UFC: Halfway through 2020, what has been the FOTY so far?

We are officially halfway through 2020. The UFC has put on some incredible cards, and the UFC has overcame a worldwide pandemic over the last two months to bring sports back to the world. There have been some incredible fights so far in 2020, but what has been the fight of the year?

Best of the Rest

This year has been so much fun when it comes to the UFC. We have seen the return of Conor McGregor, we’ve seen highlight reel knockouts, and we’ve seen some unforgettable fights. I have come up with a list of the three best fights of 2020, but there are several fights beyond my list that have brought many to their feet. Some of the fights that come to mind are: Emmett/Burgos, Felder/Hooker, Yadong/Vera, and many more. However, the three fights I have picked, I believe stand above the rest.

Justin Gaethje vs Tony Ferguson – UFC 249

When this fight was announced in April, did you expect anything else? Tony Ferguson (25-4) was the boogieman of the lightweight division, and Justin Gaethje (22-2) lives up to his name in being the highlight of the lightweight division. After UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, was pulled from his fight with Ferguson due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gaethje stepped up.

The UFC booked Ferguson/Gaethje for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249. The smart money was on Ferguson leading into the fight. Ferguson hadn’t lost in eight years, and many believed that he was the best lightweight in the world. Gaethje might have been the most exciting fighter in the world, but his reckless style has caused him to drop a few of his bigger fights. However, it became very apparent from the beginning, this was not the old Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje immediately took the center of the octagon throwing sharp and crisp combinations at Ferguson. “El Cucuy” was fully prepared to go to war firing back. The first round was action packed with Gaethje hitting Ferguson often. However, most got the sense that Gaethje would slow down as the fight went on. In the second round, Ferguson picked up his pace and dropped Gaethje near the end of the round.

Personally, I thought Ferguson was going to assume control, but that wasn’t the case. Gaethje came right out in the third with the same pace he started with. However, he was much more calculated. Gaethje was smart and picked his shots wisely against the former UFC interim champion, Ferguson. After putting on a clinic in the later rounds, Gaethje smashed Ferguson’s nose which caused Ferguson to turn away. The referee stopped the fight giving Gaethje the interim title. Both men threw everything they had at the other in an absolute war for five rounds, but on May 9th, Justin Gaethje was the better man.

Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker – UFC on ESPN 12

Man, I think I’m still recovering from this one. This past Saturday at UFC on ESPN 12, Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) and Dan Hooker (20-9) put on an absolute show. The fight was booked earlier in the summer after Hooker had called Poirier out back in February. Poirier was coming off a title shot against Nurmagomedov, and was looking to get back to victory. A win for either man would put them squarely in title contention.

There was really no feeling out process with this fight. After throwing big kicks early, both men looked to focus completely on the other man’s face. In the first two rounds, Hooker did a fantastic job of landing clean and precise shots. Poirier was landing his shots too, but Hooker seemed to have the cleaner lands. Several times early, both men ended up in close quarters just throwing reckless power shots at the other.

Late in the second round, Hooker unleashed a combination that would have put most lightweights down. In fact, if it wasn’t for the cage, I’m not sure Poirier would have stayed on his feet. Poirier went back to his stool down to rounds to the contender from New Zealand. At this point, I thought we were looking at the next UFC title contender in Dan Hooker.

Starting in the third round, Poirier drastically turned the tables. Both men were still throwing all they had at the other, but it was Poirier who was now landing the cleaner shots on Hooker. Both men really started to fatigue in the middle rounds, but Poirier seemed to have just a little more in the tank.

The last two rounds were where Poirier really won the fight. Hooker had slowed massively, and Poirier was taking advantage. Despite getting caught a few times coming in, Poirier’s relentless pace took over in the later rounds. Both men were absolutely battered coming down the stretch of this one.

The fight went to the scorecards and all three judges gave the fight to Poirier. Hooker had won the first two rounds on all scorecards, but Poirier won the final three rounds. A tremendous back and forth battle that will go down as one of the better fights in UFC history.

Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk – UFC 248

You really can’t get much better than the fight between UFC strawweight champion, Weili Zhang (22-1), and former champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). A few years ago, Jedrzejczyk was known as the best female fighter in the sport. Since losing the title back in 2017, Jedrzejczyk has desperately tried to get back to UFC gold. UFC 248 gave her the chance.

Weili Zhang is the first UFC champion to be born in China. She is turning into a superstar, but she needed an opponent that could truly shine a light on her greatness. She found that opponent back in March when she took on the former champion, Jedrzejczyk.

This fight was so special because it was on the highest of levels, and the action was non-stop. From the opening bell, both ladies threw precise combinations at the other. The pace was unlike anything that I had ever seen in a title fight. Both women were putting everything on their shots, but it wasn’t wild.

This was a striking match on the highest of levels. Jedrzejczyk was really light on her feet throughout the entire fight landing great shots from the outside. Zhang did a tremendous job at stepping in and countering as Jedrzejczyk threw. Both women hit the other frequently, and they hit each other clean. Watching this fight you just had to keep wondering when someone was going to get tired.

All the way into the championship rounds, the women never slowed down. Both ladies pushed forward throwing everything. You had spinning attacks, leg kicks, head kicks, straights, uppercuts, hooks, you know it. It was a striking clinic put on by both women. Both women were visibly beat up, and the fight was razor close.

Entering the final round, I don’t think anyone knew who was winning. The fight was dead even at all times. Every time one woman would land, the other would land a counter. The UFC fans were getting spoiled back in March. In the end, two of the three judges gave the fight to the champion, Weili Zhang. The fight was truly one of the best fights I had ever seen, and it was at the highest level of the sport for a UFC title.

The UFC’s FOTY in 2020 (So far)

All three of these contenders are excellent fights, but if I’m going to give the award, it’s going to Zhang and Jedrzejczyk. The fight was truly a thing of beauty. The perfect balance of technique and violence. It never turned into a brawl where technique went out the window, but you would think with the damage that both women suffered, it was a massive brawl with no defense on display. Also the fact that it was for the title puts it over the top. Women’s MMA has come so far over the last few years, but the fight that Zhang/Jedrzejczyk put on back at UFC 248 is the greatest female fight of all time, and it’s not close in my opinion.