2016 was a great year for UFC pay-per-views, as records were set, broken and then broken again. After 13 exciting PPVs this year, here's how they all rank.
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UFC 201: Lawler vs Woodley
UFC 201 wasn’t a bad UFC pay-per-view by any means. Current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley knocked out hard-hitting champion Robbie Lawler in stunning fashion in the main event, Jake Ellenberger caught Matt Brown with a nasty body kick and Nikita Krylov scored yet another finish to highlight the prelims. But outside of that, the event just didn’t fill up the excitement meter the way other PPVs have in 2016.
UFC 197: Jones vs. Saint Preux
UFC 197 was supposed to mark the return of longtime UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones as he battled Daniel Cormier in a rematch of their epic war more than a year prior at UFC 182. However, Cormier injured his foot and was replaced by Ovince Saint Preux just a few days out from the event.
Jones would go on to win that fight convincingly, but the last minute change definitely dropped this event a few notches.
UFC 197 also saw Demetrious Johnson put to rest all the talk of Henry Cejudo being the man to beat him and Yair Rodriguez establish himself as a legit threat to the featherweight top 15.
UFC 195: Lawler vs. Condit
Just two days into 2016, the UFC already had a Fight of the Year candidate.
Welterweights Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit took the Octagon at UFC 195 on Jan. 2 and engaged on one of the most incredible fights the MMA world had ever seen. Lawler won a razor-thin split decision to defend his title.
The rest of the card featured some exciting finishes, most notably Stipe Miocic’s KO of Andrei Arlovski and Michael MacDonald’s submission win after more than two years away. But it was the main event that kept everyone talking about the card for weeks after the final bell.
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UFC 203: Miocic vs. Overeem
UFC 203 was special for a couple unique reasons: Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic was making his first UFC title defense in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and former WWE superstar CM Punk was set to make his UFC debut.
Miocic and Overeem spent just five minutes in the Octagon together, but it was enough to garner Fight of the Night as Cleveland native Miocic overcame an early knockdown to win the fight.
Punk’s night didn’t go as well. The ambitious former pro wrestler whiffed big on his first punch of the night, which opened the door for Mickey Gall to score an easy takedown and finish with a submission just 2:14 into the first round.
UFC 207: Nunes vs. Rousey
UFC 207 could be ranked higher based on fanfare alone, but the event was very top-heavy when looked at in its entirety.
Amanda Nunes put on a performance of a lifetime with her 48-second drubbing of Ronda Rousey in the main event to retain her UFC bantamweight title. In the co-main event, Cody Garbrandt became the first person to ever beat Dominick Cruz inside the Octagon and took home the men’s bantamweight title for his efforts.
TJ Dillashaw embarrassed power-puncher John Lineker on the main card as well, but the rest of the card headed into that bout was rather uneventful.
UFC 196: McGregor vs Diaz
Given how much hype surrounded this event and the fighters in the marquee, you’d think UFC 196 would rank much higher. But pay-per-views in 2016 were just that damn good.
Conor McGregor was originally supposed to fight Rafael Dos Anjos in an effort to become the UFC’s first-ever simultaneous two-division champion. But an RDA injury put those plans on ice. In stepped Diaz, and one of the best UFC rivalries ever was born.
Diaz shocked plenty of the McGregor faithful that lined the seats of the MGM Grand that night in Vegas with his second-round submission. He wasn’t the only upset that night, however.
In the co-main event, Holly Holm — fresh off her victory over Ronda Rousey — lost a heartbreaker to Miesha Tate. Tate threatened with a rear-naked choke in the opening round but was thoroughly dominated rounds 2 through 4. Midway through the final round, however, she was able to sink in another RNC, and this time she finished it.
UFC 196 also featured Amanda Nunes’ win over Valentina Shevchenko in their No. 1 contender bout, as well as Nordine Taleb’s brutal KO of Erick Silva.
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UFC 200: Tate vs. Nunes
On paper, UFC 200 was hands down the biggest event in UFC history. The card was originally headlined by a rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor until a disagreement between the promotion and “Notorious” forced the bout from the lineup.
That bout was then replaced by a title unification bout between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier — until Jones tested positive for banned substances and thus removed from the card, and propelled the title fight between Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes to the main event.
Despite the losses in light of the card’s potential, it still ranks high solely on the sheer talent on display. Every fighter on the main card (with the exception of Travis Browne) has fought for or held a UFC belt, and six of the eight fighters on the FS1 prelims are currently ranked in their respective division’s top 10.
