Conor McGregor (Esther Lin/MMAFighting)UFC 2016: What Fans Have To Look Forward To Jay Anderson December 27, 2015 News, Spotlight, UFC 2015 was a huge bounce back year for the UFC. Lets face it — 2014 wasn’t great. Frankly, it kind of sucked. Injuries took out far too many main events, co-main events, and so on. That’s not to say that the injury bug didn’t strike this past year, but the blow was nowhere near as severe. The numbers reflect that. In 2015, the UFC had seven events at or above 600,000 buys on PPV: UFC 182, 183, 184, 189, 190, 193*, and 194* (those final two aren’t confirmed, but all estimates have been well north of 600k+ buys). Want to know how many UFC events topped 600,000 buys in 2014? Zero. Not a one. A couple of these were absolutely stellar cards, including the recent UFC 194. It’s safe to say that it’s a good time in UFC land right now. There’s a new women’s bantamweight champion, a new featherweight champion, some up-and-coming stars and some compelling storylines. What can fans look forward to in 2016? Well, lets take a look. Ronda Rousey’s Shot At Redemption Ronda Rousey did the unthinkable in November — she lost. Lets face it, few of us saw it coming, and fewer still really predicted how lopsided the loss would be. Rousey looked bad, beyond that, she looked exposed. The UFC seem to be gambling that it was an off-night for the former bantamweight queen as they’re pushing for an immediate rematch between Rousey and Holly Holm even as the new champion campaigns to take a fight against Miesha Tate first. The promotion is no doubt worried it will lose the big payday that a rematch would bring were Holm to lose, and that’s fine, though once again, Tate gets the shaft. In any case, fans can look forward to witnessing Rousey’s shot at redemption. Though she has dismissed calls for her to change camps following her disastrous night at UFC 193, you can expect her to show up better prepared than ever in the rematch. Win or lose, it’ll be something to behold. A Possible Move Up In Weight For Conor McGregor Conor McGregor should probably start playing the lottery, because “Mystic Mac” may well be psychic. At the very least, he keeps predicting the future when it comes to his career in the octagon, and he has backed up every word he’s said when calling out opponents, finishing Jose Aldo in record time at UFC 194 and giving the Brazilian kingpin his first loss in a decade. Next up? Possibly a move to lightweight, and a bout against the likes of Nate Diaz or Rafael dos Anjos. McGregor has fought and held a belt at 155lbs outside of the UFC, so there’s no reason to doubt that he can do it. Should he? That’s another question. It’ll be fun for fans, but don’t tell the Answer, a.k.a. Frankie Edgar, that. The Debut Of CM Punk It’s hard to believe that CM Punk joined the UFC a year ago. At the time, they needed to do something — anything — to gain back some momentum after a terrible showing in 2014. Luckily, they got out of the funk, not that it had anything to do with Punk (that rhyme, completely unintentional, I swear). In any case, Punk has spent that past year training with Roufusport, and come 2016, his debut will finally happen. What it will look like is anyone’s guess, but we’ll see what Duke Roufus was able to do with the former WWE champ soon enough. UFC 200 UFC 200 will take place next year, and make no mistake: it will be huge. With names like Rousey, McGregor, Punk, and others possibly on the card, it will be looking to rival the most successful UFC event of all time, UFC 100, which say 1.6 million buys on PPV. Now, buys at the box office or on PPV don’t always equal a great night of fights, but you know this card will be stacked — which is never a bad thing for fans. A New Two-Division Champion, Maybe One of two things will happen this year: either Conor McGregor will go up in weight, or he will fight Frankie Edgar. No matter which of those two outcomes eventually comes to pass, there’s a chance the UFC will see its next two-division champion in 2016. Edgar, after all, is a former lightweight champ, and is looking to take the featherweight crown. And of course, should McGregor go up and do the unthinkable at lightweight, he’ll be the the third man in history do have belts in two weight classes in the UFC (the only ones to do it so far being Randy Couture and BJ Penn). Benson Henderson, should he resign with the promotion and continue fighting at welterweight, could also be seen as an outside shot, or Jon Jones if he finally opts to move up to heavyweight once things between him and Daniel Cormier are settled. The Return of Jon Jones Speaking of Jones — yes, for all his troubles outside the cage, his return to action is indeed something fans can look forward to. Make no mistake, whatever you think of the man, the UFC is better with him than without him. Someone Other Than Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos Fighting For the Heavyweight Title Alistair Overeem. Stipe Miocic. Andrei Arlovski. Even Big Ben Rothwell. All of these men are starting to look like legit title contenders in the UFC. It’s a shame that the Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos trilogy caused such a log jam, along with Velasquez’s frequent injury troubles, and in hindsight, the third fight between the two was completely unnecessary. However, at least there’s light at the end of the tunnel: 2016 could be a competitive year in the heavyweight division, especially if current champion Fabricio Werdum dispatches Velasquez in their rematch. Memo to Dana White: no more instant rematches! A Killer Welterweight Title Fight Between Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit Right off the bat, 2016 will start with what could be a bloody war between welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit. Lawler’s last title defense was an instant (and hard to watch) bloody classic against Rory MacDonald, and with Condit more than capable of bringing the violence, this should be a great way to start the year for UFC fans. The Continued Development Of Sage Northcutt and Paige VanZant Sage Northcutt is taking just a month or so between fights following his UFC Fight Night 80 victory, as he’ll be back in action at UFC on Fox 18. The nineteen year old phenom has everything necessary to be a huge star in the promotion, and watching his development should continue to be a blast for fans. Paige VanZant suffered her first loss at UFC Fight Night 80, to Rose Namajunas, but there’s no shame in losing, especially since “12 Guage” showed a ton of heart in the fight. She did expose a number of holes in her game, but she’s a young fighter with a great team, and should come back stronger than ever. Joanna Champion Coaching The Ultimate Fighter It looks like the next UFC champion to coach on The Ultimate Fighter could be Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and that could be very interesting, especially if they line up someone like Rose Namajunas to coach opposite her, and actually make the coach’s fight mean something again. Jedrzejczyk has a fantastic personality with a quirky sense of humour, and she’s a beast in the octagon, so maybe that can help save the otherwise sinking ship that is TUF. Can the UFC continue to build from the great 2015 it had? We’ll find out soon enough.