January 8, 2019

MMA Ratings 2018 Year-End Awards

By Adam Martin

With 2018 in the books, we here at MMA Ratings have decided to make a list of award winners from last year's fights. Below are those who took home the gold in 10 categories:

Fighter of the Year: Daniel Cormier

Anyone besides Daniel Cormier for Fighter of the Year would be the wrong pick here. He 100% deserves this award. After opening the year with a submission win over Volkan Oezdemir to defend the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, Cormier moved up in weight and knocked out Stipe Miocic at UFC 226 to add the UFC heavyweight title to his mantel. At UFC 230, he picked up his third win of the year with a submission over Derrick Lewis. It was an amazing year for DC, and though he did relinquish his light heavyweight title, 2019 should still be a big year for him, with a fight against Brock Lesnar hopefully on the horizon sooner rather than later.

Fight of the Year: Yair Rodriguez vs. Chan Sung Jung, UFC Fight Night 139

Fight of the Year is also a pretty easy award to hand out, in my opinion. It has to be the war between Yair Rodriguez and Chan Sung Jung, a crazy close fight that ended due to an incredible elbow with just one second left in the fifth round. This could easily double down as the Knockout of the Year as well, but I'll pick something else for that category. But as far as Fight of the Year goes, there was no better fight that captivated audiences like Rodriguez vs. Jung. We may never see a fight end like that ever again.
UFC Fight Night 139
Chan Sung Jung vs. Yair Rodriguez: Yair Rodriguez def. Chan Sung Jung via KO (elbow) at 4:59 of Round 5.

Knockout of the Year: Amanda Nunes over Cris Cyborg, UFC 232

For Knockout of the Year, I'm going with Amanda Nunes finishing Cris Cyborg at UFC 232 to win the UFC women's featherweight title. The fight only lasted 51 seconds, but Nunes and Cyborg put on a show, with Nunes knocking Cyborg down multiple times and knocking her out cold to take the belt. With the win, Nunes became the first double champion in women's MMA history, and supplanted Cyborg as the greatest female mixed martial artist to ever step into the Octagon.
UFC 232
Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino vs. Amanda Nunes (UFC Women's Featherweight Championship): Amanda Nunes def. Cris Cyborg via KO (punches) at 0:51 of Round 1.

Submission of the Year: Paul Craig over Magomed Ankalaev, UFC Fight Night 127

For the Submission of the Year category, I'm going with Paul Craig defeating Magomed Ankalaev with just one second left in the third round by triangle choke in a fight Craig was about to lose via lopsided decision on the scorecards. It would have been Craig's third loss in a row and he was sure to be cut by the UFC, but instead he picked up a massive win and ended up signing a new contract with the UFC as well as win a bonus award. It was the stuff of dreams for Craig, and a finish that is unlikely to be replicated, as you just don't see UFC fighters tap out that late in a fight.
UFC Fight Night 127
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Paul Craig: Paul Craig def. Magomed Ankalaev via submission (triangle choke) at 4:59 of Round 3.

Comeback of the Year: Derrick Lewis

Comeback of the Year belongs to Derrick Lewis for his incredible third-round knockout over Alexander Volkov at UFC 229. Lewis was about to lose a unanimous decision before landing a bomb with just nine seconds left in the fight and picking up a huge win over Volkov that earned him a title shot against DC at UFC 230. That, plus it got us the famous "my balls was hot" quote.
UFC 229
Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov: Derrick Lewis def. Alexander Volkov via KO (punches) at 4:49 of Round 3.

Breakthrough Fighter of the Year: Israel Adesanya

Breakthrough Fighter of the Year is another easy one. It has to be Israel Adesanya. He made his UFC in February 2018 and ended up winning four fights in the Octagon, defeating Rob Wilkinson, Marvin Vettori, Brad Tavares, and Derek Brunson. Most MMA fans and media didn't even have Adesanya on their radar at the beginning of 2018, and now he's likely going to get a middleweight title shot in 2019. Amazing.

Upset of the Year: Henry Cejudo, UFC 227

For Upset of the Year, I'm going with Henry Cejudo beating Demetrious Johnson at UFC 227 to win the UFC flyweight title. By the odds, this wasn't the biggest upset of the year, but as far as significance goes, it has to be Cejudo taking DJ's throne. Cejudo was the first man to beat DJ in six years, ending his win streak and eventually leading to DJ leaving the UFC for ONE Championship. Now, Cejudo takes on TJ Dillashaw in a superfight between champions on the first ESPN+ card.
UFC 227
Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo (UFC Men's Flyweight Championship): Henry Cejudo def. Demetrious Johnson via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47).

Most Improved Fighter: Anthony Smith

Most Improved Fighter goes to Anthony Smith. Early last year he was knocked out by Thiago Santos, and no one could have realistically expected him to be anything special after that. But Smith decided to move up to light heavyweight, and since moving up to 205 lbs, he has finished Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Rashad Evans, and Volkan Oezdemir. It was amazing to see Smith turn his career around in the span of six months, and he's now set to take on Jon Jones in the main event of UFC 235 this March.

Standout Prospect: Petr Yan

For my Standout Prospect award, I'm going with Petr Yan. The 25-year-old Russian made his UFC debut last year and went 3-0 with two knockouts, including a TKO win over Douglas Silva de Andrade at UFC 232 that jumped him into the Top 15 at 135 lbs. Yan is an incredibly well-rounded fighter and looks poised to be a top-shelf bantamweight for years to come.

Non-UFC Fighter of the Year: Ryan Bader

All of my previous picks were UFC fighters, so it's only fair to give some love to the other promotions. For my non-UFC Fighter of the Year, I'm taking Ryan Bader. I bet the UFC wishes they didn't let him leave in free agency. Not only did Bader win the Bellator light heavyweight title in 2017, but in 2018 he showed he's a force at heavyweight, with wins over Muhammad Lawal and Matt Mitrione in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix. Bader now meets Fedor Emelianenko in the heavyweight finals at Bellator 214 later this month.

Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Leave a comment below with your thoughts on who should have taken home the awards.