Back in March, the uncertainty of what lies ahead for the UFC was merely speculation at best. Entering the last quarter of 2020, Dana White has salvaged what was the strangest year for an MMA fighter in recent memory. Missing two months of the year to the pandemic, the UFC has held an event almost every week since May. With that said, year-end awards are approaching rapidly. There are still many notable fights remaining, but through 3/4 of the year, here are your candidates:
Male Fighter of the Year
Recency bias is common in MMA, but the late revival of Poland’s first male UFC champion is certainly a highlight of 2020. Blachowicz is 2-0 this year with knockout victories over Corey Anderson and Dominick Reyes. Securing the light-heavyweight championship this past Saturday, Blachowicz has a very strong case for the award.
Figueiredo joined the exclusive company of fighter’s who’ve missed weight for their championship bout back in February. He finally was able to win the title in the rematch when he defeated Joseph Benavidez quicker than he did in their first bout. The “God of War” has a chance to solidify his claim if he’s able to go 3-0 in 2020 when he takes on Alex Perez in their scheduled November bout.
When the UFC returned at UFC 249, Justin Gaethje had his best performance of his career when he became the first person to finish Tony Ferguson inside of the UFC. His presence on this list is solely dependent upon his performance at UFC 254 later this month against Khabib Nurmagomedov. If he’s able to give “The Eagle” his first professional loss, Gaethje is a shoo-in for the fighter of the year.
Stylebender’s first bout of the year was one to forget. He came away with a decision victory over Yoel Romero, however, his stock fell after a lackluster performance. At UFC 253, Adesanya gained that stock back and then some. A near-perfect showing, the City Kickboxing star is still undefeated after dismantling the 185lb #1 contender. The resume consists of wins over Romero and Paulo Costa. It doesn’t appear that Adesanya will make a quick-turnaround, but will the fight with Romero hold him back?
Kamaru Usman/ Gilbert Burns Winner
This welterweight showdown is scheduled for UFC 256. The champion’s coming off of a dominant victory over Jorge Masvidal while the challenger has wins over Demain Maia and Tyron Woodley this year. With a front-runner yet to emerge, this bout could determine the male fighter of the year.
Female Fighter of the Year
In arguably the women’s fight-of-the-year, Zhang defended her strawweight championship against Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248. Zhang ended up on the right side of the split-decision, but only fighting one time in 2020 may hold the champion back in this award column.
Since making the move to flyweight, “The Bullet” is 5-0 and is slowly clearing out the division. Shevchenko won devastatingly back in February at UFC 247. She has a strong case for the award and it will be dependent upon her UFC 255 showdown with Jennifer Maia.
Along with fellow fighter Nina Ansaroff, the #1 women’s pound-for-pound fighter just welcomed their first child into the world. She also is coming off of a dominant title defense against Felicia Spencer. Nunes is on an 11-fight win streak and has single-handedly cleared out the bantamweight division. The “Lioness” is set to defend her featherweight championship against Megan Anderson at UFC 256 in December.
With 3 PPV’s left on the calendar, many of these candidates have bouts lined up. The UFC is full steam ahead in finishing what has been already a wild year of fights.