There’s quite likely been 1,000 noteworthy items to put in a review of mixed martial arts in 2015.

To nutshell them would be nearly impossible, and frankly, opinions will so vastly vary past an obvious handful like the spectacular upset orchestrated by Holly Holm over Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor’s publicity-fueled rise to champion, and the disheveled career of Jon Jones.

This list is not going to cover them all and it may miss completely on some, but for a variety of reasons, they are compelling in their own unique ways.


Lawler vs Macdonald – Fight of the Year
Violence. Perseverance. Both competitors – the aggressive gunslinger Robbie Lawler and the colorless hipster Rory Macdonald – put on a classic.

Carlos Condit
An injury put the “Natural Born Killer” to the sidelines for one year. His violent nature, however, didn’t dissipate over that time as he returned to blast Thiago Alves which was rewarded with an upcoming title shot against Robbie Lawler. If Lawler-Macdonald was epic, it’s hard to imagine that Lawler-Condit will be anything less than spectacular.

TJ Dillashaw
Outside of McGregor and Aldo, Dillashaw brought some needed pizzazz to the smaller weight classes as he kept his throne with a second pounding of former champ Renan Barao. He was then part of a riveting soap opera between his coach Duane Ludwig and former mentor Urijah Faber. Dillashaw next gets oft-injured Dominick Cruz, who many oddly still consider to be the true bantamweight champ. If Dillashaw bests Cruz, the ultimate head-to-head with Faber awaits.

Nate Diaz
The Brothers Diaz are not everyone’s cup of tea as their repeated acts of unprofessionalism and prominent stance on marijuana ruffles many feathers. But credit Nate for stepping up to the plate and hitting a home run in the UFC’s year-end event. Diaz systematically wiped out the heavily-favored Michael Johnson and then produced an expletive-filled callout of Conor McGregor. It was far from classy but for those tired of McGregor’s one-sided bluster, it was very welcomed. It’s up to the UFC to make the fight happen and the organization would be immensely foolish not to do so.

AJ McKee
He’s a second-generation talent with first-class skill and he’s already developing the kind of cache that makes him a hot prospect. His father, former UFC/IFL/MFC standout Antonio McKee, has said he is devising a plan to guide his son to superstardom in both abilities and name recognition. The path is set and the future awaits.

Donald Cerrone
The year didn’t end very well for “Cowboy” as he was spanked in a title fight by Rafael Dos Anjos, but let’s not forget that during 2015, Cerrone dispatched Myles Jury and then Benson Henderson only 15 days apart in January, and then destroyed John Makdessi in May. That’s a productive and impressive campaign.

Uriah Hall beats Gegard Mousasi
It obviously doesn’t wind up as the Upset of the Year, but it’s a high-ranking one none the less. By all accounts, this was supposed to be an easy win for Mousasi yet it was Hall who came away from Korea with a highlight-reel finish.


Woe, Canada
Once regarded as the biggest and best fanbase for the UFC, it’s become second-tier behind Australia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and segments of Europe like Scandinavia. Making matters worse for the Great White North is the significant collapse of developmental Triple-A and Double-A level promotions.

Bellator’s ‘Tent-Poles’
It’s a business, first and foremost, so it is understandable that in order to stay afloat, Bellator had to do something to attract attention and offer life-support to TV ratings. That doesn’t mean we have to enjoy seeing relics and sideshows demeaning the sport’s credibility. The organization’s fixation on yesteryear’s names has basically turned them into an old-timer’s league so they should just go all-in on that and let their notable younger talents find better-suited homes.

The money issues have been discussed by everyone to such an extent it’s tiresome to keep banging on that drum. Instead, this is more of a cymbal, or make that symbol, of this fiasco. The repeated errors in printing of fighter names and/or nicknames is so comically sad. It indicates such a lack in Reebok’s attention and interest. On that same note, one can further question Reebok’s commitment when it can’t come up with any more appealing short designs than the blah that is currently being offered.

Cain Velasquez
One of the best heavyweights in the world has manufactured two of the most startling game plan errors in history. He engaged Junior Dos Santos in a stand-up battle in 2011 and lost his title in just over a minute. Then in 2015, he botched his training regimen by virtually disregarding altitude adjustment and was run out of gas in a title fight against Fabricio Werdum. Is it the fighter or the coach?

Jordan Mein’s Retirement
Having met Jordan through his father Lee, it was immensely disappointing to see him retire from the sport at just 25. The consensus seems to be that the decision was primarily health related, though some speculate that well-being combined with the UFC’s hammerfist on individual sponsorship was a factor to some degree. Regardless, it’s the loss of a true “Young Gun.”