MMA Ratings Podcast

June 30, 2020

2020 Fight of the Year: Six Months In and the Race Is Fierce

By Adam Martin

We are now six months into 2020, and the race for the MMA Fight of the Year is fierce. Despite the coronavirus pandemic temporarily stalling the momentum of the sport, there have been so many memorable fights through the first half of this year. In the following article, we will take a look at the top contenders for the highly-coveted award, and examine some of the dark horses in the race as well.

The Contenders

Weili Zhang vs. Joanna JedrzejczykUFC 248

The first serious contender for Fight of the Year was the absolute war between Zhang and Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248. Not only was this one of the best fights of the year, but it was one of the best fights of all time, and easily the best women's MMA fight ever. Zhang and Jedrzejczyk essentially stood and traded for five rounds, which is something we have never seen from a women's fight. We knew both these women were great fighters already but I don't think anyone could have expected this fight to have been as amazing as it turned out to be. It was one of those fights that sent chills down your spine watching it because you knew that history was unfolding right in front of your eyes. It was also one of the most competitive fights we've ever seen, as it came down to one round in the end, with Zhang edging out a tight split decision to defend her belt. This one is going to go down in the history books, and both women should be applauded for their incredible performances in this epic war.

Dustin Poirier vs. Dan HookerUFC on ESPN 12

The other serious contender for Fight of the Year is the recent fight between Poirier and Hooker, which headlined UFC on ESPN 12. When I was watching this fight I couldn't help but think I was watching one of the best MMA fights of all time, and I stand by it. This was just an amazing fight between two men who really wanted to win. They stood in the center of the Octagon and somehow both men survived the full 25 minutes despite taking hundreds of blows to the head between them in a fight that was the definition of reckless abandon. It was such a good fight that you would have thought a title was on the line here, but no, these two just really wanted to win and prove they are elite at 155 lbs. In the end, Poirier won a unanimous decision, but in reality, both men saw their stocks go through the roof with this one. It was an amazing fight that is absolutely a worthy pick for Fight of the Year, and it will probably be one the shortlist for Fight of the Decade as well.

The Dark Horses

Dan Hooker vs. Paul FelderUFC on ESPN+ 26

Hooker wasn't just involved in one Fight of the Year candidate, he was involved in two. Besides the Poirier fight, Hooker was also involved in a really technical brawl against Paul Felder earlier this year at UFC on ESPN+ 26. Both Hooker and Felder threw down for 25 minutes as both men looked to move into the upper echelon of the UFC lightweight division. It was a close fight, with the judges handing the victory to Hooker with a split decision, but both men saw their stocks go through the roof with this epic battle. Hooker earned the fight with Poirier, while Felder temporarily retired while waiting for another big fight to emerge that could see him return again. Who knows, perhaps we may end up seeing the rematch between these two later this year. It's certainly possible.

Justin Gaethje vs. Tony FergusonUFC 249

The lone fight on this list to feature a finish, Gaethje won the interim UFC lightweight title with a fifth-round stoppage over Ferguson in an action-packed fight that headlined UFC 249, the promotion's first event since the coronavirus pandemic began. Both Gaethje and Ferguson proved in the fight that they are among the elite in the UFC lightweight division with this incredible fight, but in the end, it was Gaethje who landed more shots and did more damage. Considering Ferguson had been training to fight a grappling-heavy fighter in Khabib Nurmagomedov for months, it was a difficult switch to fight a striker in Gaethje, and although he hung on as long as he could, eventually Gaethje finished the fight. Still, it was a fantastic matchup between two of the best lightweights in MMA.

Josh Emmett vs. Shane BurgosUFC on ESPN 11

And finally, we have a featherweight fight between Emmett and Burgos that has to be in the discussion for the award as well. These two threw down for three rounds of action in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN 11 as both men looked to gain traction in the stacked featherweight division. It was an amazing fight, and it was somewhat shocking that it actually went the distance considering how much power both men were throwing in their shots, in particular Emmett, who knocked Burgos down numerous times in the third round on his way to a unanimous decision win. Of course, the fight was only three rounds compared to the rest of the fights on this list, which keeps it down a peg, as the rest of them were five rounds. But it's pretty clearly the top three-round fight of the year so far.

Through six months of the year, it's fair to say that the race of 2020 MMA Fight of the Year is a two-horse race between Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker. With so many events still left to go in the second half of the year, there will certainly be other fights that emerge as serious contenders for the award. But as of right now it's down to those two incredible fights.

UFC 248
Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk (UFC Strawweight Championship): Zhang Weili def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47).

UFC Fight Night
Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker: Dustin Poirier def. Dan Hooker via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-46).

UFC Fight Night on ESPN 12: Poirier vs. Hooker (formerly UFC Fight Night Austin) was due to take place June 27, 2020 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus, the event was relocated to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN 12 Post-Fight Analysis

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