UFC: 2018 Event of the Year
By Ben Jessop
2018 has given us a selection of incredible cards, whether it’s UFC 226 that made history with Daniel Cormier or perhaps the controversy filled UFC 229 or the rematch between Romero and Whittaker at UFC 225, it’s a hard decision to decide which one really comes out on top for 2018.
You could argue that UFC 221 would be in contention, with Romero vs Rockhold taking the main event, on top of a stacked card that included the likes of Mark Hunt vs Curtis Blaydes as the co-main event, Tai Tuivasa securing a round one KO over Cyril Asker, Jake Matthews taking a decision of Li Jingliang, and Tyson Pedro locking in a round one submission over Saparbek Safarov. The prelims for this card were also highly anticipated and saw the likes of Israel Adesanya secure a round two KO over Rob Wilkinson to help continue his now 15-0 record. We also saw Alexander Volkanovski add another win to his sheet with a round two KO over Jeremy Kennedy.
UFC 223, shrouded with controversy after Tony Ferguson had to drop out off the fight with a knee injury and Al Iaquinta stepping in on six days notice to fight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov also stands a chance of being one of the best events of 2018. Besides the main event that saw Laquinta survive five rounds against the most dominant champion in the UFC, we also saw champ Rose Namajunas put her belt on the line again for a rematch with Joanna Jedrzejczyk and she managed to get the decision and retain the title after the fight went the distance.
This card also homed one of the best fights of 2018 between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Kyle Bochniak. But this card also had some cancellations as the fight between Laquinta and Paul Felder was cancelled in order to fill the main event slot and we also saw Michael Chiesa vs Anthony Pettis fall through too.
UFC on Fox 29 is also one of the best cards of 2018 and is home to my pick for fight of the year, between Poirier and Gaethje. As well as the outstanding main event, the card also saw Alex Oliveria finish Carlos Condit with a round two submission, Israel Adesanya moved from prelims to main event to take the decision over Marvin Vettori and was well away on his path to stardom.
Fight Night 130 was also a stacked card, as the UFC came to Liverpool to showcase some UK talent, the main event did not disappoint as Darren Till went the distance with Stephen Thompson and took the decision. Neil Magny also took a round one KO over Craig White which helped push him up towards Santiago Ponzinibbio later on in 2018. Another homegrown UK talent took the octagon in the form of Arnold Allen, he took on Mads Burnell and secured a third round submission.
UFC 225 is always going to be mentioned in any conversation about the best events of the year, it’s main event is up there with one of the best fights of 2018 with Rob Whittaker taking on, and defending his title, for the second time against Yoel Romero. The fight went the distances but the champ just proved to be out of Yoel’s reach. The card also saw the UFC’s very own bad boy Colby Covington take an impressive win over seasoned vet Rafael Dos Anjos. The main card saw nothing but decisions from top to bottom, but wins came for the like of Tai Tuivasa and Holly Holm. The prelims had an array of fantastic fights, with Alistair Overeem taking on Curtis Blaydes, with Blaydes earning a third round KO. Unfortunately, CM Punk was on this main card so it can’t take the top spot for me.
UFC 226, the card that made history, makes it into the top three of events put on throughout 2018. Obviously, light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier took on heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic in a bid to become the double champ, and with one of the biggest upsets of the year DC managed to KO Stipe Miocic in round one and made history becoming the double champ. T
his card also saw Francis Ngannou take another loss against Derrick Lewis in one of the most underwhelming fights of 2018. Lewis won via decision after Ngannou looked awful after his prior defeat against Stipe Miocic. Mike Perry also had a notable win over Paul Felder that helped push Perry to the highly anticipated bout with Donald Cerrone later in 2018. This card also unfortunately saw the cancellation of Holloway vs Ortega. Although this card made history with Daniel Cormier, it also had one of the worst fights of the year between Ngannou and Lewis so it cannot take the top spot.
UFC 229 – the famous card. Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov. The biggest fight in UFC history. Would McGregor have the technique to stop the champ? No. The fight just saw Khabib maul McGregor like he does everyone else he’s come up against, and secured a fourth round submission. Though, despite an underwhelming main event, the card did also feature one of the best fights between Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis where Ferguson won via a second round KO and secured him as the next opponent to champ Khabib. Derrick Lewis continued his assault to the top spot with a last-minute KO over Alexander Volkov. Michelle Waterson also continued her win streak with a decision over Felice Herrig.
The last event of 2018, in UFC 232, was coated in controversy and conspiracy as the UFC’s darklord, Jon Jones, made his comeback. Despite the drama of Jones testing positive and the whole event being moved from Vegas to California, we cannot deny how great this card was for the fans.
We saw the biggest rematch of 2018 with Jones taking on Gustafsson, with Jones getting a third KO, the difference between these two fighters was night and day and Jones, in the eyes of many, is the G.O.A.T – he’s seemingly unstoppable and as his rivalry with Daniel Cormier heats up, will Jon Jones be the double champ come the end of 2019?
Although most fights were overshadowed by the main event, we also saw Amanda Nunes make history, becoming the first female double champ in the UFC after KO’ing Cyborg within the first round. This in my opinion makes Nunes the G.O.A.T of women’s MMA.
She has successfully shut down two of the best female fighters on the planet within 100 seconds, combined! The card also saw Chiesa take a much-needed win over Carlos Condit. Chad Mendes announced his retirement from fighting after his loss this past weekend against Alexander Volkanovski. The prelims saw action too as Cat Zingano lost against Megan Anderson with a toenail to the eye in one of the more underwhelming fights of the evening. Ryan Hall also secured a phenomenal submission against UFC Hall of Famer, BJ Penn.
Despite all of this competition, I think UFC 231 takes the crown of Best Event of the Year 2018. Champ Max Holloway vs Brian Ortega, the fight that had been in the making for months on end and with Max Holloway having a particularly tough year with weight cutting, he came into this fight the underdog.
We all know had that fight played out, with Holloway dominating and Ortega just taking punishment round after round. It was in round four that the fight was finally stopped.
This card carried on delivering though, with a co-main event in Valentina Shevchenko vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk that went the distance with Shevchenko taking the win. This loss really damages Joanna’s future prospect of ever reaching a title fight again, having lost to Rose Namajunas for the second time earlier in the year and now to Valentina, it’ll be hard to her to come back.
The card also showed one of the bloodiest battles we’ve seen in a while with Gunnar Nelson vs Alex Oliveria, although the first only went two rounds we saw plenty of action with both fighters going full throttle. An elbow to the head caused Oliveria’s forehead to begin bleeding profusely. Gunnar managed to secure a second round submission.
We also saw Hakeem Dawodu take the decision against Kyle Bochniak, along with one of the best light heavyweight fights of the year between Jimi Manuwa vs Thiago Santos. Thiago had the intention of stopping this fight early and was able to drop Manuwa twice in the first round, but he survived until the bell but it only took forty-one seconds of round two for Thiago Santos to finish Manuwa.