Do you remember that time when the UP Fighting Maroons had a blazing 2-0 start in the UAAP? It already feels like ages ago but yeah, that happened just last September (sorry UP fans). Luckily, there’s a myriad of more memorable sports moments that went down this year. For instance, Richard Gomez and Robin Padilla slugging it out at the Star Olympics. Oh wait, that happened in 1991. Whatever happened to the Star Olympics, by the way?
But in all seriousness, sports fans from all over the Milky Way were once again spoiled by the glowing greatness and tantalizing talent of athletes and teams. It has become an annual thing. Like Greg Oden failing to make an NBA comeback.
So here it is, FHM’s 15 Fantastic Sports Moments of 2015.
Just to be clear, this is different from FHM’s 15 Terrible Sports Moments of 2015.
Pacman the Scoring Machine
Manny Pacquiao’s highlight this year didn’t come from the four-cornered ring but from the basketball court. Like manna from heaven, Pacman was finally gifted with his first ever field goal in the PBA. Chris Tiu, always the gentleman, allowed “The Pambansang Balibag-Tae” to hoist an uncontested shot, which miraculously found the bottom of the net (Mommy D’s hexing powers could’ve been a factor).
Steph Curry form—NOT.
It took more than a year before Pacquiao finally nailed a basket. But in fairness to him, he only played five games prior to his new career-high. He has now upped his scoring average to 0.5 PPG. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game is now in danger! Sarcasm aside, it’s encouraging that Tito Manny finally made a field goal.
Yep, it was time for the UFC to invade the Philippines and it finally happened last May. All congested, bus-filled roads led to the Mall of Asia Arena for UFC Fight Night Manila. Fleets of Pinoy fight fans (try saying that phrase 10 times straight) witnessed “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Mark Muñoz lay the smackdown on Luke Barnatt via unanimous decision. In the main event, veteran Frankie Edgar manhandled the hard-nosed Urijah Faber also in convincing fashion.
Dapat si Tito Varela na lang nag-referee
The popularity of UFC has skyrocketed in the Philippines throughout the years. It truly feels like it’s close to surpassing boxing. UFC Fight Night in Manila was a fantastic prelude for possibly bigger UFC events in the country in the future. Make it happen, Dana White!
The Day Has Come
Ask any Filipino to name a golf player and 11 out of 10 times, he/she will blurt out Tiger Woods. It’s difficult to blame ‘em though. Golf isn’t really a huge hit in the Philippines. Like Pia Wurtzbach in Colombia. Well, things could change soon since Pinoys now have someone to genuinely root for in Fil-Australian Jason Day.
Bongga ka, Day!
To put it clearly, the 28-year-old is currently the world’s top golfer. He earned the No. 1 ranking last September after winning the much-coveted PGA Championship and the BMW Championship. Day was born in Queensland but his mother hails from Leyte. He has a gorgeous wife too, who sadly got injured after accidentally colliding with LeBron James in a recent NBA game.
Year 2014 was a disappointing one for Nonito Donaire Jr. as he got knocked out by Nicholas Walters in the sixth round of their fight for the featherweight title. It was the first time “The Filipino Flash” lost via TKO. So this year, he made sure he bounced back with a bang. Not the Japanese porno kind of bang, but the fist-clenching, hard-punching, bone-breaking type of bang.
Don’t sleep on Donaire
He notched three victories this year, two via explosive knockouts. He first KO’d William Prado in the second round at the Big Dome last March, then duplicated the second round-drubbing against Anthony Settoul in Macau four months later. Then before he bid 2015 adieu, he scored a unanimous decision win over Cesar Juarez in Puerto Rico. Call it a comeback!
Iba ang May Pinagsamahan
Speaking of having a big year, the San Miguel Beermen had a bubbly 2015 (sorry for the lame pun). The Beermen kicked things off by winning the Philippine Cup for the first time since 2001. They escaped a gritty Alaska crew in seven pulsating games. While they regressed horribly in the Commissioner’s Cup (losing seven of 11 games), they recuperated in the Governors’ Cup and hoisted the title after sweeping the Aces.
Unleash the Kraken Kiss!
SMB is currently tied atop the Philippine Cup with a 9-2 record and is already assured of a place in the semifinals. With back-to-back MVP and gentle mamaw June Mar Fajardo at the forefront and a roster as deep as The Marianas Trench, the Beermen are poised to bathe in champagne once again.
For a country that breathes basketball, boxing, and billiards, a prestigious and world-class tennis tournament was a fresh of breath air (like the ones being sold in China). After a successful staging last year, the International Tennis Premier League (IPTL) returned in full glory in Manila early this month.
Whew, Ana Ivanovic!
It was another star-studded showcase as women’s world number one and Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Serena Williams, “King of Clay” Rafael Nadal, and Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray strut their stuff in front of screaming, adoring Filipino fans. It also helped that a bevy of tennis beauties were present like Ana Ivanovic, Sania Mirza, and Belinda Bencic. Hey maybe, the Wimbledon will be held in the Philippines soon. #Asa!
Gone in 13 Seconds
In one the most anticipated UFC fights of the year, Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor finally faced off in the Octagon for the unified featherweight belt. After a postponed square-off last July due to Aldo’s rib injury and months of trash-talking, the angry warriors were both hungry to annihilate each other. Like Baron Geisler in Beast Mode.
“Ulitan!” – Jose Aldo
The much-awaited fight, however, only lasted 13 seconds. “The Notorious” put “Scarface” to sleep with a stunning left hook and a pair of hammer fists before referee John McCarthy stopped the pummeling (others believe it was premature). Aldo’s entrance took longer than the actual fight. McGregor, meanwhile, walked the talk and once again showed that he’s one of UFC’s fiercest, ballsiest combatants today.
