8 Best MMA Fights of 2016

2016 is finally over, and it has undoubtedly been one of the craziest years in mixed martial arts history. The sport was legalized in New York, icons like Muhammad Ali and Kimbo Slice passed away, Cris Cyborg joined the UFC while Rory MacDonald and Chael Sonnen parted ways with the organization, Conor McGregor solidified his spot as combat sports' hottest asset, and Michael Bisping became the Middleweight champion of the world (still mind-blowing).

Today, we'll discuss and honor the greatest fights we've seen this year. A bout can be featured for the skills displayed by the warriors inside the cage, its shock factor, and/or overall enjoyment. Without further ado, here they are:

Honorable Mentions

Dan Henderson vs. Hector Lombard
When: UFC 199 (June 4, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

Michael Chandler vs. Benson Henderson
When: Bellator 165 (November 20, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: No

Steve Bosse vs. Sean O'Connell
When: UFC Fight Night 89 (June 18, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
When: UFC 205 (November 12, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

Tony Ferguson vs. Lando Vannata
When: UFC Fight Night 91 (July 13, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

8. Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha 2

While UFC 200 didn't fully deliver on the expectations fans had set, the title rematch between Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Cláudia Gadelha absolutely did. It's easily the best fight I saw that week and it's possibly the most exciting female bout I've ever seen. It was sensational, for so many reasons. From the deep hatred they share towards one another, to the thrilling storyline the five rounds told. Cláudia comes out and dominates the champ for two rounds, using her wrestling to drag things to the ground on numerous occasions and even dropping Jędrzejczyk on the feet. Then, Joanna shows her champion spirit by coming back and putting on a striking clinic for the last three rounds, landing 153 total strikes (to Gadelha's 41). A close decision, Joanna remains the Strawweight titleholder in a wonderful contest.

When: The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale (July 8, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

7. Michael Bisping vs. Anderson Silva

2016 has to be the best year in Michael Bisping's professional career (and arguably his life). This is where things started. Fighting one of MMA's scariest legends, in front of thousands of supportive British fans at the O2 Arena, The Count was able to put on one of the smartest and gutsiest performances in mixed martial arts history. The bout was full of drama, controversy, and tension you could certainly cut with a knife. In the end, Bisping was able to push the pace from start to finish, surviving Silva's brief showings of deadly brilliance in order to earn a unanimous decision victory. He would go on to knock Luke Rockhold out in a shocking turn of events to claim the UFC gold that had eluded him for so long.

When: UFC Fight Night 84 (February 27, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

6. Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz

Now, many bouts were more contested than UFC 196's main event. But no other fight had me shaking as much. Before, during, and after. The second you heard Ireland's most popular man and Stockton's golden boy clashing during the press conferences, you knew you were in for something special. That's exactly what we got. From Conor getting the better of the early exchanges, to Diaz weathering the storm and pulling off the dramatic upset, it was more intense than any other sporting event in 2016. That is until the second time they met.

When: UFC 196 (March 5, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

5. Marco Polo Reyes vs. Dong Hyun Kim

Going back to UFC 199, Marco Polo Reyes and Dong Hyun Kim shared an unforgettable barn burner. The bout presented three rounds full of brutal striking. Multiple knockdowns, a lot of blood, and a couple of concussions. The amount of violence displayed is only comparable to movies like Rocky. Anyone would have dropped after the first round. These warriors kept going. It earned both men a Fight of the night bonus (deservedly so). Instantly made me a fan, and started the PPV in stunning fashion.

When: UFC 199 (June 4, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

                      4. Cub Swanson vs. Doo Hoo Choi

At the incredibly entertaining UFC 206, Cub Swanson and Doo Hoo Choi had one of the craziest brawls I've seen in my life! During the three rounds, both men hurt each other multiple times, displaying their adamantium chins. Swanson fought with an enormous chip on his shoulder and Doo Hoo Choi looked to prove himself as a real threat to the division. Ultimately, Cub came out on top, but this is that rare fight that elevates both competitors. Swanson is comfortably sitting in a position that could realistically have him facing the winner of Holloway vs. Aldo, and Choi earned thousands of fans that will undoubtedly follow his progression as a martial artist. Amazing fight!

When: UFC 206 (December 9, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

3. Dominick Cruz vs. T.J. Dillashaw

Up Next, we go back to January, where Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw had one of the closest title fights in Mixed Martial Arts history. What makes this fight special is the context behind it. Cruz had been out of the sport for almost four years. During that time, Dillashaw became the king of the jungle. They both possess similar (and exemplary) footwork, styles, and gas tanks. A defensive wizard (Cruz) against an offensive machine (Dillashaw). Once the clock started, we witnessed 25 minutes of exciting, fast-paced technique. With a razor close decision, neither guy came out a loser in my eyes.

When: UFC Fight Night 81 (January 17, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

2. Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit

Two days into 2016, Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler had one of the most brutal wars in recent memory. It was one of those fights that perfectly highlight some of the key components in Mixed Martial Arts: technique, physicality and unpredictability. Both men delivered back and forth action, an enormous amount of output, no stalling, and another incredibly close finish. We witnessed 5th round Robbie once again, while the picture of both guys hanging on to the cage after giving their souls out there is a magical moment. An absolute war.

When: UFC 195 (January 2, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes

1. Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2

No many UFC events have managed to deliver high-octane action on the same level that its 202th PPV did. The main event saw Conor McGregor get the win back over rival Nate Diaz. It was a jaw-dropping, closely-contested scrap that exceeded expectations. After being submitted in their first fight, McGregor became obsessed with obtaining a rematch. The UFC happily complied, and the bout was set. If The Notorious wanted to avenge his loss, he would have to drastically change his modus operandi. To many people's surprise, he did. The McGregor that showed up at 202 was more patient, efficient, and smart. Even then, Diaz reminded us that regardless of how great your gameplan is, you're in for a rough night when you step into the octagon with him. Both men nearly finished each other, with Conor ultimately doing just enough to earn a majority decision. Following the fight, the two gladiators shared a friendly embrace. For a second, we nearly forgot they had tried to kill each other for 25 minutes in an all-time classic. It's unquestionably our favorite fight of the year.

When: UFC 202 (August 20, 2016)
Available on Fight Pass: Yes