2015: The Year That Was in Combat Sports (Part 2)
Milan Ordoñez on Dec 31, 2015 04:06 PM
Photo credit: AP Images (File photo)
We continue to look back on this year’s noteworthy moments in combat sports.
Donaire vs. Juarez: 2015 Fight of the Year?
After a heartbreaking knockout loss to Nicholas Walters in October 2014, Nonito Donaire Jr. wanted nothing but vindication.
To his credit, he recognized the problems he had in the past and made some adjustments, both on the physical and mental aspects.
True enough, Donaire did go through resurgence in his career in March, when he knocked out Brazilian William Prado within two rounds in his comeback fight in the Philippines since 2009.
He was then able to put on a repeat performance four months after, when he fought Anthony Settoul in Macau. “Donaire 2.0” was in full effect, and he was able to get himself back to title contention.
Donaire capped off his year through a world title fight against Mexico’s Cesar Juarez last December 11th in Puerto Rico. Adamant to reclaim a world title strap, “The Filipino Flash” made sure not to disappoint, as he put on a performance to remember.
Battling through 36 minutes of action, Donaire showed the right combination of poise and tenacity, scoring a few knockdowns in the process. However, it was Juarez’s grit and resilience that kept him alive throughout the bout, despite eating a good number of hard shots.
The twelve-round barnburner did wow the fans in attendance and the entire world watching in their respective homes, that it became one of the solid candidates for 2015 Fight of the Year.
The 33-year old Donaire did achieve his end goal, and as he claims to be a “young man” in a game overrun by fighters in their 20’s, the future only looks a lot brighter.
UFC 194: ‘Mystic Mac’ and ‘The Money Fight’
Without a doubt, 2015 was a great year to be a fight fan for the Irish people, as the entire mixed martial arts world witnessed the height of the Conor McGregor effect.
Upon entering the UFC in 2013, McGregor barreled through every single opponent thrown at him with ease. More interestingly, he was fulfilling his very own pre-fight predictions, solidifying his “Mystic Mac” persona.
As early as 2014, the brash Irishman was already dead set in claiming the 145-pound title, which was then held by long-time champion José Aldo. Many dismissed his aspirations as merely ludicrous, but in Conor McGregor’s mind, it was all crystal clear.
He did campaign for a shot at José Aldo, which kicked off in February when he stopped Dennis Siver in two rounds. The UFC’s top brass had no other option but to grant McGregor the shot he was clamoring for, and a fight was scheduled to take place at UFC 189 in July.
Unfortunately for McGregor and the rest of the MMA audience, an injury on Aldo forced the fight to be moved to December 12th, as the headliner for UFC 194.
As the interim featherweight champion, McGregor’s goals remained intact. After all, it was the same opponent, just a different calendar date. And just like in their supposed match-up in July, ‘Mystic Mac’ once again foresaw a first-round stoppage.
Conor McGregor’s prophecy did come into play on fight night. Through a single straight left to the jaw, “The Notorious” ended the José Aldo title reign within 13 seconds of the bout.
Currently, it is the fastest knockout in UFC title fight history, just coming in a second earlier from Ronda Rousey’s previous 14-second finish of Cat Zingano in late February.
Now that he is the undisputed featherweight king, the current MMA game Conor McGregor’s own playground. He did exercise his right as champion and demanded a shot at Rafael Dos Anjos’ lightweight title belt, in which multiple reports have claimed that the UFC had already obliged to.
Just like “Money Mayweather’s” presence in the sport of boxing, Conor McGregor has definitely brought in a ton of buzz, particularly for the UFC’s lighter weight divisions. And for better or for worse, we have now entered the beginning of the Irish takeover.
UFC 193: When ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ Killed the Queen
Just last March, Sports Illustrated magazine branded Ronda Rousey as the “most dominant athlete alive today.” Ring Magazine, also known as the “Bible of Boxing”, decided have “Rowdy” on the cover of their January 2016 issue.
The first half of the year saw the transcendence of Ronda Rousey in the world of combat sports. No one had a clue that it could all end on the night of November 15th at UFC 193, against Holly Holm.
MMA fans were initially thrown off with the idea when the fight was first announced. While Holm’s striking prowess is common knowledge among spectators, she still seemed no match for the behemoth of a bantamweight that is Ronda Rousey.
Holly Holm shocked the entire world at UFC 193, in front of the crowd in attendance of more than 56,000 at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. With one left kick to the jaw, Rousey’s cloak of invincibility vanished in an instant. Just like that, a new UFC bantamweight champion was crowned.
An immediate rematch is now scheduled between Holm and Rousey for UFC 200 in July.
Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: From a five-year hype to a one-night sham
Mid-2009 was the first time boxing aficionados began putting both Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao’s names together.
At the time, Pacquiao was on top of the world, fresh off a highlight reel second round knockout victory over Ricky Hatton, and was already considered as the sport’s new pound-for-pound king.
Mayweather, on the other hand, had just announced that he was coming out of his two-year retirement.
Given the accolades of both men back then, a fight between the two was the only logical step to make next. Unfortunately, dream match-ups are not that easy to make.
Throughout the succeeding years, both the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps did slug it out, alright, but not inside a boxing ring. Mayweather first threw the performance enhancing drug use accusations towards Pacquiao’s way, in which the latter responded to with a lawsuit.
A huge chunk of boxing fans then began branding Mayweather as a “coward” and a “runner”, as Pacquiao, who held a cleaner image, was deemed as the protagonist of the said storyline.
As the world began losing faith on the ‘mega fight’ coming to fruition, the tides made a full turn early this year, when Mayweather, who dictated most of the terms, finally agreed to make the fight happen. It was scheduled for May 2nd, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The actual fight, however, did not live up to the expectations brought on by the five-year build up. Throughout the twelve rounds of action, Mayweather simply imposed his game and coasted through Pacquiao’s attacks, as the latter was left with not much chance to fight his fight.
In the end, “Money May” was given the wide unanimous decision verdict, and officially ended the debate on who the “Greatest Fighter of this era” really is.
While there are still faint talks about a rematch, both men have now gone their separate ways. Mayweather retired from professional boxing in September with a 49-0 record, while Pacquiao will be facing Timothy Bradley in a rubber match on April 9th, his 66th and final fight.
Floyd Sr. on Pacquiao’s clamor for a rematch: ‘He wants it but he won’t get it’
As of the moment, there are no two fighters who would be able to generate the same loud buzz as Mayweather and Pacquiao. But when it does happen, here’s hoping that boxing fans would at least get their money’s worth.
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