MMAthread resumes its yearly review with the second quarter of 2016. Where we saw the return of a former champion trying to recapture gold and glory. A dominant champion continued to cement his way into history books. Not to forget former UFC champions switch to rival brands as well as more.
April of 2016 was the highly anticipated return of former light-heavyweight champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones. At UFC 197, Jones was to face Daniel Cormier in a rematch for the title Jones was stripped of. However, as recent times have shown, nothing goes to plan as Cormier got forced out of the match-up due to injury. Ovince St.Preux was the man to step up and save the card and as a reward he gained a shot at the interim title. St.Preux put in a valiant effort against a ring-rusted Jones but came up short as he lost via decision.
On the same card, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson continued to steam roll his way through the 125lbs division. Johnson‘s challenger came in the shape of Henry Cejudo. Like all challengers prior, he failed to capitalise on the opportunity succumbing to a viscous TKO at Johnson‘s hands.
Other notable fights from the UFC to take place in April were: Junior Dos Santos beating Ben Rothwell by decision, Glover Teixeira KO’ing Rashad Evans and Khabib Nurmagomedov defeating relatively unknown Darrell Horcher.
In February 2016, Benson Henderson switched promotions from UFC to Bellator. Henderson made his debut against Andrey Koreshkov on April 22nd. It wasn’t a debut to dream of as he lost on points to Koreshkov. Featuring on the same card was fast rising MMA star Michael ‘Venom’ Page. In his fight, he defeated Jeremie Holloway by toe hold submission.
May 2016 was full of surprise for the MMA fans across the globe. The first event in May was UFC fight night: Overeem vs. Arlovski. The card itself wasn’t exactly stacked but had some great names fighting on it. Stefan Struve and Antonio ‘Big Foot’ Silva being some of those names. Struve brushed ‘Big Foot’ aside in shocking but quick fashion, KO’ing him within 16 seconds. Two top 10 ranked heavyweights headlined the card in Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski. Both men where vying for a title shot but it was Overeem that came out on top. Overeem finished Arlovski off with a jump kick and punches in the 2nd round. With his impressive win over Arlovski, Overeem became the number one contender.
Just six days later at UFC 198, there was a long awaited debut being made. That was when Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino squared of against Leslie Smith. The contest was short lived with Cyborg taking the victory via TKO in the 1st round. Following on from that fight we saw Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza stop former light-heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort. The bout followed suit to the one previous not even making it into the second round ending in a TKO. The main event, Werdum Vs. Miocic was for the heavyweight title. Many expected it to be over quickly in Werdum‘s favour, but Miocic had other plans, causing a massive upset by knocking out Werdum 2 minutes 47 seconds into round 1. This made Miocic the first man to defeat Werdum since 2011. This was the second title to change hands in the UFC within the first half of the year.
Bellator 154 didn’t really have much to offer in terms of championship bouts. What it did offer though were some great fights where fan favourite, Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal, faced Phil ‘Mr Wondeful’ Davis. It ended in controversial fashion as the scorecard margin was much wider than what fans thought. The decision could have gone either way, but Davis took 30-27 on two score cards and 29-28 on the other. This brought an end to King Mo‘s 7-fight win streak and earned Davis a title shot. The title shot would be against Liam McGreary.
Bellator 155 quickly followed its predecessor 6 days after. This time round there was championship gold on the line. Middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho successfully defended his belt against Melvin Manhoef. It was a really close contest that ended as split decision for Carvalho. Once again, that decision was a controversial one with many believing Manhoef had won. The decision wasn’t the only thing that shocked fans. The fight itself promised to be a war, unfortunately it turned out to be a snooze fest. Referee ‘Big’ John McCarthy had to stop the contest at one point to remind the fighters to engage in battle.
June was a must-see month in the UFC, with two titles on the line in the first event of sixth month. Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz prepared to battle against old rival Uriah Faber. This would be their third and final encounter and history would repeat itself. Faber once again failed to better his rival in his quest for bantamweight glory, losing the bout via decision. The second title fight was a rematch between Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping. This fight didn’t go as many expected it would and Michael Bisping flipped the script. He went on to win the UFC middleweight title and writing his name in the history books. It had been quite the fairytale career for Bisping in his hunt for the title. When the oppurtunity had risen, he took with both hands at the expense of Rockhold‘s chin. Making Bisping the first UFC champion from England.
Two weeks later, UFC Fight Night saw Rory MacDonald take on Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in a welterweight match-up. MacDonald looked a shadow of his former self, as he was beaten convincingly in all 5 rounds. Also on that card was Donald Cerrone in his second fight at welterweight, putting on a show. Cerrone knocked out Patrick Cote in the last round of their 3 round bout.
Bellator 156 was their first event in June. The main event was a title match that got scrapped at Bellator 150. The bout got scrapped when defending bantamweight champion Marcos Galvao took ill. Galvao Vs. Dantas 2 finally happened and went off with out a hitch. When the bout came around, Dantas showed he was more than ready to reclaim the belt he held previously. He outworked, out punched and out pointed his former team mate to a unanimous decision.
The next event in June, Bellator 157: Dynamite 2. This event had a fan favourite ‘Rampage’ Jackson headline it. ‘Rampage‘ faced off against Satoshi Ishii. ‘Rampage‘ didn’t look like the one of old, who held the UFC light-heavyweight championship. It took him a while to get into gear and take the decision win. While the co-main event promised to be an exciting one. Two lightweight contenders in the shape of Michael Chandler and Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire wanted to stake their claim for a shot at the title. Both men where eager to stand and trade shots from the get go. Midway through the first round Chandler landed a devastating right hand and knocked ‘Pitbull‘ out cold. This put Chandler in the title picture right away.
The second quarter of the year gave us upsets, new champions and great fights. The third quarter we look at the biggest event to hit MMA, more upsets and more title triumphs.