Even a pandemic couldn’t stop the UFC from doing their thing in 2020. After a fast start, multiple cancelled events, new stars, retried legends, title changes and viral moments, the UFC yet again has proved that it is the gold standard of MMA competition. We take a look January – June at all of the most talked-about moments from the UFC in 2020.
UFC in 2020
January started with the return of the UFC’s biggest star at UFC 246. Conor McGregor took on Donald Cerrone in a welterweight clash. In typical McGregor fashion, he stole the show with a 40-second finish of ‘Cowboy’ and was back to winning ways.
At the same event, the previously undefeated Maycee Barber suffered her first professional loss. Taking on Roxanne Modafferi, Barber injured her knee and was dominated by the veteran.
January also saw Curtis Blaydes continue his domination of the heavyweight division when he TKO’d Junior dos Santos in a main event slot. Blaydes would also go on to dominate Alexander Volkov later on in the year. Michael Chiesa continued his assault on the 170lbs division when he got a three-round decision victory over Rafael dos Anjos.
February kicked off with a title fight doubleheader at UFC 247. We saw Jon Jones get a controversial victory over Dominick Reyes in the main event. Many believed that Reyes had done enough to dethrone the 205lbs king, but the judges saw it differently. In the co-main, Valentina Shevchenko did what she always does and dominate her opponent. Katlyn Chookagian was her lastest victim, suffering a TKO loss in the second round. UFC 247 also saw the UFC debut of the hard-hitting Khaos Williams.
Following on form UFC 247, we saw Jan Blachowicz knockout Corey Anderson, essentially sending him to Bellator. We also got to see the debut of Brok Weaver, which unfortunately ended as a result of an illegal knee.
The UFC took a trip down under for Paul Felder vs Dan Hooker. What played out was an instant classic and we all knew it would be. These two men always bring it and this was no different. In a contender for fight of the year, Hooker managed to outpoint Felder.
February ended with a controversial event all round. On the main card, Magomed Ankalaev finished Ion Cutelaba, despite protests. It appeared that Cutelaba was hurt, although, on the replays, it appeared that he may have been playing possum. As soon as the fight was called off, Cutelaba seemed fine and a rematch was quickly called. More controversy ensued when the day before, Deiveson Figueiredo missed the flyweight limit for his title bout with Joseph Benevidez. This meant that only Benevidez was eligible for the title. On the night, Figueiredo knocked out Benevidez in the second round. This meant that the flyweight belt was still unclaimed, however.
March started off with a bang. UFC 248 delivered on a number of levels. We got a knockout of the year contender from Beneil Dariush and a fight of the year contender between Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. In what was a back and forth fight for all five rounds, we saw Weili defend her title. All action for 25 minutes set us up for a massively lacklustre main event. Israel Adesanya defended his middleweight belt against Yoel Romero (in what would turn out to be his last fight for the promotion).
We then saw the first event behind closed doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the last event we’d get for a while. The event saw nine straight fights go the full 15-minute distance. We did get two finishes, however. Firstly, Gilbert Burns continued his assault on the welterweight division as he brutally knocked out Damien Maia, cementing himself at the top of the 170lbs division. In the main event, Charles Oliveira notched his seventh straight finish victory when he submitted Kevin Lee.
From then on, throughout April the UFC were forced to cancel five events, including their annual trip to London. Included in the cancelled events was also the cursed main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson… again!
The UFC returned in May (albeit behind closed doors). We were treated to UFC 249 and again, a title fight doubleheader. Firstly, on the main card ‘The Predator’, Francis Ngannou lived up to his name. Brutally knocking out Jairzinho Rozenstruik in just 20 seconds, he cemented himself as the #1 contender in the heavyweight division. The co-main saw the return of Dominick Cruz. Having not competed since 2016, Cruz didn’t get the return that he’d hoped for. A TKO victory for his opponent, Henry Cejudo saw Cruz suffer his second defeat in a row. Off the back of the victory over Cruz, Cejudo announced his retirement. As we know, MMA retirements don’t last forever. Although the belt has been vacated, we can expect to see Cejudo back in the octagon before too long. The main event was a brilliant spectacle. In a fight for the interim lightweight title, Justin Gaethje dominated, battered and finished Tony Ferguson. Ending Ferguson’s 12 fight winning run, Gaethje set up a bout with Nurmagomedov later on in the year.
Next, we had a forgettable event, the only thing of note was that Glover Teixeira continued his assault on the 205lbs division. The now 41-year-old Brazillian dominated Anthony Smith to a fifth-round TKO, although it could have been stopped earlier.
The following event saw a number of dubious decisions from the judges. In the co-main event, Claudia Gadelha won a controversial decision over Angela Hill. Further down the card, Song Yadong got the nod over Marlon Vera, in a fight where many thought Vera did enough for the W. Edson Barboza made his featherweight debut, unsuccessfully, when he lost a split decision to Dan Ige. The main event saw the return of Walt Harris following the death of his stepdaughter. Unfortunately for him, it ended in a TKO victory for his opponent, Alistair Overeem. Also of note from this event, Kevin Holland made his first of five appearances of the year with a first-round TKO victory.
Rounding off a busy month of May for the UFC, we got a welterweight main event between former champion Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns. Burns truly dominated Woodley leading to three 50-44 scorecards in favour of the Brazillian. This win cemented Burns as the #1 contender in the division. Mackenzie Dern also made a return following her first professional loss, securing the win via kneebar.
June started off with a PPV. UFC 250 again came to us from behind closed doors. There were two contenders for knockout of the year on the main card. Sean O’Malley brutally knocked out Eddie Wineland with a one-punch knockout in the first round. Cody Garbrandt returned with a truly brutal knockout of top contender, Raphael Assuncao. We also got to see Aljamain Sterling put on a clinic against Cory Sandhagen, taking him down and submitting him in under a minute and a half. The main event saw a dominant but un-entertaining victory by Amanda Nunes.
Jessica Eye and Cynthia Calvillo headlined the following event… yeah, we weren’t sure why either. We did get to see Marvin Vettori‘s first outing of the year, a submission win after three cancelled fights previously. Curtis Blaydes again prove he is one of the best heavyweights on the planet, defeating Alexander Volkov by unanimous decision a week later. At the same event, the Max Rohskopf corner sparked controversy when they saw him take a beating and all but forcing him off his stool.
After all the main events in June being below par, we were treated at UFC on ESPN 12. Before the main event, however, we saw the debut of Kay Hansen, the second-youngest fighter ever to debut in the UFC. The main event, however, lived up to the hype. Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker went at each other for 25 full minutes. Neither man took a step back and brought us one of the fights of the year. Winning 48-47 X 2 and 48-46, ‘The Diamond’ has set up a bout with Conor McGregor early in 2021.
Keep it locked to MMASucka for part two of this mini-series looking July – December.
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