courtesy of AP

Conor McGregor has officially arrived. Ronda Rousey has fallen.  Anderson Silva is (almost) back.

It’s safe to say 2015 was different. Putting it into words is no easy task, but we gave it a shot it in our latest MMA roundtable:

 

Describe MMA in 2015 in one word (followed by lots more words).

Holly Holm

Photo Courtesy of AP

Riley Kontek: Unbelievable. If you had told me that Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Chris Weidman, Jose Aldo and Ronda Rousey would have all lost their titles in one year, I would have called you a nut job. But, they all did and I can still barely believe it. I can’t wait to see what happens in 2016.

Jordy McElroy: Redonkulous.

That’s not even a real word, but I can’t think of anything better to describe the amount of crazy that has transpired this year in MMA. Where do I even begin?

Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, Jose Aldo, Cain Velasquez and Chris Weidman all lost their UFC titles this year. The landscape of the entire company has changed drastically with new champions and the arrival of new faces. Look no further than 2015 if you need a reminder of the ever-evolving nature of MMA.

Kristian Ibarra: Unpredictable.

Watching a few champions lose is standard in a sport competed with four-ounce gloves, but seeing seven of the UFC’s titleholders fall off what pedestals we created was shocking. Add in Anderson Silva’s failed drug tests, Nick Diaz’s unprecedented five-year suspension and Kimbo Slice escaping a rear-naked choke from Ken Shamrock and you’ve got enough material for a tale or two.

McGregor opens up as the betting favorite over RDA in a potential fight. Crazy talk or…?
Conor McGregor

Photo Courtesy of AP

RK: It’s understandable in a sense. In one way, it’s a bit shocking, considering how dominant Rafael dos Anjos has been recently at lightweight. However, I understand it, given how McGregor dethroned Jose Aldo so easily. McGregor is riding a wave of momentum and has the UFC train behind him. That’s why it reflects in the betting lines.

JM: I thought it was downright stupid that McGregor opened as a favorite over Aldo as well, and we all saw how that fight turned out. The McGregor phenomenon has taken root in the MMA world, and fans can’t help but get behind the smooth-talking Irishman.

This isn’t some trash-talking scrub with a misguided sense of bravado. No, McGregor is a world-class fighter who has backed up everything he’s said since his arrival in the UFC. I can understand why Rafael dos Anjos should be a betting favorite over McGregor. He competes at a heavier weight class, and he has looked virtually unstoppable in recent bouts.

But I can also see the allure in McGregor, who just scored a 13-second knockout over a man who hadn’t lost a fight in over decade.

KI: Not crazy talk. As Jordy writes, I was a little stunned to see McGregor open up as the favorite versus Aldo as well. It may have been more to do with how active McGregor was by comparison, but that certainly doesn’t apply in his potential matchup with Rafael dos Anjos. They both fought recently, both looking dominant enough to warrant the gold that sits on their respective waists.

Like Aldo, I think dos Anjos has more ways of winning a fight than the Irishman does. Wrestling, grappling or clinching, dos Anjos merely needs to stay away from McGregor’s sledgehammer of a left hand to retain his post as the baddest 155-pounder on the planet. But avoiding that left hand isn’t easy, not even for 13 seconds.

Anderson Silva faces Michael Bisping in February; could a win lead to one final run at the title for Silva?  

Anderson Silva

Photo Courtesy of AP Photo/David Becker

RK: I think that a win for Anderson Silva will illicit another title shot. He’s one of the biggest draws in UFC history and it’s far more likely he fights for the title again now that Chris Weidman is not the champ (since he beat him twice). He needs to put the failed drug test behind him, pull himself up by his bootstraps and put on a career performance against Bisping. That will give him his desired shot.

JM: Santa Claus came early for Anderson Silva.

Chris Weidman losing to Luke Rockhold was the best thing that could have happened for Silva. The former UFC middleweight champion primarily served as a gatekeeper after back-to-back losses to Weidman. The reshuffled title picture puts the UFC in a position to offer Silva another title shot if he gets past Bisping in February.

It would make sense for the UFC from strictly a business perspective considering he is still the biggest draw in the middleweight division. Things are certainly trending towards another title run for Silva.

KI: Yes, a victory over Bisping likely gives Silva another shot at the middleweight title. Partially because neither of his title losses to Chris Weidman were uncontroversial enough to move on, partially because he’s the biggest draw in the middleweight division and partially because there aren’t too many standout title contenders in the waters at 185 pounds.

Unfortunately for Silva, the man atop the division now is Luke Rockhold. Staph infection or completely healthy, it’s hard to see anyone — including the man considered the greatest of all time — beating the AKA middleweight in 2016.

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