With 22 events in the books, the first half of 2021 is complete for the UFC, and as we await the beginning of the second half of the year to begin with UFC 264 on July 10, we’ll take a look back at the best fighters and performances to grace the Octagon thus far.
Today, the highly unofficial mid-year awards season ends with the top fighters of the first half of 2021:
5 - Charles Oliveira
There were times when Charles Oliveira was missing weight consistently and / or losing pivotal fights that it seemed like he would never fulfill his potential as a mixed martial artist. Well, in five minutes and 19 seconds in Houston this past May, “Do Bronx” hit all his marks in roaring back from a rough first round to stop Michael Chandler and in the process, he delivered an inspiring statement to all his peers by putting past setbacks behind him and becoming the UFC lightweight champion of the world. Now that’s a story.
4 - Max Holloway
Max Holloway is not even 30 yet, but it seems like the former featherweight champion – one of the most accomplished 145ers in MMA history – is always being doubted. It happened after his 2013 loss to Conor McGregor, before the Brian Ortega fight in 2018 and it was happening again after a pair of decision losses to Alexander Volkanovski. But Holloway’s response was the same as always – he silenced the doubters, and in January, he delivered perhaps the most impressive performance of his career in defeating Calvin Kattar on UFC Fight Island. Don’t doubt “Blessed,” it only fires him up.
3 - Francis Ngannou
The scariest fighter on the planet was at his scariest in March when he knocked out Stipe Miocic in the second round to win the UFC heavyweight title. Why his scariest? Because it was clear that he’s adding a new level of grappling to his attack, and if he can keep fights standing without worrying about being taken to the canvas, who can go 25 minutes on the feet with “The Predator” and avoid his bombs for that long, especially with him only needing to detonate one shot to win?
2 - Beneil Dariush
Beneil Dariush has had some great years in the UFC since joining the roster in 2014, but when all is said and done, 2021 may be his best yet, as the lightweight contender put himself in the title race with a Fight of the Night decision over Diego Ferreira in their February rematch, and then he went on to defeat Tony Ferguson in an emphatic three-round victory that extended his current winning streak to seven and marked him as a legit threat to the 155-pound crown. the end of the fight and a decision win.
1 - Kamaru Usman
Of all the award categories, this was the easiest one to come up with a winner in, and that’s no surprise given the reality that Kamaru Usman has gone from being a dominant world champion to being in the all-time great welterweight conversation in the first six months of 2021. That’s no shocker given his third-round finish of Gilbert Burns in a fight where he had to overcome some brief adversity to win, and his blistering second-round knockout of Jorge Masvidal in their April rematch. Usman warned us years ago that he was a problem for anyone at 170 pounds. He wasn’t lying.
Also receiving votes – Marina Rodriguez, Dustin Poirier, Jan Blachowicz, Amanda Nunes, Casey O’Neill, Manon Fiorot, Ciryl Gane, Rose Namajunas, Julian Marquez
VOTERS – Thomas Gerbasi, Christoph Goessing, Cory Kamerschak, E. Spencer Kyte, Steve Latrell, Zac Pacleb, Gavin Porter