MMAjunkie's '2017 Moments of the Year': The 10 storylines that shaped our traffic

As MMAjunkie dishes out its year-end awards – recognizing the best fighters, fights, coaches and everything else associated with the sport – today we focus on the top moments.

More specifically, these are the stories that clicked with MMAjunkie readers. The good, the bad, the ugly, the wild, the crappy – this past year had it all.

I dug through our year-end traffic report to find the stories that resonated with the MMAjunkie faithful. Here they are, in no particular order.

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Score one for the good girls (and guys)

After dethroning Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the UFC’s long-reigning women’s strawweight champion, Rose Namajunas had every opportunity to gloat. After contentious pre-fight buildup that sometimes bordered on nasty, “Thug Rose” earned the right to rub it in the ex-champ’s face following her knockout win at UFC 217. Instead, the ever-graceful Namajunas said she was simply sick of the hate and implored MMA to return to its roots of “honor and respect.”

After a year of high-profile trash-talking and social-media beefs, the classy post-fight comments from the new champ were a breath of fresh air, as were similarly inspiring post-fight comments from Andre Fili and Brian Ortega.

‘The Money Fight’ actually happened

The possibility of UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor meeting boxing legend Floyd Mayweather? In an actual boxing match? With a $100 pay-per-view price tag? With all of the logistical, financial and promotional headaches that would be involved with some of combat sports’ biggest and most-demanding personalities? It actually happened – and it provided a year’s worth of coverage, for better or worse.

Sure, “The Money Fight” may have been the endeavor that fight fans loved to hate, but they spent nearly a full calendar doing so. Nearly everyone involved got rich. MMA got the national – and international – spotlight. UFC lightweights, meanwhile, are still waiting for a return to normal.

Breaking MMA’s most prestigious record – with style

UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter. He’s all but cleaned out his division. He’s seemingly unbeatable. He’s a true ambassador for a perpetually overlooked division. But the king of 125-pounders rarely gets his due (especially due to that whole T.J. Dillashaw debacle).

At UFC 216, “Mighty Mouse” looked to break Anderson Silva’s long-held UFC record for consecutive title defenses. Even taking sole possession of what’s arguably MMA’s most prestigious record probably wouldn’t have earned Johnson the respect he deserves. But then he notched his record 11th straight title defense with the year’s best submission – an eye-popping, gravity-defying armbar. Sure, we’ll bicker over the name (he calls it “The Mighty Armbar,” and we prefer “The Mouse Trap”), but it was the perfect way to enter the record books in style.

Bellator hit pay-per-view – and it was so Bellator

While Bellator has worn many hats over the years, MMA’s No. 2 promotion seemed to do some real self-reflection in 2017. And if you’re a fight fan who enjoys a little weirdness from time to time, the promotion’s return to pay-per-view with Bellator NYC/Bellator 180 largely delivered. If nothing else, it was memorable, largely because Bellator embraced the weirdness.

Sure, past-their-prime UFC vets squared off in the headliner, with Chael Sonnen topping rival Wanderlei Silva. That’s par for the course on a major Bellator card. But we also had a still-relevant heavyweight contender – Matt Mitrione – destroying a legend in Fedor Emelianenko. Additionally, champ Douglas Lima defended, blue-chip prospect Aaron Pico got a rude welcome to MMA, and Michael Chandler’s knee provided one of the year’s biggest in-cage debacles.

Throughout the year – and especially with its latest PPV offering – Bellator reminded us that it’s very much not the UFC. That can be a very good thing. Stay weird, Bellator. It’s working for you.

GSP returns

Everything old seems new again – at least in MMA. We were reminded of that in November, when former longtime UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre returned from a four-year layoff, moved up to middleweight, and dethroned polarizing champ Michael Bisping to become the fourth two-division champ in UFC history.

Some MMA supporters are simply St-Pierre fans; some just love to hate Bisping. Either way, “Rush’s” return was reason to celebrate. And for longtime fight fans, fellow vets and the bean-counters at the UFC, seeing an all-time great return to his former glory was some inspirational stuff.

St-Pierre’s future is uncertain (he’s already vacated the belt, after all). But few MMA notables have represented the sport as well as St-Pierre has, so it’s no surprise that his return to competition proved to be one of the year’s brighter moments.

Filed under: AXS TV Fights, Bellator, Featured, News, PFL, UFC

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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