The highly unofficial UFC.com best-of season continues with the best fights of 2020 and how we called them on fight night…
10 – Vicente Luque-Niko Price 2
The rematch between welterweight standouts Vicente Luque and Niko Price was expected to be something special, and it was, as the two went to war on the feet for nearly three rounds before a cut suffered by Price brought a halt to the fight in the final frame, with Luque emerging victorious via TKO.
Price and Luque took no time getting acquainted again, Luque getting the better of the action in the early going as he landed several flush punches that barely moved Price. Price had some good moments later in the round, but it was Luque getting the last word as he rocked his foe just before the horn.
Things heated up in the second, with both fighters scoring as several exchanges broke out. Luque briefly dropped Price as the two traded against the fence, but “The Hybrid” got right back up and resumed his offensive attack. Price emerged with a cut under his right eye, but he was undaunted by the fight in the front of him, and the same could be said for Luque, who responded well to the pressure Price was putting on.
Price mixed up his attacks in the third, going to the body before going upstairs, Luque talking a little longer to get warmed up for the final five minutes. Once he did, the back and forth continued until a left hook by Luque floored Price with less than two minutes to go. Luque went to the ground for the finish, but Price recovered and rose to his feet, where he was checked out by the Octagonside physician for a new cut over his right eye. Unable to see, there was no choice for the doctor than to recommend a halt to the fight. The official time of referee Jason Herzog’s stoppage was 3:37 of round three.
2020 In Review: UFC Fighters Share Their Favorite Moments Of The Year
2020 In Review: UFC Fighters Share Their Favorite Moments Of The Year
9 – Jon Jones-Dominick Reyes
In setting the record for most title fight wins in UFC history, Jon Jones’ 14th championship victory was his toughest, as he had to dig deep and take the fourth and fifth rounds to hold off the charge of Dominick Reyes and retain his light heavyweight crown in the main event of UFC 247 at Toyota Center in Houston.
“Dominick did a tremendous job,” said Jones, who extended his current unbeaten streak to 18. “That was a great fight. I think the difference in the fight were takedowns.”
Scores were 48-47 twice and 49-46 for Jones, now 26-1 with 1 NC. The No. 4-ranked Reyes falls to 12-1.
“I thought I won one through three,” said Reyes. “He was on me in four and five. But I’ll get better. And this just proves that I’m the real deal.”
Jones won’t argue, as he was pushed to the limit by the challenger from Victorville, California.
Reyes came up just short with a left hand to start the bout, eager to get the fight underway. Jones responded with kicks to the leg and Reyes responded with kicks of his own. With three minutes left, Reyes scored a flash knockdown, and when the champ rose, Reyes aggressively pursued him for a spell before the two settled in a less frantic groove. Reyes was not backing down, though, even as Jones rallied down the stretch.
Staying busy as round two commenced, Reyes soon had Jones on the run as he fired off punches and kicks. Jones didn’t get hit with any fight-altering shots, but Reyes was scoring points and gaining confidence. As the round progressed, Jones settled in and began landing his own shots, jabbing well as he marched forward. In the final 30 seconds, Reyes landed a hard left uppercut that got Jones’ attention just before the end of the frame.
Jones and Reyes took turns putting the pressure on each other in the third, mixing up their attacks well as they went back and forth at a fast pace. With a little over two minutes left, Jones attempted his first takedown of the fight but was turned away by Reyes, who added an elbow upstairs for emphasis. And while Jones closed strong, he was going to have to take things to another gear in the championship rounds.
Reyes stunned Jones early in the fourth round, prompting a takedown by the champion, and though Reyes rose to his feet quickly, Jones was able to keep him locked up until the challenger broke loose in the second minute. Jones went back in for the takedown, and while the tiring Reyes defended well, “Bones” kept pressing, landing solid shots as he did so.
In the opening minute of round five, Jones scored an important takedown, but Reyes got up and got loose. A close-range exchange followed, both fighters aware how important winning the final frame was. Jones, the seemingly fresher of the two, landed more punches and kicks, not hurting Reyes, but scoring more than the challenger was, and it proved to be the difference in the fight.
“I knew it was a really close fight,” said Jones. “That fifth round won me the fight.”
2020 In Review: Most Wins
2020 In Review: Most Wins
8 – Frankie Edgar-Pedro Munhoz
The legend of Frankie Edgar grew in Las Vegas on Saturday, as the former lightweight champion and featherweight title challenger picked up an important victory in his bantamweight debut, taking a close split decision over 135-pound contender Pedro Munhoz.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 46-49 for the 38-year-old Edgar, now 23-8-1. The No. 5-ranked Munhoz falls to 18-5 with 1 NC.
