The fights are done, the holidays are in full swing, and it’s time to take a look back.
Admittedly, 2017 was kind of terrible in so many ways, but it offered us a bounty of top-notch mixed martial arts (MMA) cards to enjoy during our many evenings and late, late nights. Here are some of the best these past 12 months have had to offer.
Honorable Mentions: Invicta 21, UFC on FOX 24, UFC on FOX 23
Number Five: UFC 211
To be fair, Dave Branch vs. Krzysztof Jotko was terrible. Demian Maia vs. Jorge Masvidal was, well, a Maia fight and Cortney Casey vs. Jessica Aguilar was more confusing than anything else.
The rest? Rad as hell.
Chase Sherman vs. Rashad Coulter was one of the year’s best donnybrooks, Jason Knight vs. Chas Skelly was a terrific scrap, and Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier was fun for the nine minutes it lasted. Even before that, Gadzhimurad Antigulov’s submission of Joachim Christensen and Enrique Barzola vs. Gabriel Benitez opened the night in style.
Over on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card, Frankie Edgar delivered a top-tier beating to Yair Rodriguez, Joanna Jedrzejczyk put on a masterclass against Jessica Andrade, and Stipe Miocic avenged his loss to Junior dos Santos in emphatic fashion.
A few mediocre fights couldn’t erase the entertainment those battles generated. Not bad at all.
Number Four: UFC 210
There really wasn’t a bad fight on this card aside from the opener between Magomed Bibulatov and Jenel Lausa, which was a little too one-sided to be truly entertaining. UFC 210 featured a healthy mix of competitive decisions and decisive finishes, plus whatever the hell Gegard Mousasi vs. Chris Weidman was, and featured breakout performances from top prospects Gregor Gillespie, Shane Burgos and Kamaru Usman.
There was also Charles Oliveira’s upset submission of Will Brooks, Patrick Cummins’ war of attrition with Jan Blachowicz, and Des Green’s battle with Josh Emmett.
This would have been a great card even without Daniel Cormier’s strong performance in the main event, which ended things on a high note. Just a quality night of fights all around.
Number Three: UFC on FOX 26
The year’s penultimate show was also one of its best, a night so loaded with quality entertainment that Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry didn’t even win “Fight of the Night.”
Alessio Di Chirico and Nordine Taleb’s brutal knockouts highlighted the “Prelims” undercard until Julian Marquez and Darren Stewart tore the place up with a phenomenal back-and-forth brawl, demonstrating a frankly unreasonable amount of grit and durability before Marquez locked up a fight-ending front choke midway through the second.
The main card was a blast from beginning to end. Glover Teixeira opened things with an upset stoppage of Misha Cirkunov, after which the aforementioned Ponzinibbio and Perry tore each other to pieces for 15 minutes in a bloody mess of a scrap. Josh Emmett kept the momentum alive with a one-hit knockout of Ricardo Lamas, although missing weight robbed him of the chance to earn a bonus.
Rafael dos Anjos put his stamp on things with a career-best performance against Robbie Lawler, ending an evening that didn’t get nearly the viewership it deserved. UFC on FOX 26 was a triumph … and it accomplished all of this despite seven fights falling through.
Number Two: UFC 218
Aside from the egregious Felice Herrig vs. Cortney Casey match up, the event basically delivered top-to-bottom, showing off quality prospects and entertaining veterans alike. Yancy Medeiros and Alex Oliveira stole the show, only for Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje to steal it right back, only for Francis Ngannou to have a go of his own via nuclear uppercut.
There’s a legit argument that this card deserved the top spot and probably would have gotten on this list even if those three fights had been surrounded by stinkers, but don’t let a second-place finish make you think this was anything but spectacular.
Number One: UFC 217
UFC 218 had one hell of a strong claim to the top spot, but three titles changing hands in dramatic fashion in a single night? Hard to say no to that.
Ricardo Ramos got the show off to a damn hot start on Fight Pass with a spinning elbow knockout of Aiemann Zahabi, just the second of its kind in UFC history. A pair of bizarre endings in Curtis Blaydes vs. Aleksei Oleinik and Mark Godbeer vs. Walt Harris weren’t enough to slow the momentum, especially since Ovince Saint Preux scored a comeback head kick knockout along the way.
Then came the main card, which saw Paulo Costa end Johny Hendricks’ UFC career and Stephen Thompson hand Jorge Masvidal his most definitive defeat in years. Rose Namajunas’ massive upset of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, T.J. Dillashaw’s grueling slugfest with Cody Garbrandt, and Georges St-Pierre’s triumphant return combined to create the year’s most dramatic main card and push this event above its peers.
Here’s hoping this list becomes inaccurate after Saturday, Maniacs, when UFC 219 closes 2017’s combat sports campaign, hopefully, on a high note. Have an awesome holiday!