Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

There is certainly no shortage of intrigue surrounding Saturday's UFC Fight Night 89 main event.

For starters, the winner of this bout between Steven "Wonderboy" Thompson and Rory MacDonald would be the obvious choice as the next No. 1 contender for the welterweight title—except for one thing.

It remains very much unclear if MacDonald will still be a UFC fighter come next week, and that's just one reason why the outcome here might shape the futures of two of the sport's most promising 170-pounders.

At just 26 years old, it already feels as though MacDonald has been in the UFC for a lifetime. Since his debut in early 2010, he's fought in the Octagon 12 times, putting up a record of 9-3 (he's 18-3 overall).

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

These bantamweight dynasties—they don’t last forever.

Just ask T.J. Dillashaw.

On Sunday, it was Dominick Cruz bringing Dillashaw’s reign to a crashing halt after 20 months on top of the men’s 135-pound division. Like Renan Barao and Cruz before him, the previously dominant Dillashaw is suddenly cast into rebuilding mode.

The good news is that the champion’s loss could mean new life for nearly everyone else in the weight class. Cruz’s resurgence not only put an exclamation point on one of the greatest comebacks in MMA history, but it might open some doors for a few guys previously locked out of the title picture.

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Dominick Cruz certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

With Cruz at the helm of the greatest comeback story in MMA history on Sunday at UFC Fight Night 81, you just knew it was going to come down to the wire.

He wasn’t going to make this easy on us—or himself.

And least of all on TJ Dillashaw.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Pettis and Eddie Alvarez have both known better days.

While they aren’t quite down to desperation mode just yet, if either Pettis or Alvarez means to prove he belongs among the lightweight elite headed into 2016, then the co-main event bout at UFC Fight Night 81 on Sunday isn’t one either can afford to lose.

Depending on how things go, this could be a fairly meaningful crossroads in MMA’s most competitive weight class.

Once roundly considered the future of the 155-pound class, Pettis returns to the Octagon this weekend for the first time since March 2015, when he lost his lightweight title to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 185.

Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Since capturing the women’s bantamweight championship from Ronda Rousey at UFC 193, much of the discussion about Holly Holm has focused on how much she now has to lose.

Conventional wisdom dictated that Holm should wait for Rousey to lick her wounds and return before taking another bout. A rematch with Rousey—most likely at the enormous UFC 200 event scheduled for July—would be so lucrative that Holm wouldn’t want to risk losing it by accepting a different fight in the interim.

Her bosses appeared to agree.

"If we didn't make the [Holm vs. Rousey] rematch, [we] should probably lose our promoters' license," UFC President Dana White said on ESPN's Mike and Mike in early December (via MMAFighting.com’s Hunter A. Homistek). "That fight's going to happen. I don't know when, but that's the fight that will happen."

Credit Holm, then, for sticking to her guns. The new 135-pound champion said all along she didn’t want to sit on the sideline waiting for Rousey, and now she won’t. We learned this week Holm will instead take on former Strikeforce champion and longtime Rousey nemesis Miesha Tate at UFC 197 on March 5, according to an initial report by Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter.

Josh Hedges/Forza LLC/Getty Images

Credit Bellator announcers Sean Grande and Jimmy Smith for saying what the MMA world was thinking last week immediately following Fedor Emelianenko’s squash match with Jaideep Singh.

Well, our part of the world, anyway.

Emelianenko was still in the ring, getting his hand raised in victory by referee John McCarthy when Grande and Smith hit the fast forward button. The two American broadcasters understood that Fedor’s three-minute, two-second dismantling of the overmatched kickboxer would elicit little more than shrugs on our side of the Pacific, so they wasted no time spinning things forward.

“In his return to MMA Fedor Emelianenko leaves the Internet just one question to begin discussing,” Grande said. “Who’s next?”

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

At least the oddsmakers had this one dialed.

Leading up to Robbie Lawler’s welterweight title defense against Carlos Condit on Saturday at UFC 195, we were told the fight was too close to call.

Nearly every website that offered a betting line showed Lawler and Condit in a dead heat. Odds Shark’s Justin Hartling, for example, made the bout a pick ’em in his pre-fight odds and predictions piece, with both men going off at matching minus-115 numbers—and so it was, almost entirely across the board.

This obviously spoke to the incredibly competitive nature of the matchup and the parity at large in the 170-pound division right now.

Todd Lussier/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

We were left with two questions on Saturday after Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit completed their epic welterweight title fight at UFC 195—one of them hard and one of them easy.

The most difficult and most immediate question was, who the heck won?

We’re probably going to be arguing about the outcome of this bout for a while.

When the dust settled after 25 minutes—and arguably one of the greatest final rounds of all time—three ringside judges at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas allowed Lawler to retain his championship via split decision (47-48, 48-47 x 2).

Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

2015 was unpredictable.


So many unexpected things happened this year in the UFC, there was simply no way to predict it all—though, in fairness, we came pretty close. With a bevy of new champions and new gala events on the horizon, 2016 is shaping up as a pretty wild one, too.

Will Ronda Rousey return? Will Jon Jones reclaim his light heavyweight title? Will Bellator MMA land big-time free agents like Benson Henderson and Alistair Overeem? Can Conor McGregor come anywhere close to repeating (or exceeding) his landmark 2015?

Only two ways to find out.

Either stick around the MMA world for one more year or read on in this article, as Bleacher Report's staff of combat sports writers pitch in to make their own bold predictions for the New Year.  


Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

It was a bad time to be the best.

As the dust settles on a wild, comeback year for the UFC, one of the things we can say for sure is that the Octagon’s most dominant champions were among the sport’s biggest losers in 2015.

Saturday’s UFC on Fox 17 was event No. 41 for the fight company this calendar turn, and Rafael dos Anjos should consider himself lucky to jerk the curtain closed with a successful title defense against Donald Cerrone.

Many UFC champions didn’t fare quite as well. Turnover at the top was swift and unforgiving. In all, seven new titlists were crowned during 2015—at the expense of a few we thought might never relinquish the gold.