In the early going, Munhoz went after Edgar’s legs with his kicks, but every kick was met with rapid-fire combinations from “The Answer” who subsequently took a few hard right hands without issue while answering with sharp counters. But Munhoz kept pressing, landing crisp jabs down the stretch in a fast-paced round.
Edgar stayed busy in the second stanza, cutting Munoz over the left eye in the process while threatening takedowns. Munhoz’ forward motion was consistent, but he was eating shots on the way in. With three minutes left, Edgar scored his first takedown, and though Munhoz rose quickly, Edgar was still doing the most efficient work.
Dealing with a cut around his own eye in round three, it was clear that Munhoz was making mark with his heavy hands, but Edgar’s stick and move attack was unaltered, and when he threw, he was doing it with both hands, so if he missed the first two, the third would land. Munhoz’ leg kicks were making an impression, though, and Edgar was feeling them.
Edgar scored a quick takedown to start the fourth round, Munhoz scrambling right back to his feet. The combinations kept coming from the former lightweight champion, but Munhoz’s varied striking attack was giving Edgar plenty to think about.
Showing a sense of urgency in the final round, Edgar did some of his best work of the fight as he tagged his foe at range and in the midst of heated exchanges. Munhoz was an immovable force, though, as he gave as good as got, wrapping up a main event that was worth waiting for.
2020 In Review: New Champions
2020 In Review: New Champions
7 – Rose Namajunas-Jessica Andrade 2
Former strawweight champions Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade met for a second time, with Namajunas evening the score with the woman who took her title in May 2019 by winning a three-round split decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for the No. 2-ranked Namajunas, now 10-4. The No. 1-ranked Andrade falls to 20-8.
Andrade made a concerted effort to use more head movement in the rematch, and it paid dividends in the first round, as she was able to dodge a lot of incoming fire while landing some hard shots. Regardless, the busy and varied striking of Namajunas still saw her taking the round from the Brazilian.
The action-packed second stanza also appeared to go Namajunas’ way, as her smooth striking kept Andrade at bay for the most part, but when “Bate Estaca” was able to get in range, she made Namajunas pay, making it clear that she was still one rally away from taking over.
Andrade bloodied Namajunas’ nose early in the final round, prompting “Thug Rose” to sit down on her punches in an attempt to even the score. That played into Andrade’s game, and after a hard right hand, she took Namajunas down. Namajunas looked for a submission from her back but when that came up empty, she kicked her way back to her feet and then rattled Andrade with a body shot followed by a punch upstairs. That just prompted the two to let their hands go to the horn, capping off a thrilling back-and-forth scrap.
2020 From The Booth: UFC Commentator Highlights
2020 From The Booth: UFC Commentator Highlights
6 – Justin Gaethje-Tony Ferguson
Last month, Justin Gaethje said he likely only had 18 or 19 minutes of “pure hell” to give Tony Ferguson in their UFC 249 main event. He lied, as he gave “El Cucuy” 23:39 of it, stopping Ferguson in the fifth round to win the interim UFC lightweight title.
Gaethje, 31, replaced lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in a bout originally scheduled for April 18, and now after snapping Ferguson’s 12-fight winning streak, “The Highlight” will get his crack at “The Eagle.”
But first, Gaethje had to upset Ferguson, and he did just that.
Ferguson’s movement and kicks kept Gaethje from getting a read on him in the early going, but two minutes in Gaethje landed a couple hard lefts at close range. Ferguson took the punches well and kept throwing a variety of strikes from a variety of angles, while Gaethje stuck to a more conventional attack that was still working as he tagged his foe with accurate shots to the head. In the final 30 seconds, Gaethje landed a pair of lefts, getting Ferguson’s attention.
Both landed as round two opened, and Gaethje followed up with what was rapidly becoming his weapon of choice, a sweeping left hook. Gaethje made sure to toss in some leg kicks too to keep Ferguson guessing, and his confidence was growing by the second. To his credit, Ferguson’s chin was rock solid, but he was taking more and more shots from the Arizonan. It was Ferguson who got the last word for the round, though, as he dropped Gaethje with a right uppercut.
Gaethje kept the heat on in round three, and soon Ferguson was cut over the left eye and under the right eye. Add in a swelling under the right eye and Ferguson had to hope his skin wasn’t going to betray him. With a little under three minutes left, Ferguson got rocked by a right hand, and seconds later he ate another one, as Gaethje was clearly unaffected by the previous round’s knockdown. Ferguson stayed in the pocket with Gaethje, tripping him to the mat briefly in an attempt to turn the tide, but it didn’t happen in the third.
