A great fight is a perfect storm. Put two fighters together and you never know what you’ll get, but when both have the intention of making a statement against each other and the styles mesh, it becomes something more than just an athletic competition. When that happens, there’s nothing better in all of sports.
Here are 10 of the best fights from 2018, as the highly unofficial awards season continues…
1 – Robert Whittaker-Yoel Romero 2 (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
This is what you want in a championship fight. High-level action, intensity, drama, momentum swings and a close, some would say controversial, final verdict that went Whittaker’s way. Would I want to see Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero do this a third time? Absolutely.
2 – Dustin Poirier-Justin Gaethje (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Everyone expected a war out of Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje and they got everything they asked for and more, with Poirier walking through the fire Gaethje threw at him with patience and poise before stopping the Arizonan in the fourth round.
3 – Yair Rodriguez-Chan Sung Jung (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
On paper, this featherweight showdown between Yair Rodriguez and Chan Sung Jung had all the elements to produce fireworks, and neither fighter disappointed in a back-and-forth battle that literally came down to the final second of the fight, when a highlight reel knockout earned Rodriguez the victory at 4:59 of round five.
4 – Max Holloway-Brian Ortega (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Whether you admired Max Holloway’s championship mettle to put aside the worst year of his career to retain his featherweight crown and deliver perhaps his finest performance yet or Brian Ortega’s warrior spirit in refusing to give in during the toughest moments he ever experience in the Octagon, this UFC 231 main event had something for everyone, and it was one of those rare fights where there were no losers when it was all over.
5 – Tony Ferguson-Anthony Pettis (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Like Rodriguez-Jung, something would have to go drastically wrong for a fight between Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis to be a dud, so it was no surprise when “El Cucuy” and “Showtime” brought the heat for ten intense minutes at UFC 229 in October. Ferguson emerged with the TKO win after two rounds, but Pettis left his fans happy with his return to form on the sport’s biggest stage.
6 – “Jacare” Souza-Chris Weidman (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
A late switch of opponents from Luke Rockhold to “Jacare” Souza didn’t help Chris Weidman in terms of game planning for the UFC 230 bout, but Weidman adjusted well early on against the Brazilian, winning the first two rounds on two scorecards before Souza closed the show in the third stanza, ending the punishing middleweight bout via TKO.
7 – Thiago Santos-Jimi Manuwa (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
We’ll just call this my guilty pleasure fight of 2018. Yes, the technique was sloppy at times, and it often looked like a Pier Six brawl instead of a mixed martial arts contest, but that was the beauty of this slugfest between Thiago Santos and Jimi Manuwa, a fight between two knockout artists that lived up to all expectations.
8 – Calvin Kattar-Shane Burgos (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
Another reminder of something that sets MMA apart from boxing are the meetings that match two hot prospects against each other before they’ve hit the top of the sport. And when Calvin Kattar and Shane Burgos threw down, they proved why these are such compelling matchups. And yes, Kattar left the Octagon with the win, but Burgos’ stock didn’t drop an ounce in the process.
9 – Drew Dober-Frank Camacho (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
With three UFC appearances and three Fight of the Night bonuses in his first trio of appearances, Frank Camacho rapidly became a must see fighter, and while he emerged from those three bouts with a 1-2 record, I bet if you’ve seen him compete, you remember the fights and not the result. In this one, it was Dober taking the decision in a 15-minute bout where each welterweight left it all in the Octagon.
10 – Zabit Magomedsharipov-Kyle Bochniak (WATCH ON UFC FIGHT PASS)
He’s everyone’s favorite rising star, and Zabit Magomedsharipov’s fan base only grew after his three-round win over Kyle Bochniak. No, it wasn’t a “to the wire” fight where the outcome was in doubt after the final horn, but in a fight Magomedsharipov was heavily favored in, Bochniak stayed in his opponent’s face from start to finish, willing to take one to give one, thrilling the fans at Barclays Center and taking a well-deserved Fight of the Night bonus.