Over the next few days, we here at MMAOddsBreaker.com will be revealing some of our picks for the best in MMA over 2016. Staff writers Jason Endres, Brian Hemminger, Gabe Killian, James Lynch, and Brad Taschuk all contributed their personal picks to come up with a consensus.
With such a crazy year in the sport, there was an incredible amount of variation between the five panelists. There were no unanimous top selections for any of the awards, and amongst the four major categories (Fighter, Fight, KO, and Sub) only two nominees appeared on every ballot.
We’ll start the awards off with the closest thing to a unanimous selection we arrived at, and that was in the category of KO of the year. While there were some incredible knockouts in big moments this year — most notably Michael Bisping and Eddie Alvarez capturing UFC titles with upset stoppages — the panel sided with the downright incredible as their top choice instead. Let’s count down the top three:
3. Michael Bisping def. Luke Rockhold – UFC 199
The only KO to steal a top vote away from our #1 choice, Michael Bisping’s long, grueling climb to the UFC’s middleweight crown was capped off with the most spectacular performance of his career. When Chris Weidman pulled out of his UFC 199 main event with Luke Rockhold just 18 days prior to the fight, the promotion scrambled to find a replacement. Michael Bisping instantly threw his name in the hat, and the new fight was made the following day. The situation for Bisping looked grim. With 17 days to prepare, he would step in the cage for his long-awaited UFC title shot against a fighter who had dominated him just 19 months prior.
However, just three minutes and thirty-six seconds into the fight, referee John McCarthy was pulling Bisping away from the slumped body of Rockhold. The Brit landed an overhand left that dropped the champion, followed up with the same punch in an ensuing clinch, and then swarmed with a couple of shots on the ground to force the stoppage. It was one of the most shocking moments of the year, even taking Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg a minute to process what they had seen. The end result for us however is the #3 KO of the year.
2. Yoel Romero def. Chris Weidman – UFC 205
Bisping’s likely next opponent, and the man Rockhold was supposed to face back at UFC 199 also make this list. Chris Weidman was desperate to get back in action in time to fight on the UFC’s debut at Madison Square Garden. He got his wish, and was given the task of fellow wrestler Yoel Romero. The Cuban came into the fight with an unblemished UFC record of 7-0, including 5 T/KOs.
Weidman started well, using his wrestling to keep Romero on the defensive in the first round. The Cuban answered back using his Olympic pedigree in the second, and that began to open up opportunities for him on the feet. It didn’t take long for him to capitalize in the final stanza. Using his unparalleled athleticism, Romero launched himself in the air, landing a flying knee so hard that he nearly went head-over-heels. It didn’t take much after that for the ref to step in awarding Romero his fifth TKO in the third round. It was also enough to become our #2 KO of the year.
1. Lando Vannata def. John Makdessi – UFC 206
January 2017 will mark five years since Edson Barboza scored his legendary knockout over Terry Etim. At the time, it was thought that nobody in MMA would be able to match such a spectacular kick. In December of 2016, Lando Vannata may have matched it. There were clear signs of Vannata’s ability in his UFC debut, as his relaxed and unpredictable striking style almost notched him an upset of top contender Tony Ferguson. While Ferguson came back to win that bout, hopes were high for Vannata’s follow-up appearance at UFC 206.
He did not disappoint. After taking a minute to find his range, Vannata used a low left sidekick to set up a wheel kick with his right leg. He landed perfectly on Makdessi’s jaw, and much like Barboza’s kick at UFC 142 there was no follow-up required. The whole sequence was incredibly smooth, groovy, if you will. It earned Vannata a spot on highlights for as long as we watch people fight, and was the clear choice for MMAOddsBreaker’s KO of the Year.
Others Receiving Votes:
Paige VanZant def. Bec Rawlings (Jumping Switch Kick) – UFC on Fox 21 Yair Rodriguez def. Andre Fili (Jumping Switch Kick) – UFC 197 Michael Page def. Evangelista Santos (Flying Knee) – Bellator 158 Dan Henderson def. Hector Lombard (Head Kick, Back Elbow, and Punches) – UFC 199 Gerald Harris def. Aaron Cobb (Slam) – Legacy FC 63
Brad began following MMA closely in 2004, and started writing about the sport in 2008. Since then he has contributed to websites like Sportsnet.ca, but now primarily writes and edits for MMAOddsbreaker.com. You can also follow Brad’s personal MMA bets on his website.