Gaethje remained in control in the fourth, and midway through, Ferguson staggered after getting caught with another hard right. A low kick by Ferguson brought a brief halt to the action with a minute left, but Gaethje jumped right back into the fray, and his kicks and punches kept coming.
With five minutes left, Gaethje could have sat on his lead, but that’s just not his style, and he kept the compact power shots coming, and few missed. To his credit, Ferguson’s heart and chin were still intact, but he just couldn’t get his offense going against an opponent fighting a perfect fight. And after Ferguson staggered from another flush power shot, referee Herb Dean had seen enough, stopping the bout at 3:39 of the final round.
The Biggest UFC Upsets Of 2020
The Biggest UFC Upsets Of 2020
5 – Dan Hooker-Paul Felder
Lightweight contenders Dan Hooker and Paul Felder were expected to deliver the goods in the UFC Auckland main event at Spark Arena, and that’s exactly what they did in a memorable five-round war that saw Hooker emerge with a split decision victory that propels him further up the list of elite 155-pounders.
As for Hooker’s rival for five rounds, he may have made his last walk to the Octagon.
“This might be it for me,” said an emotional Felder, who cited being away from his four-year-old daughter for his leaning towards retirement. That’s a final decision for another day, though. For today, fans will celebrate a fight to remember between two of the best in a stacked division.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 47-48 for the No. 7-ranked Hooker, now 21-8. The No. 6-ranked Felder falls to 17-5.
After refusing Felder’s offer to touch gloves, Auckland’s own Hooker got right down to business with a series of kicks to the calf as he used movement and range to keep his foe at bay. With two minutes left, Felder landed a hard left hook, putting him on the board, but Hooker took it well and kept using lateral movement to his advantage. As the round wound down, Hooker locked Felder up against the fence briefly, and then it was back to sticking and moving as Felder marched forward.
Felder was showing damage to his right eye after the opening frame, prompting him to show even more urgency to get inside on Hooker, who calmly stuck to his game plan in response. In the second minute, Felder did well in exchanges, only to have Hooker lock him up for a spell until the two separated. Felder proceeded to work his kicking game in the closing stages of the round, but Hooker upped his work rate, leading to some more heated exchanges.
The already compelling action heated up in the third round, with Felder beginning to land more and more shots to the head and legs while Hooker was now marked up on his face but still throwing and landing as the fight began to approach the championship rounds.
Felder was throwing bombs to start the fourth frame, and he landed several on Hooker, rocking him briefly in the second minute. Hooker responded with a takedown attempt, but when that came up short, he settled for a brief clinch against the fence. The two broke briefly, then locked up again, Hooker in control until they separated. Felder went on to land a pair of hard right hands, but Hooker wasn’t budging. Hooker went back to his clinch game in the final minute, but Felder wouldn’t give him the takedown, sending the fight to a fifth round.
Starting off strong, Felder continued to tag Hooker in the fifth, prompting another grappling sequence from Hooker, but after they broke, “The Hangman” went back to his striking attack, with every blow pivotal for each man. A takedown by Hooker with a minute left caused the crowd to erupt for their fighter, and as the two scrambled for position, there were more roars from the packed house, and they lasted through the final horn, when the two rivals shared a hug that could only be earned by 25 minutes of battle.
4 – Josh Emmett-Shane Burgos
The co-main event between featherweight contenders Josh Emmett and Shane Burgos was expected to deliver fireworks, and it was like the Fourth of July at the Apex, with Emmett using two third-round knockdowns to break open a close fight and win a three-round unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 29-27 for the No. 8-ranked Emmett, now 16-2. The No. 10-ranked Burgos falls to 13-2.
Emmett was swinging his right hand with abandon in the early going, and he threw in the occasional short left hook for good measure. The bigger Burgos took the punches well as he moved forward, but he was taking too many of them, which only made Emmett more confident. Burgos stuck to the game plan, though, landing some hard calf kicks that were getting Emmett’s attention, and by the end of the round, both were trading bombs.
After hurting his left knee in the first frame, Emmett showed a sense of urgency in the second and he landed more flush shots that Burgos took with no issue. And as the New Yorker shook off the blows, he came back with more volume as he kept up a disciplined effort in the midst of an intense scrap.
