2016 has been one of the most infamous years in the promotion’s history. The UFC’s 2016 has seen a championship belt change hands an astonishing seven times. Let us not forget UFC 200 was marketed as UFC’s biggest event ever. 2016 revealed to the world new contenders that seemed to spring out of no way to lay claim. Max Holloway and Stephen Thompson fighters we now realize as a result of their dominant victories in 2016 are stars that are here to stay. Unfortunately, 2016 was not without its fallen stars. Fighters like the former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks that were once on top of their divisions but could not garner a win in 2016. With all the events to take fold in 2016, it's hard to believe that there are still months to go before the year is over meaning there's still plenty of fighting to be had. The possibilities for fights are endless.
The list below consists of fights that UFC fans are dying to see before year’s end. The list consists of fights that on the day this article was written was not announced by the UFC making fights like Glover Teixeira vs Anthony Johnson or Rafael Dos Anjos vs Tony Ferguson that are dream matches but are not on this list because they have already been scheduled. The ranking of the fights is based on factors that include the fight's impact on a division, the amount of time the fight has been speculated to be in the works, and the fighters' mutual dislike of each other.
15 Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald III
Lawler vs MacDonald 1 was the beginning of it all. The two men were at different points in their careers but both had clear intentions of making a run at the title. The first bout featured a young MacDonald 24 to be exact and a Robbie Lawler who was back in the UFC after previously being released. In the end, Lawler would claim victory by decision. Fate would have it that the two fighters would meet again two years later this time for the UFC welterweight championship. A belt Robbie captured a year after defeating McDonald. The five-round second bout would prove to be an epic back-and-forth battle heading into the fifth and final round. Robbie as he is known to do picked up the tempo with minutes remaining in the fight landing a series of punches that put MacDonald away. So with two bouts between the two men already in books, why do we want a third? If history repeats itself then the third fight will be a classic.
14 Holly Holm vs Cristiane Justino
The purposes for this bout goes beyond just a match up. The bout could mean the birth of another division, the Women’s 145lb featherweight division. Holly Holm former UFC bantamweight champion captured the belt by defeating a woman that was in the prime of career, Ronda Rousey. Before the bout, Rousey was undefeated in her fighting career finishing all but one of her previous fights in the first round. However, Holm was unphased by Rousey prolific standing in the sport knocking Rousey out in the second round of the fight with a powerful leg kick. Before Holm’s career in the UFC Holm was a boxer boxing as high as 154 lbs at one point. Justino has dominated the MMA world outside of the UFC winning multiple championships across different organizations. One of the major factors keeping Justino out of the UFC was her inability to make it down to the 136 weight limited of the bantamweight division. Recently at UFC 198 Justino made her debut knocking out Leslie Smith in the first round. The bout was at 140lbs and Justino’s difficulties in making that weight were well documented.
13 Joseph Benavidez vs Henry Cejudo
Both Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo are top-five contenders who have had their shot at the flyweight title against the only champion the flyweight division has ever known, Demetrious Johnson. Unfortunately for the two men, their shot at the belt came up short. Both men are in a situation where they must prove themselves to once again fight for the title. For Benavidez, the road to a title shot maybe a longer and more difficult one than that of Cejudo being that he has already fought Demetrius Johnson for the title twice. The first bout was a closely contested fight but the second ended in a first round KO. If granted a third title shot it may be his last if Johnson continues his reign as the division's champ because if trilogies in which one side has both wins is a rarity then in a fourth fight in a similar situation would be doubtful.
12 Luke Rockhold vs Yoel Romero
Heading into UFC 199, Luke Rockhold was ready to defend his title against the person he beat in order to capture the UFC middleweight title, Chris Weidman. However, unfortunately, due to a neck injury that required surgery it was announced just two weeks before the bout that streaking middleweight Michael Bisping would step in as Weidman’s replacement. Despite the short notice nature of the bout, Bisping was able to defeat Rockhold, capturing the title. Now looking to reclaim his position on top of the division Rockhold is expected to fight a top-five opponent. Luckily the only person he has not fought in the top five rankings of the middleweight division has recently been freed from his UFC suspension. In April 2016 fresh off his defeat of top five middleweight contender Ronaldo Souza it was announced that Yoel Romero would be suspended for six months after a USADA (United States Anti-Doping) drug test failure. Before Romero’s suspension, he was on the cusp of a title shot now back he will need a fight against a top five opponent to secure a shot at the middleweight title.
11 Urijah Faber vs T.J. Dillashaw
Looking at what makes a great fight most would agree an essential component must be a great back story that takes the matchup passed a simple fight towards a grudge match. A matchup that does just that is a Urijah Faber vs TJ Dillashaw bout. For those unfamiliar with the history between the two fighters, TJ Dillashaw was up until last year a member of Team Alpha Male a mix martial arts team owned by Faber. TJ Dillashaw notably decided to leave Alpha Male for another team. The transition created a rift between the two men that resulted in a back-and-forth verbal battle. Since Dillashaw's departure from Alpha Male, he has garnered a one and one record losing the bantamweight title in his first loss since 2013. Faber has also had a recent shot at the title himself at UFC 198 against Cruz ultimately losing the bout.
10 Max Holloway vs Frankie Edgar
There is this young star on the rise named Max Holloway who is currently on a 9-fight win streak that tops his division, beating the likes of Jeremy Stephens and Ricardo Lamas. He is on the cusp of earning a title shot making top 5 featherweight fighter Frankie Edgar the opponent for him to make a final case for that title shot. Edgar has recently fought against Jose Aldo for an interim title shot at UFC 200. Unfortunately, he lost the 5 round affair however this did not deter him from his goal for the belt. As with any situation when there is an interim champion it is just a matter of time until that person fights the division’s champ. In the case of the featherweight interim champion Jose Aldo, he has on a few occasions been forced to call out of the fight due to injury. So that being said a win in a fight between the two men would put that person in the perfect position to step in if Aldo were step down in the expected Conor vs Aldo
9 Luke Rockhold vs Anderson Silva
It has been said that a worse fate then never getting the UFC title, is getting the title but losing your first title defense. It is compared to someone placing a gift in the palm of your hand and immediately after it is stripped from your grasp. The recipient never got a chance to fully come to terms with what they have received. This was the unfortunate experience of UFC lightweight fighter, Luke Rockhold. Rockhold in his first title defense after claiming the belt in an all-out war with Chris Weidman whom he was scheduled to fight in a rematch at UFC 198. However, due to an injury, Weidman was forced to call out of the bout. The man who would place his hat in the ring to replace Weidman was none other than Michael Bisping. The underdog Bisping defeated Rockhold in the first round. Not looking to reclaim his title Rockhold has put out a challenge to the longtime middleweight champion Anderson Silva. The bout would mark a step toward reclaiming the belt for Silva as well. With the two men recovering from recent losses, a win over the other would show that they are still among the elite in the division.
8 Anderson Silva vs Georges St. Pierre
At one point these two men were not only at the top of their respective divisions but they were as dominant as a fighter can be. Anderson Silva dominated the middleweight division claiming the title for an eight-year span. The division that St.Pierre called his was the welterweight division. In a span of six years, St-Pierre successfully defended his title an astonishing 10 times. Through the majority of the reign of both men, it was constantly speculated that the two men would fight but the matchup never came to be. However, the present moment seems to be one of the better times when the two men could fight. Both men are free of their titles which served as a deterrent from the two men fighting in the past. Also, Silva is in the midst of an uphill battle to reclaim the middleweight belt again making him more likely now more than ever to accept the bout. As for the retired St.Pierre retirement as we know in sports is not a permanent status. Take for instance the formerly retired Brock Lesnar who unretired to fight at UFC 200.
7 Tyron Woodley vs Georges St. Pierre
If you haven't heard yet, there is a new champion in the welterweight division. The fighter now wielding the title is none other than Tyron Woodley. Woodley captured the belt after defeating Robbie Lawler via first-round KO at UFC 201. After winning the bout he made it clear that he wants to fight George St-Pierre for his first title defense. It is important to know that George st. Pierre is currently in retirement a decision made after holding the welterweight belt himself for an astonishing five years. However, of late St.Pierre has made statements suggesting that he is willing to come out of retirement to fight Woodley and oh man are we excited to hear that. The return of St.Pierre could mean a huge impact to the UFC especially if he returns in prime form.
