Simply put, it’s hard to argue against the significance of the UFC’s New York City debut. Even if the card was a stinker, it would likely be my Event of the Year. The fact that it delivered on the hype is simply the cherry on top of a delicious, delicious sundae.
After a long, drawn-out and frustratingly corrupt legal battle with the State of New York, 2016 became the year that MMA was finally legalized in The Big Apple. With it, brought an event that fans could only dream about in the past. The Octagon, Live from Madison Square Garden.
We knew that they would try to stack this lineup. For one, it was a high profile event in the world’s most famous arena. But it also gave the UFC the opportunity to present the sport of MMA to a new and important market, essentially forcing them to realize what they’ve been missing all these years. The event was aptly nicknamed “The Real UFC 200” by fans who were equal parts bitter about the July show and hopeful about it’s November counterpart.
As the fight announcements were released, it became abundantly clear that ever our wildest expectations were likely an underestimation. Jim Miller vs. Thiago Alves on Fight Pass. Khabib Nurmagomedov, Michael Johnson, Frankie Edgar and Jeremy Stephens on Fox Sports 1. These were Fight Night main eventers and we were seeing them as opening acts.
The reason for such was obvious when you examined the main card. Raquel Pennington vs. Miesha Tate. Yoel Romero vs. Chris Weidman. Three title fights! Three! Joanna vs. Karolina, Woodley vs. Wonderboy and McGregor vs. Alvarez.
Finally – the last bit of criteria when choosing this award winner – the memorable moments. We were chalk full of ’em.
Miesha Tate decided to call it quits after losing to her former TUF team member. Yoel Romero landed one of the most devastating flying knee KOs we’ve ever seen in the Octagon. Woodley and Wonderboy ended in an extremely rare championship-fight draw. And featherweight champion Conor McGregor won the lightweight title, making him the first two-way world champion in the promotion’s history.
This was a no-brainer. No other card topped it. UFC 205 was the best event of 2016.
Honorable Mention: UFC 206 in Toronto, Canada
Honorable Mention: UFC 196 in Las Vegas, Nevada