MMA Ratings Podcast

December 30, 2020

2020 Year in Review: Breaking Down the Year That Was in MMA

By Adam Martin

The year 2020 has now come to a close, and for most human beings, it was one of the craziest years of our lifetimes. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in the plans for many businesses around the world, but especially for sports due to how contagious the virus is. But businesses adapted and overcame it, and we saw that firsthand in MMA. UFC President Dana White spearheaded the return of the world's leading MMA promotion in May, and soon after, the other promotions followed suit. What appeared to be a lost season turned out to be a great year of MMA. In this edition of the MMA Year in Review, we go through some of the highlights and lowlights from the year as we say goodbye to 2020.

Male Fighter of the Year: Deiveson Figueiredo

The top award this year belongs to UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveison Figueiredo. In February, he scored a knockout win over Joseph Benavidez, but the UFC booked a rematch after Figueiredo missed weight. In the rematch in July, he absolutely mauled Benavidez for a first-round finish. Then in November, he submitted Alex Perez at UFC 255 only to fight again three weeks later and go a draw against Brandon Moreno at UFC 256. Figueiredo had an amazing year and hands down wins this award.

Female Fighter of the Year: Valentina Shevchenko

Many voters may choose Amanda Nunes or Weili Zhang here, but I give the edge to Valentina Shevchenko this year. Nunes was only able to fight once and it was against an overmatched opponent in Felicia Spencer, while Zhang's lone fight was her war with Joanna Jedrzejczyk. As for Shevchenko, she stepped into the cage twice -- against Jennifer Maia and Katlyn Chookagian -- and she dominated both of them. Because she fought twice compared to once for Nunes and Zhang, Shevchenko gets my vote.

Knockout of the Year: Joaquin Buckley vs. Impa Kasanganay

There were a number of crazy knockouts this year but I'll go with the favorite and choose Joaquin Buckley's spinning hook kick KO over Impa Kasanganay. The fact that Kasanganay had caught Buckley's first kick before Buckley had the athleticism to spin around and nail him with a spinning hook kick makes this one special. It was, far and away, the knockout of the year as far as I'm concerned.

Submission of the Year: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje

There weren't really any crazy submissions like in 2019 when Bryce Mitchell scored a Twister, but I still really enjoyed watching Khabib Nurmagomedov submit Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 with a second-round triangle choke. Immediately after the fight, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from MMA, though that may change in 2021. If this really was the champ's last fight ever, what a way to go out.

Fight of the Year: Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

There were a lot of really good fights this year, but I'm going with the obvious choice in Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248. Watching this fight live, you just knew it was an instant classic. It was one of those incredible five-round fights that go the distance and you have no idea who won. In the end, Zhang got the split decision nod, but Jedrzejczyk's stock rose in defeat. The fans were the big winners.

Event of the Year: UFC 249

The first event back for the UFC following the COVID-19 pandemic was UFC 249, and it's my choice for the best event of the year. Remember, this was eight months ago in May and we didn't know much about the virus then. The fact all these fighters on the card put themselves at risk and then put on a show for the fans was just inspirational. It was an exceptional card and the fighters deserve all the credit.

Breakthrough Fighter of the Year: Khamzat Chimaev

This one is a no-brainer for me. Like many fans, I didn't know much about Khamzat Chimaev before he made his UFC debut. But between July and September, he fought three times and finished John Phillips, Rhys McKee, Gerald Meerschaert and in a vicious fashion. It's very unfortunate that he was not able to fight Leon Edwards later in the year, but overall Chimaev had an absolutely phenomenal year.

Best Fighter Outside the UFC: Patricio Pitbull

Once again Patricio Pitbull showed he's an elite fighter with a brutal knockout win over Pedro Carvalho in the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix quarterfinals. COVID-19 meant that Pitbull was only able to fight once this year, but he made it count. It's not his fault he was only able to fight once this year since Bellator didn't hold that many events, so to me he's still the best fighter outside of the UFC.

The Disappointment of the Year: Conor McGregor

I'm going with Conor McGregor as my biggest disappointment of the year, and it's because he only fought once in 2020, and it was for only 40 seconds in his win over Donald Cerrone at UFC 246. McGregor said that 2020 was going to be a huge year for him and he said he was going to fight three times. Anytime the biggest superstar in the sport competes for 40 seconds, it's a big disappointment.

Worst Moment of the Year: Glover Teixeira vs. Anthony Smith

The worst moment of the year took place in the Glover Teixeira vs. Anthony Smith fight back in May. This fight featured an incredible performance by the 40-year-old Teixeira, as he beat Smith to a pulp for a five-round TKO win. But the fight honestly should have been stopped sooner. This was a really late stoppage and referee Jason Herzog later apologized for it, though Smith's corner also shared blames.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing lots of problems for the sport, MMA was still able to thrive. As we wrote above, there were plenty of highlights and lowlights during the year 2020 in MMA.

For more 2020 Year In Review Analysis, click HERE.

UFC 246: McGregor vs. Cowboy took place January 18, 2020 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 246 Post-Fight Analysis

UFC 248: Adesanya vs. Romero took place March 7, 2020 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 248 Post-Fight Analysis

UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje (formerly UFC 249: Khabib vs. Ferguson) was scheduled to take place April 18, 2020 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus, the event was rescheduled for May 9, 2020 and relocated to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

Click HERE for more UFC 249 Post-Fight Analysis

UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje (formerly UFC 255: Khabib vs. Gaethje) took place October 24, 2020 at Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC 254 Analysis

UFC 256: Figueiredo vs. Moreno took place December 12, 2020 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 256 Analysis

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