UFC 2017 review: Mayweather vs McGregor, Brad Pickett and Demetrious Johnson among the highlights

UFC commentator and analyst Dan Hardy looks back on a stellar year for the UFC and shares his five most memorable moments from 2017

Dan Hardy
UFC commentator and analyst
Saturday 23 December 2017 12:18 GMT
It has been another eventful year for the UFC
It has been another eventful year for the UFC (Getty)

We have one more event left this year and that is UFC 219 on Saturday, December 30. So, as we approach 2018, I thought I would share with you my five most memorable moments from this past year.

It’s been a pretty wild one! The UFC has put together some amazing events and taken the Octagon to places in the world it’s never been before. In a short 12 months we’ve seen fighters reach the heights of glory, reach whole new levels in their careers and redefine what it is to be a mixed martial artist.

So in the order that they happened throughout the year, here are my top five standout moments.

The retirement of an MMA legend

The first one for me has to be March 18, UFC Fight Night: Manuwa v Anderson. There were a lot of very close fights and some incredible finishes. Jimi Manuwa cleaning Corey Anderson’s clock with a huge left hook, in the first round of the main event, will be the one most remember.

Pickett waved goodbye to the fight game this year
Pickett waved goodbye to the fight game this year (Getty)

Earlier in the night we had a middleweight ‘Battle of Britain’, as Scott Askham and Bradley Scott had a three round war which ended in a split decision. Marc Diakiese’s knockout of Teemu Packalen, inside 30 seconds, was the first thing to really ignite the crowd.

The standout moment of the night for me though, was the retirement of Brad Pickett, a veteran of the game and one of the pioneers of high level MMA for the UK. He broke ground for the lighter weight classes and represented the UK so well throughout his 13 year career.

The fight didn’t go his way and Marlon Vera managed to land a huge head kick in the third, after losing the first two rounds. It doesn’t matter one bit, though. Brad will be remembered as a fighter’s fighter. A man that would throw down with anyone and was loved by every fan that watched the sport.

Mayweather vs McGregor

There are a few events that I could easily have chosen for my top five, such as UFC 212, where Aldo and Holloway finally faced off in June to unify the featherweight belts. Gustafsson beating Teixeira in Stockholm a few days before that was also pretty amazing, especially with Alexander proposing to his lady in the Octagon!

I have to jump forward to August 26 though, and one of the most surreal events I’ve ever been a part of: Conor McGregor crossing over to boxing to face Floyd Mayweather. The build-up was like no other. The trash talking was hilarious, relentless and at times questionable, but it was without a doubt the biggest event in combat sports history.

I couldn’t go anywhere without people wanting to talk about it. I overheard conversations between people that I would never imagine paying any attention to fight sports. It was more a phenomenon than an event really. It had such an impact on pop culture in 2017 that the world of combat sports will never be the same again. All bets are off and all of the rules that you thought applied, do not.

I don’t know what the new year has in store but it’s going to be pretty hard to top that. I’m looking forward to seeing what does!

Demetrious Johnson’s record breaking performance

October was a busy month, in which two of my most memorable moments took place. At UFC 216, on October 21, we had the interim lightweight title on the line between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee. That fight alone would be enough to get this event a mention but the co-main event between Ray Borg and defending flyweight king, Demetrious Johnson, was the stand out moment.

Not only did Johnson set a new record for title defences, beating Anderson Silva’s previous record of 10, but the way he did it was mind-blowing.

Johnson has been Flyweight Champion since September 2012
Johnson has been Flyweight Champion since September 2012 (Getty)

Midway through the third round DJ had Borg’s back, standing in a body lock position. Johnson lifts Borg to suplex him to the canvas, but releases him on the descent and jumps into an armbar. Never before have we seen a submission like it and I’ll go out on a limb to say that nobody else other than Demetrious Johnson has the capability of pulling that off at this moment in time. Especially not at such a high level of competition.

He truly is head and shoulders above every flyweight in the world and I hope next year we see him face TJ Dillashaw, either at flyweight or bantamweight.

Darren Till’s epic victory

Two weeks later we were in the beautiful Polish city of Gdansk, with an event headlined by a very familiar face and one of the rising stars of the welterweight division. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was a formidable force at lightweight and went on a four fight win streak upon moving to welterweight, beating Rick Story, Patrick Cote and the always tough Matt Brown. His opponent on this night was Darren Till. A confident, highly-skilled and undefeated fighter from Liverpool.

Till wasted no time in pressing the action, forcing Cowboy to work early, which he has struggled with in the past, being a slow starter. In the last minute of the first round Darren found his range and unleashed a barrage of punches.

Till has shot up the UFC rankings
Till has shot up the UFC rankings (Getty)

It was a huge shock to the majority of the MMA world but for the people who have followed his career since the beginning, this was expected. The world is at Darren Till’s feet moving into 2018. Whatever opportunity comes his way, he will be looking to elbow his way through to the next one and is more than capable of doing so.

Will he be the next British UFC champion?

UFC 217….the best UFC event ever?

Finally, we move onto my most recent memorable moment and, talking of British champions, the UK’s first ever UFC title holder was one half of the main event. UFC 217… what an incredible event! Three title fights topping the bill, three new champions at the end of the night. Firstly, Rose Namajunas showing up for Fight Week meaning business. Staring down Joanna and not responding to the champion’s trash talk and staying calm throughout. On the night she found the perfect opportunity and took it with clenched fists, stopping the champion in the first round.

The madness continued in the main and co-main events. A war of words between two former team mates, played out in public on The Ultimate Fighter, finally came together for a straightener. Defending champion, Cody Garbrandt, clipped the former champion, TJ Dillashaw, at the very end of the first round. TJ managed to recover on his stool and came out in the second and took his belt back. And then the main event - Michael Bisping taking on the former welterweight king, Georges St-Pierre. GSP was coming back after four years off, moving up a weight and taking on the champion immediately.

GSP submitted Bisping at UFC 217
GSP submitted Bisping at UFC 217 (Getty)

Fans were divided on their predictions. Many thought Michael would be too big and too active with his kickboxing for GSP to take the title. Some thought Georges would be able to take Bisping down and control him. We were all wrong! Georges bettered Michael throughout the first round and took him down in the second, but it was Michael that did the most damage in that second round. In the third St-Pierre uncorked this beautifully timed left hook which sent Bisping crashing to the canvas. In a second he was on Michael’s back and had choked him out.

It could be the best UFC event ever. Even the undercard was stacked with amazing fights. Don’t fret though, 2018 will be equally as amazing, if not more so! All of the standout fights and performances this year have laid the foundations and continued the stories of many fighters that will excel in the new year. What records will Demetrious Johnson break? How will Darren Till fare at the top of the welterweight ladder? Or is the question, how will the top welterweights deal with what Darren Till has to offer? Regardless of what happens, 2017 has been great, and 2018 is going to be even better.

UFC returns to London on March 17, 2018. Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 2, 2018 via AXS and Ticketmaster.

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