As the Champions' "Best of 2016" Awards continue, we take a look at the MMA event of the year.
In a year that marked the most change for the UFC (and MMA in general) since the Zuffa buyout, 2016 was also a blockbuster period of growth for the sport, delivering more record-setting events than any era before it, and squashing many critics longheld notions that the premier organization in mixed martial arts was in danger of oversaturating its already flooded market.
But in a year chock-full of thrilling Fight Night, pay-per-view, and live on FOX events, which night truly stood out as the crown jewel of them all?
- UFC 205: McGregor-Alvarez
- UFC 206: Holloway-Pettis
- UFC 199: Rockhold-Bisping 2
- UFN 91: McDonald-Lineker
- UFC 202: Diaz-McGregor 2
Winner: UFC 205
How could it be any other event, really? The UFC's inaugural trip to Madison Square Garden, and all the history that came with it, represented so much more than just the average night of (albeit ridiculously high-profile) fights. #UFC205 was the final hurdle being cleared, the final domino falling, the culmination of MMA's journey from the underground to the world stage over twenty years in the making -- and rightfully, it shattered nearly every record held by both the UFC and MSG in the process.
Of course, it didn't hurt that, the momentousness of the night aside, UFC 205 was filled with ridiculously awesome fights from top-to-bottom.
From Yoel Romero's spectacular finish of former middleweight champion Chris Weidman to Stephen Thompson and Tyron Woodley's war for the welterweight belt, to #ConorMcGregor's history-making win over Eddie Alvarez, UFC 205 was a night that seemed to transcend the little niche sport we all have come to love and mark its ascendancy into minutiae of mainstream culture.
And now, there's no turning back.
Runner-up: UFC 202
Following his shocking loss to Nate Diaz at UFC 196, there weren't many of us who would've predicted that Conor McGregor would not only demand an immediate rematch with the scrappy Stocktonian just a few months later, but defeat him in a way that no other fighter has -- by standing in the pocket and trading shots with him in one of the greatest back-and-forth fights the sport has ever seen. But that's exactly what he did.
Between the insane build-up to the fight -- which featured no shortage of memorable interviews, insults, and full on bottle-throwing mayhem at the pre-fight press conference, it was apparent that UFC 202 was going to be something special. But even beyond the incredible main event, UFC 202 delivered more memorable finishes than perhaps any other card this year.
Who can forget Anthony Johnson's earth-shattering KO of Glover Teixeira, or Donald Cerrone's super saiyan finish of Rick Story? UFC 202 was one of the most exciting nights of the year, bar none, capped of by a fight for the ages between two of the sport's biggest rivals. (Not to mention, it was also a bit of a game-changer in the fighter pay department as well.)