UFC: 2018 Fight of the Year
By Ben Jessop
As 2018 comes to a close, I’ve been looking back through the years archive to find what I would consider the fight of the year. Before I began my search, I already had the fight that came out on top in my mind but I was searching for potential competition and I most certainly came across a huge amount.
I think Fight of the Year is a relatively subjective choice, depending on what attributes you look for. If you were to look chronologically through 2018, a few stand out fights for me are as follows:
Frankie Edgar vs Brian Ortega – March 4th 2018
The fight that flew Ortega into title contention, facing up against a UFC all-time great, Ortega managed to secure a round one KO with a monstrous uppercut that left Edgar on the canvas. This ended up being one of the biggest upsets of 2018, changing Ortega’s career status forever.
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs Kyle Bochniak – April 8th 2018
This fight reaches a top five, if not top three, with ease. It was an all out war with both fighters taking and giving ridiculous blows that somehow went all three rounds with Magomedsharipov taking the decision. Bochniak showed real heart and continued pushing forward through a real onslaught of violence.
Rob Whittaker vs Yoel Romero II – 10th June 2018
Other than Jones vs Gustaffsson, this was the rematch of the year without a shadow of a doubt. Romero came in with something prove in this rivalry after losing the first bout but it was not to be. The champ and #12 pound-for-pound was in warrior mode, the fight went all five rounds with Whittaker again taking the win. Despite this being one of my favourites of the year, it doesn’t quite take the top spot. Perhaps the trilogy will?
Stipe Miocic vs Daniel Cormier – 8th July 2018
A history making fight, a superfight, the war that was bound to go the distance? Two out of three came true. The fight definitely made history and saw Daniel Cormier become the double champ. The fight was definitely a superfight, two of the biggest names in the sport, both phenomenal wrestlers. It had the recipe to be the fight of the year by a long-shot. The fight, though expected, did not go the distance as Daniel Cormier scored a huge first round KO over Stipe who has been looking for a rematch ever since. I’m not sure the rematch will happen, but it would certainly be a head-turner if it did.
Tony Ferguson vs Anthony Pettis – 7th October 2018
Two of the best lightweights on the planet, despite being potentially overshadowed by the Khabib vs Conor fight, this fight delivered for me the best performance of the evening. Tony Ferguson came away victorious with a round two KO and is now the next in line to take on the current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov – 7th October 2018
You can’t discuss the UFC’s 2018 without bringing up the number one PPV fight and the most talked about fight potentially in the world for the entire. Unfortunately for me, the fight did not live up to the hype. The return of the The Notorious fell short, the fans were split down the middle as to whether or not Conor had the secret to stop the seemingly unstoppable Khabib, who now sits at an unbelievable 27-0. It was not to be and Khabib mauled Conor until finally securing the submission forcing Conor to tap in round four. I’m not going to discuss the debacle that happened after the fight. It will be interesting to see how Conor comes back in 2019. Regardless of who he fights next, they’re all a real challenge so Conor cannot underestimate his opponents.
Ronaldo Souza vs Chris Weidman – 14th November 2018
A middleweight battle for the ages, both fighters have unbelievable with Souza having 26 wins against 6 losses and Weidman having 14 against 4 losses. Neither fighter wanted this fight to go to the ground, they have both have outstanding stand up game and the flurry of strikes made for one of the most entertaining fights of the year. The fight concluded with a round three KO by Souza.
Brian Ortega vs Max Holloway – 9th December 2018
This fight makes the top three without hesitation. This fight should be clear as day in any fight fans memory, two things surprised me on the night, just how good Max Holloway is (who I think has been underestimated for far too long) and how tough Brian Ortega is.
On the back of Ortega’s dominant victory over Edgar earlier in the year, the fans and Brian had hopes of him being able to take the belt using his superior Jiu-Jitsu to shut down Holloway. Somehow, with the hype train behind Ortega, the reigning champ Holloway came into the fight the underdog but showed just how and why he’s one of the most dominant champions in any division of any promotion anywhere in the world. He shut down Ortega at every single point and somehow Ortega’s chin braced the storm until the fourth round when the fight was finally stopped. This fight will go down as one of the best, ever.
Fight of the Year 2018
Despite there being many, many more outstanding fights for 2018, I’m going to have to name Dustin Poirier vs Justin Gaethje on Sunday the 15th of April at the Gila River Arena as the Fight of the Year 2018.
Against all of the competition this fight faced, I can’t see any event that has had surpassed this fight in any attribute. The fight showed real technical ability, real heart, real determination and real passion.
The fight took place in Gaethje’s backyard in Glendale, Arizona and people were sure that he would be able to cut down Poirier using leg kicks in the early rounds and stop him in the latter round but Poirier had other plans.
Poirier took a huge amount of inside leg kicks from Gaethje throughout the fight, and Gaethje arguably has the best leg kicks anywhere in the UFC. Poirier rained combination after combinations onto Gaethje’s left eye and it busted in the first round. In a desperate attempt to slow Gaethje down, it appeared Poirier was punching himself out of contention but somehow continued to power through.
The fight remained the same through the second round, after Poirier kept swapping stances it was only a matter of time before Gaethje had him figured and became extremely dominant through the third round. Poirier managed to make it to the bell and attempted to shake off the damage he’d taken in the third round and in a real show of character, came out all guns blazing and landed a selection of enormous strikes in the fourth, until referee Herb Dean had seen enough and called an end to the fight.
This fight takes the number one slot for me, without question. 2018 had a great show of fights all through the year and it’s looking like 2019 could be even better. I’ll be keeping my eye out for fight of the year 2019 as of right now.
Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports