My Top 10 UFC Highlights in 2018
By Myles Hutton
In this article, I will be selecting my top 10 highlights from the UFC’s 2018 campaign. The list could be endless, with so many crazy, fascinating moments occurring this year, but I have ultimately chosen the 10 moments that I believe deserve recognition.
10- Zabit vs Bochniak War:
This bout featured on the UFC 223 card in Brooklyn, NY which was cut down to 9 fights on PPV due to the Conor McGregor bus attack incident which occurred on media day of fight week. UFC fans were gutted, just 9 fights and a week of injuries, weight issues and fights being cancelled.. Until Zabit Magomedsharipov kicked off the PPV against Kyle Bochniak. And what a fight it was! A potential ‘Fight of the Year’ winner, wild punches and kicks were being thrown for the entire 15 mins, blood flying onto the canvas and the fans got the treat they deserved after such a bad fight week. Some may say it was a one-sided affair, with Zabit lighting Bochniak up on the feet with unorthodox strikes, but you simply cannot take away Bochniak’s toughness and grit. Constantly walking forward, with his tongue sticking out, wanting more and more blood and pain. You couldn’t take your eyes off this one, and this will definitely go down as one of the best fights of the year, if not the decade.
9- The Rise of Anthony Smith:
At the start of 2018, Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith was an unranked middleweight, on the verge of the top 15 rankings, but could never quite solidify that spot. He faced Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos in February at UFC Belem, losing via TKO in the second round. Being a very active fighter on the UFC roster, Smith admitted after his loss, that he struggled to make-weight, affecting his longevity and cardio within his recent fights.
Consequently, ‘Lionheart’ decided to make the step up to the light heavyweight division, and was debuting against former champ, Rashad Evans at UFC 225. He got the finish via KO in less than 1 minute, making a huge statement to the rest of the 205’ers. Then, after taking out another legend in Shogun Rua in the main event spot at UFC Hamburg in July, Smith earned the ranked number next to his name, and was a new contender at light heavyweight.
Former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir was the next challenge, and potentially the biggest fight of Smith’s career; with Smith going onto to win via submission in the third round. Eventually earning his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, it is astonishing to see Anthony Smith go from an unranked middleweight, coming off a loss, to being a star in the new crop of talented light heavyweights. Smith is currently ranked #3 in the division, and is on an absolute tear! On the verge of a title shot, it will be extremely interesting to see how Smith will cope with the biggest and best light heavyweights in 2019.
8- Weight Cutting Issues:
In modern-day MMA, weight cutting is one of the biggest problems the fighters are facing. Used to gain a pre-fight advantage, almost every fighter on the UFC roster now cuts weight. But, there are many affects of weight cutting, which we have seen multiple times during the duration of 2018. From passing out in the sauna, to not being able to step foot onto the scale due to being too dehydrated, many people believe that the UFC need to introduce stricter weight cutting rules to simply help their fighters stay safe.
When you miss weight, you get fined 20-30% of their purse, but is this enough? Should points start to be taken away before the fight begins? Or should the UFC adopt a new, safer weight cutting method, similar to ONE Championship?This is a hot topic and it will be intriguing to see the different changes the UFC implements into their rules in 2019.
7- How Good Iis Israel Adesanya?
The new star on the block is New Zealand’s ‘Stylebender’ who holds an undefeated professional record of 15-0. Adesanya debuted in 2018, at UFC 221 in Adelaide, blasting his way through Rob Wilkinson in a one-sided affair.
Since then, he has gone on to win 3 more fights, against both ranked opponents and up and coming prospects. Stylebender has simply not been tested during his current 4 fight UFC career; some were questioning his wrestling and grappling game as dominant strikers like Adesanya, tend to struggle with the grappling side of MMA.
However, Adesanya has shown great takedown defence and hints of sneaky offensive grappling at times. He has even admitted he wants to get his first submission win in his professional career under the UFC banner. Adesanya’s next test is at UFC 234, against one of the best martial artists of all time, Anderson Silva- the former champion is coming to the end of his career, and is undoubtedly the underdog coming into this one against a man who most people are saying is a future great, who is also in his prime. Personally, I can only see this one going one way, and I am sure I’m not the only one with this opinion.
6- Yair Rodriguez’ KO of The Korean Zombie:
Speechless. How often do we see a fight between two of the most creative fighters in the UFC? Not often.. but this is what we got as main event of the 25th anniversary card at UFC Denver. One of the most unique finishes we will ever seen in the octagon, ‘El Pantera’ pulled off, in my opinion, the best knockout of 2018. This was a 5 round war, with both fighters having their moments throughout, but it was Rodríguez who ultimately threw a crazy elbow in the dying embers of the fight, resulting in The Korean Zombie falling to the floor unconscious, in the last second of the fight! Also, tying with Demetrious Johnson for the latest finish in the history of the UFC. Great achievement and even better knockout!
5- Cejudo Defeating Mighty Mouse:
The rematch. The pair had faced off previously, with Demetrious Johnson able to nullify Cejudo’s elite wrestling, whilst picking him off to then get a knockout finish with knees and punches in the first round. However, the rematch was different; Cejudo was more experienced this time round, and had focused on striking during previous camps so that he was more of a mixed martial artist, rather than an Olympic wrestler.
In the rematch, Cejudo shocked the world, by defeating Mighty Mouse, who many MMA fans believe is the best fighter in the world, by split decision. Cejudo battled through adversity, after experiencing a very obvious issue with his ankle at the start of Round 1, but slowly eased as the fight went on. The pressure of Cejudo was what crowned him “And New” in my opinion, and being the first man in 7 years to defeat Johnson.