In the opening minute of the final round, Emmett sat Burgos down with a short left hand, and while he recovered immediately, in a close fight a knockdown is pivotal. After the two rose, an inadvertent low kick by Burgos brought a momentarily halt to the fight, and when the action resumed, there was no let-up to the attacks of Emmett and Burgos. Midway through, another left hand dropped Burgos for the second time, and Emmett got in some ground strikes before Burgos got back to his feet. Looking to turn things around, Burgos went after Emmett, only to get rocked again just before the final horn.
3 – Dustin Poirier-Dan Hooker
Everyone expected the UFC Vegas 4 main event between Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker to be an instant classic. Then the two lightweight contenders went and delivered one, fighting tooth and nail for 25 minutes, with Poirier emerging victorious via unanimous decision in a clear Fight of the Year candidate.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 48-46 for the No. 3-ranked Poirier, now 26-6 with 1 NC. The No. 5-ranked Hooker falls to 20-9.
Hooker took an early lead as he worked his kicks to Poirier’s legs and body. Midway through the round, Poirier was able to negate his opponent’s reach advantage by locking up and taking Hooker to the fence. Hooker didn’t stay there long, but once the two separated, a fight broke out, with both landing hard shots in the pocket.
The two wasted no time getting back after it in round two, Hooker scoring with kicks and Poirier responding with punches until a brief stay against the fence. At close range, the two traded bombs, Poirier getting the better of it as he bloodied Hooker’s nose. Midway through the frame, the exchanges continued, Poirier now cutting Hooker over the right eye. Hooker returned the favor, neither backing down from the other. With under a minute left, Hooker rocked Poirier briefly, and as the round wore down, he poured it on, landing several shots until the horn intervened.
It was going to be hard to top the pace of the previous frame, but Hooker and Poirier did their best, each landing shots until a Hooker takedown attempt nearly led to a Poirier guillotine choke finish. Hooker fought his way free, though, and the two proceeded to then trade strikes on the mat. Poirier also looked for a submission from his back and when that came up empty, he made his way to his feet and landed two flush right hands that Hooker remarkably shook off.
Poirier’s southpaw jab was sharp in the early stages of round four, leading to a Hooker takedown. Poirier rose immediately, but Hooker stayed committed and put the Louisiana native twice more. After rising again, it was Poirier with the takedown, and he was able to keep the New Zealander grounded as he fired off a steady stream of strikes. With under two minutes left, Poirier locked up an armbar, but Hooker defended well and eventually pulled free with a little under a minute remaining. As the two rose, Poirier looked for a guillotine, but again, Hooker got loose just before the end of the frame.
With the fight possibly up for grabs, there was a lot on the line in the fifth round, with both trying to wisely pick their shots. Poirier appeared to be the fresher of the two, and after landing several flush punches, Hooker wisely sought out a takedown. Poirier didn’t stay grounded long, yet as they stood, Hooker kept looking to take the fight to the mat. Poirier was determined to stay upright, though, and when the two hit the deck late, it was Poirier with a bunch of punches to the face as the bout ended. If there was a crowd at the UFC Apex, there would have been a standing ovation. And a well-deserved one.
2 – Deiveson Figueiredo-Brandon Moreno
A point deduction cost UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo a victory in his UFC 256 main event against Brandon Moreno, but in an epic five-round Fight of the Year candidate, he retained his title for the second time by way of a majority draw.
Scores were 47-46 Figueiredo and 47-47 twice.
Both champion and challenger were fighting three weeks after scoring wins on the UFC 255 card in Las Vegas, and despite the short notice, there was no let-up from either fighter for all 25 minutes.
Figueiredo (20-1-1) opened with a spinning back kick to the body and followed up with a hard punch upstairs which led to a takedown attempt. Moreno (18-5-2) eluded the attempt and brought the fight briefly to the mat, but soon it was back to the standup game, where Moreno scored some stiff jabs. Unbothered by the incoming fire, Figueiredo stalked his foe, digging to the body when he could. Moreno wasn’t backing down, though, and he stayed busy throughout the fast-paced first round.
The right hand of Figueiredo was on target in round two, and even though Moreno took them well, they were scoring points. The Mexican did even the score with a takedown, but the momentum was lost when Moreno was poked in the eye, bringing a momentary stop to the bout. When it resumed, Moreno was in the champion’s guard, but Figueiredo scrambled back to his feet and the two got into a heated exchange. Moreno continued to have success on his feet, and though Figueiredo jarred “The Assassin Baby” with a barrage of punches, Moreno responded with a takedown just before the end of the frame.