6 Ronda Rousey vs Cristiane Justino
Rousey had a historic run for two years in the UFC becoming the first woman to capture a UFC title. From 2013 - 2015 she went on to defeat six straight opponents becoming one of the most popular fighters the UFC has ever had. However, as all good things must come to an end so did Rousey’s undefeated streak. Rousey's first defeat came at the hands of Holly Holm. In a bout where Rousey was heavily favored, she was unable to take Holm down with her signature Judo moves eventually falling victim to Holm’s elite stand up. Since the loss, Ronda has yet to return to the cage occupied by outside obligations that include filming a movie. During Ronda's reign at the top, there were those that would not grant her the title of the world's top female fighter. They argued that there was one other that could defeat Ronda and that woman was Cristiane Justino a prolific fighter in the MMA world outside of the UFC. Justino recently made her debut in the UFC at UFC 200. The fight was at 140 lbs 10 pounds heavier than Rousey’s bantamweight division.
5 Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko II
Amanda Nunes is the newest champion in the women's bantamweight division. She captured the belt by defeating Miesha Tate in the first round via TKO at UFC 200. Shortly after the bantamweight belt change hands, a contender placed her hat in the ring to become the first person to challenge the new champion. The bantamweight Valentina Shevchenko defeated former bantamweight champion, Holly Holm. Utilizing world-class muay-thai she handed Holly Holm her second straight loss. Then there's their closely-contested fight the two had in the past. During that fight, Nunes seemed to be pulling away with the victory early but with a change of momentum Shevchenko took over the fight late. In the end, Nunes would win the fight via unanimous decision. With that momentum change late many speculated that if it were a 5 round contest instead of three that it seemed that Shevchenko would have defeated Nunes. Well the best way to find out who would win a five round fight is to have one!
4 Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Eddie Alvarez
If the UFC rankings hold any weight towards the UFC matchups then the next lightweight championship bout would be between newly crowned Champion Eddie Alvarez vs number one contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dropping his first fight in the UFC Alvarez went on to win his next three bouts beating the likes of Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez earning a shot at the title against Rafael Dos-Anjos. Three minutes into the first round of the fight Alvarez delivered a devastating uppercut dropping Dos Anos. The punch would fare too much for Dos Anos to recover from leading to Alvarez's victory. Khabib Nurmagomedov has dominated his opponents in the UFC with his superior wrestling garnering a 23 and 0 record. However, in the last two years he has only fought one time but of late he has seemingly been injury-free prompting the perfect moment for him to collide with Alverez for the belt.
3 Cain Velasquez vs Stipe Miocic
Among the seven newly crowned champions already in 2016 is Stipe Miocic. In a bout where Miocic was fighting a man who seemed to be in the prime of his career Fabricio Werdum. Throwing punches back and forth in the first round of the fight Miocic landed a devastating right hand dropping Werdum. The new champ is set to defend his title against Alistair Overeem at UFC 203 but as with the case with any scheduled fight in the UFC that could change in an instant. The first person in line for the shot in that situation could very well be the two-time heavyweight champion,Velasquez. After losing his belt to Werdum at UFC 188 Velasquez suffered an injury that sidelined him for close to a year. In his recent return against Travis Browne, he proved that he was back in top shape defeating Brown by TKO in the first round.
2 Jose Aldo vs Conor McGregor II
When there is an interim belt holder it becomes inevitable that person will collide with the champion. In the case of the UFC’s featherweight division, the interim Champion is Jose Aldo a man who held the division’s title for five years eventually losing it to the new Champion Conor McGregor. The belt was marked as the fight of the year with a marketing campaign that seems to be endless however the actual bout would be short, 13 seconds to be exact. It would only take that long for Conor to put away Aldo with a devastating right hand. McGregor is notably in the midst of preparing for a rematch with Nick Diaz. Can he fight again this year? we hope so. Fortunately, McGregor has already stated his intentions to return to the division after his next bout and Aldo seems to be back in prime shape.
1 Demetrious Johnson vs Dominick Cruz
There are certain fighters you don't just fight for the title because they have already obtained that goal. These fighters are fighting for their legacy. This undoubtedly is the case for Demetrious Johnson and Dominick Cruz. Johnson has dominated his division since claiming the title in 2012. Going eight title defenses without a loss, defeating Johnson has proven to be a difficult task. Dominick Cruz was notably absent from fighting for a five-year period, as he only fought once between 2011 and 2015 as a result of two severe knee injuries. He made his return in 2016 against TJ Dillashaw, winning the closely contested bout and securing the bantamweight belt he never lost. Since then Cruz has gone on to defended his belt once more against Urijah Faber extending his run as the only UFC champion to never lose a fight in the UFC. The two have fought before at UFC Fight Live five years ago however Demetrious Johnson has increased his abilities by leaps and bounds since the fight.