It’s all come down to this – the Highly Unofficial picks for the best fighters of 2015. As always, the rule is that someone had to have fought at least twice to be considered for the list, but with so many shows, what used to be an issue is an issue no longer, as there were plenty of top performers showing what they do best in the Octagon.
10 – Neil Magny
Back in the same spot he was in at this time last year, Colorado’s Neil Magny continues to impress as he climbs up the welterweight ladder. One of the busiest men in the sport, Magny went 5-0 in 2014 and he kept that hectic pace up in 2015, as he went 4-1 with wins over Kelvin Gastelum, Erick Silva, Hyun Gyu Lim and Kiichi Kunimoto, losing only to Demian Maia.
9 – Tony Ferguson
Tony Ferguson has long been the most underrated fighter on the UFC roster, but thankfully, the former Ultimate Fighter winner is starting to see some daylight after a spectacular 2015 campaign in which he submitted Gleison Tibau and Edson Barboza and decisioned Josh Thomson. All told, those three wins garnered “El Cucuy” four post-fight bonuses and a prime vantage point from which to make a run at champion Rafael dos Anjos in 2016.
8 – Max Holloway
Max Holloway has grown up in the Octagon, and while he was a relative youngster when he debuted against Dustin Poirier in 2012, at 24, he’s still a young gun, and one of the most dangerous featherweights in the world. Winner of eight straight, the Hawaiian upped the ante in 2015, decisioning veterans Cole Miller and Jeremy Stephens, submitting top contender Cub Swanson and stopping Charles Oliveira. Once just a prospect, “Blessed” is now a man in the thick of the title picture at 145 pounds.
7 – Demetrious Johnson
2015 was just another year in the life of Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. And by definition, that means that the UFC flyweight champion continued to dominate at 125 pounds as he systematically cleans out his division. This year, Kyoji Horiguchi and John Dodson swung and missed at the king, who shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.
6 – Luke Rockhold
Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold has been saying for a long time that he’s operating on a different level than his peers at 185 pounds. In 2015, no one is questioning that statement anymore after the Californian dominated Lyoto Machida en route to a second-round submission win in April and then stopped Chris Weidman in four rounds earlier this month to win the UFC middleweight crown. Doubters, step aside.
5 – Daniel Cormier
If you told Daniel Cormier on Jan. 4, 2015 that he was going to be UFC light heavyweight champion on Jan. 4, 2016, he would have thanked you for the kind words before calling you crazy. But the MMA world is a crazy one, and after a gutsy effort at UFC 182 against Jon Jones on Jan. 3, Cormier got a short notice call to replace the suspended Jones in a bout for the vacant 205-pound crown against Anthony Johnson on May 23. It was the second chance Cormier craved, and he made the most of it, submitting Johnson in the third round, earning himself the title in the process. Five months later, he cemented his claim to the title with a win over Alexander Gustafsson in an instant classic that headlined UFC 192.
4 – Holly Holm
It’s hard to believe that at this time last year, Holly Holm had yet to make her UFC debut. Fast forward 12 months and the former world boxing champion is the queen of the UFC women’s bantamweight division after three wins in 2015, the biggest obviously being the second-round knockout of Ronda Rousey that stunned the sports world. And while the recognition she’s receiving now is coming long after she should have been celebrated in the boxing world, as the saying goes, better late than never.
3 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Joanna Jedrzejczyk made an immediate impact in the Octagon in 2014 with wins over Juliana Lima and Claudia Gadelha, but who could have predicted that the young lady from Olsztyn, Poland would rule the world in 2015? The best 115-pound fighter in the world, Jedrzejczyk had become a fan favorite simply because when the bell rings on fight night, she goes on a mission of destruction. This year, Jedrzejczyk won the UFC strawweight title with a dominant two-round stoppage of Carla Esparza, and she then successfully defended her title with a punishing TKO of Jessica Penne and a clear-cut decision victory over Valerie Letourneau. It may be too early to tell for sure, but it looks like Joanna Champion may be on top for a while.
2 – Rafael dos Anjos
There were some who thought Rafael dos Anjos’ title-winning effort over Anthony Pettis in March was spectacular, but a one shot deal. There’s no way he could match or surpass that dominant performance again. But the UFC lightweight champion did just that last week when he needed less than a round to stop Donald Cerrone. Now everyone’s settling in for what could be a long reign for the Brazilian veteran.
1 – Conor McGregor
I don’t know if “Mystic Mac” predicted this one, but usually Mr. Conor McGregor likes to make bolder proclamations, and choosing the new UFC featherweight champion as Fighter of the Year for 2015 wasn’t a stretch at all. Three wins over Dennis Siver, Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo. Three knockouts. Three Performance of the Night bonuses. An undisputed world championship. Sounds like Fight of the Year material to me.