The UFC have finally completed their set of fights for the year of 2020 and what a crazy year it was.
456 fights total in a year that saw a global pandemic bring a close to all live sports for almost two months at least before Dana White and co. became the leaders of getting the show back on the road.
Among those 456 fights we saw some incredible fights, some incredible knockouts and some incredible submission wins across the weight divisions. But which ones were the best?
We’re going to rank our personal top five of the year, before handing out the award for each of the following categories:
- Submission of the year
- Knockout of the year
- Fight of the year
- Breakthrough fighter of the year
- Fighter of the year
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
5. Petr Yan vs Jose Aldo (UFC 251, July 2020)
After COVID-19 put a stop to sport all over the world, the UFC made the remarkable decision to make ‘Fight Island’ become a reality. It was headlined by three title fights, including Yan vs Aldo for the vacant bantamweight title of the world.
In a bout described by commentator Jon Anik as ‘taking place on a napkin’, the two stood literally toe-to-toe and exchanged strikes for the best part of four rounds. Going to back and forth, Aldo landed his trademark leg kicks throughout causing damage while Yan proved to be the superior boxer.
The fight did enter a fifth round, but Yan dropped Aldo with a huge one-two and then absolutely battered him on the ground for almost three minutes. The referee earned criticism for not stopping the fight earlier but when he eventually did, Petr Yan was crowned the new king of the 135lbs division.
4. Shane Burgos vs Josh Emmett (UFC Vegas 3, June 2020)
The only three round fight on this list, it was just too good to leave out.
These two hard-hitting featherweights went hell for leather for the full 15 minutes, but more impressive was Josh Emmett tearing his ACL in the opening 15 seconds of the fight. That didn’t stop him giving it his all and landing his big overhand right throughout the fight, while Burgos continued to just march forward and eat the shots while returning with his own.
Emmett dropped Burgos in the second round with a left straight and with Burgos still grinning on the ground couldn’t get the finish, before a tight left-hook in the third round brought the same result and reaction. That second knockdown was enough to earn Emmett a 10-8 in one judge’s eyes, earning him a 29-28 and 29-27 unanimous decision win.
3. Deiveson Figueiredo vs Brandon Moreno (UFC 256, December 2020)
After both competing just three-weeks prior at UFC 255, the UFC moved quickly to pit champion Figueiredo and contender Moreno against one another after the previous main events had fallen through. What followed was arguably the greatest flyweight fight in history.
Both men came forward throwing bombs throughout the fight, while also staying competitive on the ground and in scrambles. It was a completely even fight, with both men completely in the running throughout, to the point where nobody could be sure of the result once the 25 minutes on the clock expired. In the end a point deduction for Figueiredo for a violent low blow proved vital, as the scorecards read 48-47 (Figueiredo), 47-47 and 47-47 for a majority draw. That means we get to run it back in 2021!
2. Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker (UFC Vegas 4, June 2020)
As Dustin Poirier made his first walk to the octagon since being submitted by Khabib Nurmagomedov the previous year, Dan Hooker wanted to make a name for himself.
The Australian had beaten Paul Felder in February in an absolute war and had made it clear that he felt he could beat the ‘Diamond’ to get his own title shot. What followed was a stunning stand-up scrap in which both men showed unbelievable boxing technique and a true warrior spirit to stay standing throughout.
Hooker used his length and excellent hooks well, while Poirier used his sharp jab and fantastic head movement to get in and out as both guys landed power shots at will throughout an incredible 25 minutes.
In the end, Poirier got the nod 48-47, 48-46, 48-7 in a unanimous decision victory that has set up a rematch with Conor McGregor for January.
1. Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 248, March 2020)
Without a doubt, the greatest women’s MMA fight of all-time. Therefore it absolutely has to be number one on this list for the best fight of 2020.
In her first title defence as the strawweight champion, Zhang took on the record holder for title fights in that division in Jedrzejczyk (hereby referred to as JJ). What ensued was an instant classic in what would be the final UFC pay-per-view in front of fans.
JJ used her world class kickboxing technique to bounce in and out of range, landing huge hook combos that would end with a leg kick more often than not. In return, Zhang threw absolute bombs and used her kicks well too. It was clear from the opening exchanges that Zhang was the more powerful woman, but JJ had a speed advantage and was keen to use it.
A huge right hand in the third round from Zhang landed flush on the forehead of JJ, causing her head to swell to the point where she was almost unrecognisable after the fight. The crowd gave the women a standing ovation as the bout entered it’s final 10 seconds, showing their appreciation.
The fight could legitimately have ended up with any scorecard and I don’t think anyone would have minded, but the champ retained her title with a 48-47, 47-48, 48-47 split decision. What a fight.