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UFC 204: Bisping vs. Henderson 2
Some of the UFC’s biggest stars put on an unforgettable show for UFC fans in Manchester, England, at UFC 204.
The fight card opened with a razor-close decision before seeing fight straight finishes — three by submission, two by knockout — heading into the main card.
The string of exciting finishes continued on to the main card, where Mirsad Bektic and Stefan Struve both recorded submissions, Jimi Manuwa brutally KOed Ovince Saint Preux, and Gegard Mousasi put the rest of the middleweight division on notice with his second-round beatdown of Vitor Belfort.
To cap it all off, Michael Bisping avenged one of the most vicious knockouts of all time with a unanimous decision win over Dan Henderson in his first UFC title defense.
UFC 206: Holloway vs. Pettis
My efforts to combat the recency effect is probably keeping me from appropriately ranking UFC 206, because I desperately want to put this card in the top three.
The event was highly slept on because of its original potential. Former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was rumored to be making his return on the card and Daniel Cormier was defending his belt against Anthony Johnson. But none of that happened. Instead, Holloway vs. Pettis was bumped up to the main event and made into an interim title fight.
Some expected the worst, but what happened on fight night wildly exceeded expectations.
Emil Meek kicked off the card with an impressive UFC debut against Jordan Mein, Kelvin Gastelum put the rest of the middleweight division on notice with his TKO over Tim Kennedy, Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi threw down in a brawl for the ages and Holloway secured the interim featherweight title to wrap up an incredible night of fights.
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UFC 198: Werdum vs. Miocic
The UFC packed the first quarter of 2016 with some fantastic pay-per-views, and UFC 198 was one of them.
The event was the only pay-per-view held in Brazil in 2016, so the UFC decided to stack the card with some of the country’s biggest stars. “Lil’ Nog,” Demian Maia, Thiago Santos and John Lineker all came away with wins during the prelims while “Shogun” Rua and “Jacare” Souza got big divisional wins on home turf.
The card also featured the UFC debut of MMA great Cris Cyborg, who scored a rousing first-round victory over Leslie Smith.
Things weren’t all peachy for the Brazilian fans in attendance, however. Stipe Miocic knocked out hometown hero Fabricio Werdum while moving backwards to win the UFC heavyweight title in the main event.
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UFC 205: McGregor vs. Alvarez
UFC 205 lived up to the hype as a truly historic night in UFC history.
The UFC packed the card with top talent as the promotion made its inaugural trip to New York City with names like Frankie Edgar, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Chris Weidman and three title fights at the top of the card.
The first title fight saw Joanna Jedrzejczyk defeat fellow Polish star Karolina Kowalkiewicz in a fast-paced bout for her fourth title defense, while welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson fought to a majority draw in the co-main event.
The main event was the Conor McGregor show, as he put a savage beatdown on then-lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to become the UFC’s first-ever simultaneous two-division champion. It was a night that no UFC fan will soon forget.
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UFC 199: Rockhold vs. Bisping
What do Conor McGregor and Michael Bisping have in common? Well, other than their brash personalities, they both won titles at two of the best PPVs of 2016.
At UFC 199, Bisping stepped in on just one week’s notice to dethrone Luke Rockhold for the UFC middleweight championship. The bout was Bisping’s first UFC title fight in his 10-year career and he completely showed out, finishing Rockhold with a flurry of punches just 3:36 into their main event bout.
Dominick Cruz put on a dominant showing the co-main event by nearly blanking Urijah Faber over five round, and Max Holloway ran through Ricardo Lamas to establish himself as a top contender at featherweight.
And that wasn’t all.
How could anyone forget Dan Henderson’s head-kick-to-flying-elbow finish of Hector Lombard that all but set him up for his fight with Bisping? Or Dustin Poirier’s first-round knockout of Bobby Green to show the rest of the lightweights he’d arrived?
From top to bottom, there was not one bad fight on the card. An argument that it was the best card of the year can definitely be made.
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UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2
Rafael Dos Anjos’ injury before UFC 196 changed the entire landscape of 2016 for the UFC.
When Nate Diaz stepped in on 10 days’ notice and choked Conor McGregor out, it caused a ripple effect, which spawned the rematch at UFC 202 and opened the door for McGregor to accomplish a lifelong goal on the biggest stage in New York City.
The rematch, however — considered by some the greatest fight in UFC history — tops the best card of the year.
At this point, everyone knows about Diaz and McGregor’s five-round epic, which McGregor won by majority decision. But it’s the five straight Knockout of the Year candidate finishes that preceded the main event that helps this card stand head and shoulders above the rest.