We have seen a huge amount of talented fighters really emerge this year in the MMA world, as the sport has continued to go from strength to strength. One man stood head and shoulders above the rest and capped of a brilliant year by claiming UFC gold against all odds. That man is the new bantamweight champion, Cody 'No Love' Garbrandt.
Team Alpha Male stand out, Garbrandt began the year as one of the rising stars in the UFC but due to the impressive nature of his performances, his entertaining style and a personality the fans can engage with, the 25-year-old has fast tracked himself to become the top 135 lbs fighter in the world.
'No Love' defeated long time champion, Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 on the 30th December, producing the performance of his career in his first UFC title match. Not only did he score an impressive unanimous decision victory over a man who has been undefeated for a decade, but did so in such a way that you could not help but be impressed by.
UFC announcer Joe Rogan described his performance as 'Out Cruzing Cruz' due to Garbrandt nullifying the 'Dominator's' trademark movement with some useful work of his own. In addition, he managed to do the unthinkable and catch the elusive former champion a number of times cleanly, which is quite an achievement in itself. Not to mention the constant showboating which in turn raised the entertainment factor in what was most certainly one of the fights of the year.
Prior to his championship opportunity, the Ohio native had completed a hattrick of first round victories this year, knocking out Augusto Mendes, and the hugely talented duo of Takeya Mizugaki and Thomas Almeida to force his way into title contention and moving him to a perfect 11-0, 9 of which coming by way of knockout.
His 2016 has now earned him a date with former stablemate TJ Dillashaw at some point this year, who himself was victorious at UFC 207 against John Lineker. The former champion was also very impressive and is now the new #1 contender for Garbrandt's new prize. Should Cody overcome the challenge of Dillashaw, it could be a lengthy title reign for the Sacremento based man. A rematch with Cruz could and should be on the horizon due to the war they had, while the likes of Brian Caraway, John Dodson and Raphael Assuncao will also be looking for a shot at the 135 lbs king, who is also now ranked as the UFC's #5 pound-for-pound fighter.
Because of this Mr Garbrandt, you have earned our prize as the Biggest Prospect for 2017, edging out Bellator star, Michael 'Venom' Page and new interim featherweight champion Max 'Blessed' Holloway.