4- DC Becomes ‘Champ Champ’:
The first Champion vs Champion fight in 2018 was at UFC 226, in Las Vegas during international fight week, with light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier facing off against heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic. Due to the fact that Cormier cuts so much weight to make 205, fans were excited to see how he transitions to heavyweight without having to cut any weight at all; and the power was certainly there!
Cormier got the finish in the first round with a short uppercut after escaping the clinch, taking Miocic off his feet. Miocic was the favourite going into this, having previously defended his belt in comfortable fashion on 3 different occasions. It is hard to believe we will ever see ‘DC’ return to light heavyweight, especially after being stripped of his belt to Jon Jones, who beat Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232.
3- The Askren-Johnson Promotion Trade :
One of the biggest shocks in the MMA world in 2018 was the deal between ONE Championship and UFC to swap former flyweight king Demetrious Johnson and former Olympic wrestler, undefeated 18-0 Ben Askren.
Reported by Ariel Helwani, very few MMA fans across the world could believe their eyes when they saw this a promotion trade has never happened in MMA history, so this was the first.
However, it was clear as to why Demetrious Johnson was moving to ONE’s flyweight division UFC is getting rid of their 125lbs division in early 2019. In addition, Askren was moving to the ‘big show’ where there is a lot more competition. Some say Askren has never been tested by truly world-class fighters, but the UFC is where the NCAA div 1 wrestler and BJJ black belt can showcase his skills at the highest level, after coming out of retirement. Askren is scheduled to fight Robbie Lawler at UFC 235, and Johnson is scheduled to face Yuya Wakamatsu in his ONE debut.
2- UFC 223 Fight Week:
The worst fight week in UFC history. Yes, we got the PPV, but it wasn’t what we expected!
After being scheduled to fight on 3 different occasions, but both parties having to pull out due to injuries, illnesses etc, Khabib Nurmagomedov finally headed into fight week with one man on his mind Tony Ferguson.
Due to the former lightweight champion Conor McGregor’s inactivity, this bout was officially for the 155lbs lightweight title. On April 1st, one week away from fight night (baring in mind this was New Year’s Eve!) Tony Ferguson tripped over a wire during media day and injured his knee. He later went on to have surgery on this particular injury.
The news was broken by Dana White, telling fans via social media that ‘El Cucuy’ was out of the fight, but featherweight champion Max Holloway was willing to fight Khabib for the 155lbs title, on 1 weeks notice. It was all well and good during fight week, with pre fight press conferences, and other media obligations scheduled until weigh in day. Max Holloway was deemed medically unfit by New York State Athletic Commission to continue cutting weight and was pulled from the main event at UFC 223.
Later that day, Khabib and the other fights on the card weighed in, unsure of what will happen next. A plethora of fighters scheduled to fight on the card were willing to fight Khabib on just over 24 hours notice, but it was Al Iaquinta who got the nod, due to his UFC ranking. Drama all round, but it didn’t stop there…
On the same day, Khabib and his team had approached SBG Ireland’s Artem Lobov and confronted him, which then led to Lobov’s teammate and lightweight champion at the time, Conor McGregor to take a trip from Dublin to Brooklyn. ‘The Notorious’ arrived at the Barclays Center, with a group of guys from the SBG camp, and searched for Khabib.
Then, came one of the biggest, most talked about ‘out of ring’ moments in UFC history: McGregor smashed Khabib and the other red team corner’s bus window with a dolly, leading to multiple injuries to fighters. Michael Chiesa, who was scheduled to face Anthony Pettis, was pulled from his fight due to multiple facial cuts. Roy Borg vs Brandon Moreno was also pulled due to cuts from the broken glass. The scene was crazy, and McGregor eventually handed himself in to custody after his actions.
1- Khabib vs McGregor Aftermath:
In my opinion, the most memorable moment in 2018, for all the wrong reasons. UFC 229, headlined by the biggest fight in UFC history (for some). Conor McGregor looking to return to MMA and become two-time lightweight champion, but he was up against undefeated Russian powerhouse Khabib Nurmagomedov.
As mentioned in my previous UFC 223 fight week memory above (#2), the pair have had a number of intense altercations prior to their fight. Whenever McGregor is fighting, there is bound to be tension. On the other hand, Khabib has never been a trash talker and has respected each and every one of his past opponents..
Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Conor McGregor via submission, and immediately things turned. Khabib stared down at Conor’s corner, particularly Dillon Danis, who is Conor McGregor’s BJJ training partner, who also tends to exchange in heated verbal wars regularly on social media.
There was some bad blood between the pair going into UFC 229. Khabib grabs his mouthpiece and throws it at the cage, in the direction of McGregor’s corner, whilst McGregor was still sitting on the other side, distraught after the loss. He then runs and jumps over the cage, and dives into Dillon Danis which led to security jumping in to control the situation.
Meanwhile, whilst all the attention was drawn on Khabib, his teammates Zubaira Tukhugov and Abubakar Nurmagomedov jumped into the octagon, with McGregor throwing a punch Abubakar Nurmagomedov. He then retaliates which leads Tukhugov approaching McGregor and more punches were thrown.
As a result of the incident, Tukhugov’s scheduled bout vs McGregor’s teammate, Artem Lobov was scrapped and Dana White threatening to kick him out of the UFC.
Both Khabib and McGregor are due to appear in a disciplinary hearing in 2019 regarding the incident.
Nurmagomedov’s purse was also withheld by the commission.
What a crazy 2018! Many ups and many downs for the sport of MMA and the leading organisation UFC in 2018, but this is the fight game! I am super excited to see what 2019 brings for MMA.
-The 165 lbs division rumours
-Colby Covington and Donald Trump & Covington’s continuous trash talk
-Tyron Woodley silencing critics
-Dillashaw vs Garbrandt 2 grudge rematch
-The ‘announced’ return of Brock Lesnar and Nick Diaz