Tap Ins & Tap Outs 2020 MMA Awards – Fighter of the Year

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:


FIGHTER OF THE YEAR

5. JAN BLACHOWICZ

In a year that saw Jon Jones give up the light heavyweight title to pursue heavyweight dreams, all eyes were on the future.

The likes of Dominick Reyes and Aleksandar Rakic were immediately looked at as the next champion but Blachowicz had other ideas. The Pole put himself into contention with a first round knockout of Corey Anderson in February before the title was ever vacant. He was next in line for a shot at Jones before he made the move up a weight class, which set up a co-main event against Reyes at UFC 253.

The two met in the middle of the cage and looked to take each other’s heads off but it was Blachowicz who got the job done. In the second round he broke Reyes’ nose before piling on the pressure and landing a huge right hand that dropped him. He loaded up with ground and pound before the referee stepped in to crown him the undisputed champion.

He will now meet Israel Adesanya in a super fight in 2021 for the first defence of his title, as ‘The Last Stylebender’ looks to become a double champ. If he can put an end to Adesanya’s run then 2021 could be his year too.


4. KHAMZAT CHIMAEV

The 2020 breakthrough fighter of the year, Chimaev has shot to superstardom this year with his tremendous showings in the octagon.

His debut on Fight Island saw him destroy John Phillips before making a record-breaking ten day turnaround to absolutely destroy Rhys McKee too. He then took on the challenge of Gerald Meerschaert, who he flattened in just 17 seconds with a one-punch knockout.

Chimaev has called for fights with the likes of Conor McGregor, Jorge Masvidal and champions Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya but he’s currently scheduled to fight Leon Edwards on January 20th, as part of a triple-header on Fight Island. A win could very well get him one of those title shots after less than a year in the company.


3. BRANDON MORENO

After a winning end to 2019, there were a few people getting on the hype train of Brandon Moreno to make a title charge in 2020.

He made a winning start to the year when he comfortably beat Jussier Formiga in March to a unanimous decision, where he showed his excellent striking and scrambling skills off the ground. Then he was hopeful of earning a title shot after Deiveson Figueiredo was crowned champion, but he was overlooked for a money fight with Cody Garbrandt. When that fell through and he still wasn’t given the shot, he was paired against Brandon Royval in a number one contender fight.

In a fantastic match-up, Moreno managed to stop Royval in the first round with strikes after a shoulder dislocation before being offered that elusive title shot for just three weeks later. He was expected by many to be run over by Figueiredo, but instead he put in the performance of a lifetime in one of the best fights of the year to earn a majority draw.

They’ll run it back in 2021, but the impressive nature of all his performances have earned him the spot on this list.


2. DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO

As the year began, Figueiredo was ready to compete for a vacant flyweight title following Henry Cejudo’s relinquishment of the belt.

In February, he took on Joseph Benavidez but missed weight for the first time in his career ahead of the title fight. That didn’t stop him from controversially knocking Benavidez out with a violent right hand after an accidental clash of heads.

The win meant the belt stayed vacant until July, when the two met again in a rematch on Fight Island. This fight went the same way, but Figueiredo made weight successfully this time. He was more violent too, as he walked Benavidez down and landed nasty strikes before choking Benavidez unconscious with a gruesome rear-naked choke. He was the new champion and the scariest 125lber on the scene.

He then dominated Alex Perez with a quick guillotine win in round one of their UFC 255 clash for his first defence, before one of the fights of the year against Brandon Moreno ended in a majority draw. The draw happened because he had a point deduction for a low blow, but without it he would have had a unanimous decision win.

3-0-1 in a year that was strictly title fights puts ‘God of War’ just off the head of the table for 2020.


1. KEVIN HOLLAND

He came second in breakthrough fighter of the year, only because he has been in the UFC for a while prior to 2020. But going 5-0 in seven months with four finishes, in one of the most dangerous divisions in the sport makes Kevin Holland the fighter of the year.

Holland started the year in May with a first-round knockout win over Alex Hernandez, before starching Joaquin Buckley in the third round of their short-notice fight. He then fought Darren Stewart to a split-decision, before slamming Charlie Ontiveros into a verbal submission in the opening round of their fight.

He called for a fight to get him up the rankings and he got it, when he stepped in to replace the injured Darren Till against Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 16. Unfortunately for him, he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to withdraw from that bout but was back in action the next week to take on Jacare Souza at UFC 256. The legendary Jacare was no match for Holland though, who knocked him out from his back in the first round.

Throughout the year he offered to fight anyone and everyone and even after the win over Souza he offered to step in for Leon Edwards against Khamzat Chimaev the following week. While it didn’t happen, Holland has shown he is game for anyone at any time. He had words with champion Israel Adesanya to set up a potential fight and after breaking into the rankings finally, 2021 could be a huge year for ‘Trailblazer’.

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