The sport of MMA has grown at an exponential rate in the last year or so. Often considered the outcast of combat sports, MMA has quickly become more and more popular and is integrating itself into the ‘mainstream’ and more recognised sports bracket.
Of course, the rise cannot be associated with just one factor. However, if you asked a certain Irish superstar by the name of Conor McGregor, I’m sure you’d get a definitive answer. In the lead up the much anticipated fight between McGregor and Alvarez at UFC205, McGregor was asked just how much he was worth to the company. His reply- “four-point-two billion dollars”.
The recently announced super-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor will most definitely propel the sport of MMA into a new light. The intrigue of the bout not only stems from McGregor’s other-worldly ability to trash-talk but crucially provides the crossover excitement of a boxer and an MMA fighter against each other in the ring.
The whole world will be watching, and inevitably the sport of MMA will profit greatly from the event as the newly found attention translates into a new fanbase. Here are the top three fights you should see if you’re new to the sport:
- UFC202- Diaz vs McGregor 2
The rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will be remembered as one of the best five-round wars to go down in the octagon. A mere five months after his defeat to Diaz at UFC196, McGregor faced-off against Diaz once more. The defeat, was partially blamed on McGregor’s cardio but more crucially for underestimating the hardened and tested chin of the UFC veteran that is Diaz. It would go down again, same weight, same opponent with McGregor insisting the fight should be run back in the exact same specifications.
The fight, this time, did go the full five rounds, and McGregor was awarded a majority decision over Diaz. McGregor utilised his game plan perfectly, to stay more reserved on the feet and inflict damage with leg kicks throughout the fight. Even with a more restrained approach to his striking, McGregor knocked Diaz to the canvas a total of three times throughout the fight.
Diaz, to no one’s surprise weathered the storm and came back with a vengeance in the later rounds, and inflicted considerable damage. At this point it looked like a carbon copy of the first encounter, with McGregor often running from an almost zombie-like Diaz chasing him down. McGregor survived the onslaught and miraculously caught a second wind towards the end of the fight.
The fight was not without controversy, with some fans believing Diaz was the deserved victor. However, the general consensus was that McGregor won three rounds to two.
The fight encapsulates the necessary evolution and development of a fighter perfectly; sometimes a fighter needs to taste defeat in order to get better.
2. UFC165: Jones vs Gustafsson
Much like McGregor’s second altercation with Diaz, former light-heavyweight champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones and top contender Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson, battled through a five round bloody brawl. Leading up to the fight, there were little who doubted the almost invincible Jones, who had already disposed of such notable fighters like Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida, before facing ‘The Mauler’- his sixth title defence after winning the championship back in 2011.
The fight mainly consisted of both fighters attempting to control the distance and furthermore implement their game plans. Both fighters, especially Jones, used an array of kicks to control the range and damage the body. The fight stayed on the feet for the majority of the five rounds, with each fighter only completing one successful takedown throughout the fight.
The statistics show a very even and well-matched encounter, with Jones landing 134 significant strikes, to Gustafsson’s equally impressive 110.
The result, a unanimous decision victory for Jones- however it would not have been surprising if Gustafsson’s arm was raised after the fight. Gustafsson arguably remains the toughest opponent Jones has locked horns with inside the octagon. The fight perfectly illustrates the technical level of striking both fighters possess and displayed their ability to reach down inside and perform to another level.
3. UFC189: (Lawler vs MacDonald 2)
In a fight that some MMA fans call the best of all time, Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald 2 is a must for this list.
If I were to describe Robbie Lawler in one word, it would coincidently be his nickname- ‘Ruthless’. Primarily known for battling through violent and brutal fights, Lawler possesses one-punch knockout power and unquestionable heart. His opponent, an up and coming young prospect in Rory MacDonald, who had already defeated UFC veterans like Nate Diaz, Demian Maia, Jake Ellenberger, BJ Penn, and the current welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley.
Lawler and MacDonald faced-off in the co-main event at UFC189 in a fight to determine the welterweight champion of the world. It would be Lawler’s first title defence, after recently avenging a loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC181.
To counter MacDonalds’ opposite stance and constant jabs, Lawler stayed mobile and used his footwork effectively, as well as defending four takedowns from MacDonald with textbook technique. The real turning point in the fight came when MacDonald changed his approach and started to throw head kicks. One kick in particular rocked Lawler, MacDonald recognised this and pushed forward towards the cage with a barrage of shots.
Lawler survived the onslaught and pushed on to inflict damage on MacDonald. Going in to the later rounds, the damage absorbed by both men was really starting to show. Their once clean faces were now covered in blood. It was clear the pain was starting to translate from MacDonald.
Lawler landed a fight ending left-hand which sent MacDonald cowering towards the canvas.
The fight was nothing short of extraordinary, the back and forth striking exchanges where both fighters looked to be dead and buried illustrates the unpredictability of MMA perfectly.
(Editor’s suggestion: Now you have read of the three fights all new fans must watch, here is ReadMMA’s 20 greatest fights in UFC history)