Figueiredo was throwing for the finish with every punch and kick as round three commenced, and Moreno clinched his foe in a quest to slow him down momentarily. Figueiredo shook it off and continued to march forward, intent on ending the night early. Yet after each flush shot landed, Moreno fired back. In the second half of the round, a flush low kick put Moreno on the deck in pain, halting the fight momentarily. Referee Jason Herzog deducted a point from Figueiredo, and when the bout resumed, the battle continued, with Figueiredo scoring a takedown. The combatants didn’t stay there long, and in the closing seconds, Moreno landed a hard shot that sent a stern message heading into the championship rounds.
The back-and-forth action didn’t let up in round four, but Moreno seemed to be getting the better of the exchanges, and in the second minute, he took Figueiredo to the mat. With three minutes left, the Brazilian was back on his feet and he continued to tag Moreno with no reaction from the challenger. Midway through the round, Moreno appeared to rock Figueiredo, but the champion quickly recovered and resumed unleashing bombs. With 1:15 remaining, Moreno shook off a couple flush right hands and scored a takedown. Figueiredo landed elbows from his back, but after the two rose, it was Moreno rocking his opponent once more as the round concluded.
Figueiredo landed three consecutive kicks early in the final round, and for the first time in the fight, Moreno’s work rate dropped as his left shoulder appeared to be injured. The heart from both fighters was unquestionable, though, as the exchanges were as intense as ever as the seconds ticked away. A late takedown from Figueiredo was a big one, yet when it was over, the respect between the two rivals was clear. It was the type of respect only earned by a 25-minute fight. And this was a special one.
“We need that rematch,” said the gracious Moreno, who was aiming to become the first Mexican champion in UFC history.
1 – Zhang Weili-Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk delivered the greatest fight in women’s MMA history Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and when it was over, the result of the UFC 248 co-main event was almost secondary due to the epic nature of the bout, but it was Zhang retaining her UFC strawweight title for the first time via five-round split decision in a fight that raised the stock of both ladies and the sport.
Scores were 48-47 twice and 47-48 for Zhang, now 21-1. Jedrzejczyk falls to 16-4.
Both fighters were busy to start, but a minute in, Jedrzejczyk landed a hard right hand upstairs and her combinations at close range had the former champ smiling and in the lead. Zhang began to find her rhythm midway through the frame, though, and she was throwing with power every time, clearly getting Jedrzejczyk’s attention.
Resuming their high-volume striking battle in round two, Jedrzejczyk was mixing things up nicely, and in the second minute, the two locked up against the fence, taking turns in control, with Zhang landing elbows and Jedrzejczyk responding with knees. With a little over two minutes left, Zhang rattled Jedrzejczyk with a right hand, forcing the Poland native to reset. By the end of the round, the crowd was roaring at the fast-paced action, but Zhang’s eye was rapidly swelling.
Zhang came out fast for round three and got in some hard shots before Jedrzejczyk settled back in and continued unleashing combinations. And once Jedrzejczyk switched to southpaw, she had more success. With two minutes left, Zhang locked up with Jedrzejczyk briefly, and once they broke, it was Zhang roaring back, raising a welt on the challenger’s head in the process. But Jedrzejczyk finished the round strong, making it another nightmare for the judges to score.
The high-level action continued in round four, with neither fighter backing down and each taking turns rocking the other. And while Zhang was in the championship rounds for the first time, she was still swinging for the fences, but it was Jedrzejczyk who was clearly the fresher of the two. With two minutes left, Zhang landed a hard shot to the forehead, but Jedrzejczyk kept moving forward, landing an elbow before the two locked up against the fence. Jedrzejczyk glanced at the clock in the final 30 seconds, but that didn’t stop her from bringing the heat.
Both fighters showed the wears of battle on their face, but there would be no let-up once the final round began, and the exchanges were as ferocious in the fifth as they were in the first. A left hook by Zhang briefly rocked Jedrzejczyk in the second minute, and the champion surged forward. But then it was Jedrzejczyk’s turn, and she scored with several hard blows. With a little over two minutes left, Jedrzejczyk clinched to grab a well-deserved second’s rest, but then it was back to work and both fighters were determined to leave nothing left in the tank. And they didn’t, Jedrzejczyk landing a spinning backfist and Zhang responding with a punch of her own just before the horn ending the leading candidate for 2020 Fight of the Year.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Vettori-Hermansson, Volkanovski-Holloway 2, Waterson-Hill, Palatnikov-Cosce, Giles-Krause, Moreno-Formiga, Kenney-Wood, Dariush-Klose, Overeem-Harris, Miocic-Cormier 3, Barcelos-Taha, Ortega-Jung
VOTERS – Thomas Gerbasi, Christoph Goessing, Cory Kamerschak, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, Gavin Porter