Heading into the final event of the calendar year, there were still an award or two on the table. There was always a chance of some wild submission or knockout. Fight of the Year is always an option, as well. But there was one outcome that I was particularly interested in concerning my 2016 Fighter of the Year.
If Cody Garbrandt could defeat Dominick Cruz in convincing fashion, he’d be my fighter of the year. Well he did. And he is.
Garbrandt has seen a lot of success in his combat sports career. Prior to transitioning to MMA, he acquired a 32-1 record as an amateur boxer. He then transitioned to MMA where he joined up with Team Alpha Male and quickly made a name for himself as one of the best bantamweight prospects in the world.
But enough about his history. Let’s talk about 2016. The year began with a fight against Augusto Mendes. Mendes missed weight. Cody knocked him out anyway. It only took four minutes.
Next, Cody took on fellow surging prospect, Thomas Almeida, in May. The hype surrounding Almeida was at a boiling point, as many were already talking about a fight between him and champion Dominick Cruz. Well, Cody knocked him out too. This one took less than three minutes and they rewarded him with Knockout of the Night honors.
Takeya Mizugaki tried his hand in August and failed to make it one minute before meeting the same fate as the others. This left “No Love” with a 3-0 record in 2016 bringing his total up to 10-0 with 9 knockouts. Finally, he was ready for his shot at the title, but to get his hand raised, he would need to dethrone the best 135 pounder to ever step foot inside the Octagon.
It took all five rounds to defeat Dominick Cruz at UFC 207. But that’s certainly understandable given the weight of the task. Cruz looked to be at full strength, but Cody was simply better. Though the majority of the analysis centered around Cody needing to knock Cruz out, he paced himself well and was able to beat him at his own game. It was a tremendous performance and a perfect end to a perfect year.
Congratulations to Cody Garbrandt. Congratulations to Team Alpha Male. He is the UFC Bantamweight Champion, and he’s my 2016 Fighter of the Year.
Honorable Mention: Michael Bisping
Honorable Mention: Amanda Nunes