With a new year comes new story lines to focus on. Here’s your UFC 2016 preview of who you should be following…

2015 in the UFC was a year full of moments that made you stare into you TV asking: “What the hell just happened??” See Holly Holm punting Rousey’s head a good 20 yards, Conor McGregor KOing Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, or Jon Jones getting busted for la Cocaina….or getting arrested for a felony hit-and-run 3 months later. Oh Jon Jon.

The UFC has a ton of work ahead of them if they want to replicate 2015’s success. But here is what fans should look forward to in 2016.

1) The return of Jon Jones

After his repeated successful attempts at being a dumbass, Jon Jones seems to have turned a new light. Jones was quickly reinstated back in September and recent videos have surfaced showing Jones lifting weights and looking like a complete monster. It seems like a forgone conclusion that he will regain the strap in his highly anticipated rematch with current champ, Daniel Cormier, in April. Now after that, things get very interesting. Once he defeats the Cormier, he will have faced all viable contenders in his weight class. And won.

Jon Jones has wiped out the division. Weight cutting is for a fight is universally known as “Hell week” for fighters (more on this later), so why not move to a very weak weight class and dominate there? Here is my projected timeline for Jones: defeat Cormier in April, defeat Anthony Johnson in August, and then face the Heavyweight Champ in December. The light heavyweight champion…I mean “former” champ… is either the greatest fighter of all time or close to it.

His message to the UFC has been made abundantly clear: Be afraid! Be Very Afraid.

2) New Champions?

Seven new champions, all in different divisions, were crowned in 2015.

Fabricio Werdum (heavyweight), Daniel Cormier (Light heavyweight), Luke Rockhold (Middleweight), Rafael dos Anjos (Lightweight), Conor McGregor (Featherweight), Holly Holm (Women’s Bantamweight), and Joanna Jędrzejczyk (Women’s Strawweight), all solidified their names as The Man (or Woman) in their respective divisions.

A great American Philosopher, Ric Flair, once proclaimed: “To be the man, you gotta beat the man! Woooo!” With the exception of Daniel Cormier, who won his title due to Jon Jones’s dumbassness, all of the new champions completely dominated their predecessor to win the strap.

That’s not to say that the former champs weren’t that good, but the sport of MMA is constantly evolving. There will always be that one fighter waiting in the wings that will terrorize the incumbent champion. All of the new champs were that guy/gal. 2015 was uncommon in the sense that there was a massive championship renaissance. I am predicting the same for 2016. There is a slight chance that every division in the UFC could have a new champion by this time next year.

3) “Is this the end for us, my friend?”

So I found a way to fit a Creed lyric into this. Gold Star for me!

My reason for bringing up the worst band ever is simple: This may be the end of Ronda Rousey as we know it. In an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, she provided this shocking, but not so shocking proclamation:

“I guess it’s all going to be determined by what happens in the rematch. Either I’ll win and keep going or I won’t and I’ll be done with everything.” Rousey is referring to her upcoming rematch with Holly Holm. Provided that Holly Holm gets past Miesha Tate at UFC 197 (Miesha Tate is a badass so a Holm victory is far from guaranteed), Holm vs. Rousey 2 at UFC 200 will be epic! Pair that fight with a Conor McGregor vs. Frankie Edgar or a possible return of George St. Pierre, that event could eclipse 2 million PPV buys. Will she actually hang up the gloves if Holm beats her again? Only Rousey can answer that. However, another one-sided beatdown at the hands of Holm might make her decision a relatively easy one.

If you look at the history of combat sport, the anatomy of a rematch typically starts with a lie. Someone from the losing fighter’s inner circle, or the losing fighter, gives a lie. My shoulder was hurt. I tweaked my knee in training. The lie is an excuse. Some kind of lie/excuse surfaces and the media runs with it.

Another good one, and one that was already used with Rousey: I lost focus. I was doing too much with the media. Another good one: Fire your entire camp and coaches and start anew. None of these are true in the sense that a bum knee or lost focus is the sole reason for the loss. Holly Holm made us ask one giant question:

Is Ronda Rousey as good as we hyped her to be? Yes and No. While Rousey’s victories prove that she is a dangerous fighter, she is not very well rounded. She is a powerful striker, but her footwork and head movement is lacking. This isn’t really a bold prediction, though. It is pretty safe to say that if Rousey doesn’t get a different coach, Holly Holm will dominate her again.

4) Irish takeover

Conor McGregor

via Yahoo

With Ronda Rousey losing, Conor McGregor has taken the UFC mantle and ran with it to Ireland.

Just wait until he fights someone in the top 10, they said.

Just wait until he fights a wrestler, they said.

Just wait until he fights Aldo, they said.

He responds with brash confidence and does exactly what he says he will do. He is a top 3 pound-for-pound fighter, and by far the biggest star the UFC has. With the anticipated announcement of McGregor moving up to lightweight to face Rafael dos Anjos for the Lightweight title, 2016 could be the year where Conor McGregor completely changes history.


Featured image via Sports Tap