Last year, the Ateneo Lady Eagles needed all sorts of miracles that would’ve made Jesus blush just to win the UAAP volleyball crown. They escaped the thrice-to-beat (THRICE-TO-BEAT!) La Salle Lady Archers in the finals to capture their first ever title. Well, last March, the spikers from Loyola proved it was far from being a fluke.
They made Season 77 their virtual playground and swept the entire competition for a second straight diadem. The Lady Eagles clawed their archrivals anew in the Last Dance for an immaculate 16-0 record. Back-to-back MVP Alyssa Valdez once again asserted her dominance (insert Kiefer Ravena-related joke here), Amy Ahomiro was named Finals MVP, and Denden Lazaro melted every guy’s heart. Damn you, LA Revilla!
Kobe Calls it Quits
The moment that many basketball fans have been putting off for years finally happened: Kobe Bryant is retiring from the NBA. Arguably the most polarizing player in league history, “The Black Mamba” announced his farewell last month, ending an illustrious 19-year career. Love him or hate him, Kobe is one of the most ferocious competitors in all of sports and he made the NBA exhilarating to say the least.
His team—the Los Angeles Lakers, right?—is as watchable as Sen. Miriam Santiago getting a Brazilian wax on live TV. But Kobe’s swan song makes the Purple and Gold more compelling to watch. Despite his idiosyncrasies, it’s sad to see KB-24 leave the game for good. Except if you’re Nick Young.
Recca Recca Summa FEU!
Don’t read this is you’re from that old university in España. Prior to the UAAP season, many pundits (that includes barbers and pedicab drivers) tagged the FEU Tamaraws as the team to beat. So, the Tamaraws very much obliged. All year long, they waylaid opponents with their unselfish offense and formidable defense. Really, it was a thing of beauty.
FEU won the title in the Year of the Horse
Their resiliency also came to the forefront in the finals against the UST Growling Tigers. Just when most people thought the Growling Tigers would complete a Cinderella season in Game 3, the Tams kept their horns up and charged back to win their first UAAP title in a decade. It was a testament to their maturity and more importantly, it proved that Mac Belo can smile.
House of Chaos
The most inspiring collegiate sports story this year, a rag-tag crew toppled a colossal dynasty. The Letran Knights, made up of undersized, no-name players, upset the star-studded, six-peat-seeking San Beda Red Lions in the NCAA. Then-coach Aldin Ayo (#Huhubels) whipped his wards into a fearsome, relentless bunch, earning a catchy “House of Chaos” tag from the media.
It was a classic David and Goliath story for the Knights, who annexed their first NCAA crown in 10 years. They also did it with an All-Filipino lineup, a capital crime in this time of halimaw imports. It was a fitting send-off for Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal and sweet vindication for derided guys like McJour Luib, Jomari Sollano, and Rey Publico.
Here’s another underdog story for the ages. Most people were ready to hand the UFC women’s bantamweight belt again to Ronda Rousey, easily the most frightening female fighter in recent history. But Holly Holm made plans of her own. In front of a UFC record 56,000 fans in Australia last month, Holm ended Rousey’s reign with a rousing knockout victory.
Rousey was decked by boughs of Holly
The 34-year-old fighter from New Mexico finished things off with a vicious head kick that left her previously undefeated opponent unconscious. Rousey’s cockiness bit her in the ass big-time as she chose to engage in a fist fight with Holm, a multiple time boxing and kickboxing champion. But the best part of it all is that Holm has remained an admirable class act.
Bruce (or Caitlyn) Almighty
In this time of LGBT empowerment, no one made a bigger impact than Caitlyn Jenner. The Athlete Formerly Known as Bruce admitted last April that he’s a transgender woman. It was a courageous act for the ex-decathlon star, who won a gold medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. It was literally a coming-out party.
The controversial interview
Of course, conservative camps chided Jenner for her decision, especially since she was once a source of inspiration for young athletes. But she kept her head up, soldiered on, and is now a source of strength for the LGBT community. For her bravery, Jenner was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs, joining the likes of Nelson Mandela, Billie Jean King, and Muhammad Ali.
Golden State of Mind
With a new coach and a not-so talented roster, not much was expected of the Golden State Warriors last season. But as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Dubs electrified the NBA with their small-ball, breakneck style. Stephen Curry won the MVP plum, Klay Thompson, who had a memorable 37-point quarter versus the Sacramento Kings, became an All-Star, Draymond Green developed into an all-around Tazmanian Devil, and Leandro Barbosa provided funny bench celebrations.
The champs can sing whatever they want
But most importantly, the Warriors completely brought into Steve Kerr’s system. As a result, they rolled over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals to win their first title in four decades. No one’s expecting little of them now.
Once again, no other team captured the heart of an entire nation than Gilas Pilipinas. Despite a patched-up roster of hand-me-downs and alternative choices due to key players faking nursing injuries and begging off due to personal issues, Gilas fought valiantly against the giants of Asia. Coach Tab Baldwin did the most with what he had and he came up with laudable results.
Gilas won a silver medal in the Jones Cup after a stirring performance (#RomYu forever). Another bridesmaid finish followed in the FIBA-Asia Championship and more significantly, a ticket to the Olympic Qualifiers. It’s hard to encapsulate what Gilas did in another magical run. What’s clear though is that no obstacle or challenge is insurmountable for Team Puso.
Photos from Kc Cruz, Theguardian.com, Inquirer.net, Gmanetwork.com, Mma.tv, scoopnest.com, Postober.com, Vanityfair.com, Rantsports.com,