The end of 2018 MMA is nearly upon us.
We laughed, we cried -- there was no super, mega, crossover boxing match to compete with what we saw in 2017. Depending on your point of view, that was either a good thing or a bad thing. (Correct answer: It was a good thing).
This year produced some fantastic moments -- history-making moments. Which moments stood out the most? Here are my 2018 MMA Awards.
- UFC (@ufc) October 7, 2018
This may not be a popular choice, and I get it. It lasted only two rounds, and the end (Pettis' corner waving the fight off because had suffered a broken hand) was anti-climatic. It was also pretty one-sided. Ferguson landed nearly three times as many strikes as Pettis, according to Fightmetric.
But here's the thing: I don't care. This is still Fight of the Year for me. And I'll admit, part of it is probably based on Ferguson's situation going in. This fight took place six months after he underwent significant knee surgery. There was concern he had rushed back too quickly from the heart-breaking injury that resulted in him losing his interim title.
It was clear early on, though, that Ferguson was 100 percent. His patented, high-pressure style was still there. It wore on Pettis, but Pettis was able to drop him in the second round. Pettis suffered a cut on his hairline that showered both of them in blood. When a cageside physician came in to check the cut, the two smiled and locked eyes waiting for the restart. It was ... awesome. And this fight carried such high stakes at lightweight.
There are so many fights in the current landscape of MMA, it's difficult sometimes to remember the details of any particular one. This one stood out in 2018.
It's arguably the Knockout of the Century. Knockout of the History of MMA. I really do think this is the best knockout of all time, and I have a hard time even envisioning something that could top it.
A blind, behind-the-back, upward elbow that results in a walk-off KO ... in the final second of a 25-minute fight, which Rodriguez would have lost had it gone to the scorecards. Even if Jung could have sit up after that elbow -- or just moved, slightly -- the referee may not have called it off, and he would have won the fight.
This knockout is everything you want a knockout to be. Devastating, high-level, timely. And it happened six months after the UFC released Rodriguez from his contract, due to a dispute that was eventually resolved. What more does a Knockout of the Year need?
It's not every day one breaks the UFC record for most wins and finishes in the same night. But that was Cerrone's night in Denver. And although Mike Perry is not a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, and was probably out of his element once this fight hit the ground, Cerrone's armbar was still exquisite work.
The look on Cerrone's face as he cranked on Perry's arm was a candidate for photo of the year, as was the scene of him holding his newborn son in the Octagon right after the fight. And to add a final layer of drama to this, it had a personal element thanks to a falling out between Cerrone and Perry's coach, Mike Winkeljohn.
Breakout Fighter of the Year: UFC middleweight Israel Adesanya
Had Daniel Cormier not become a two-weight UFC champion and officially distinguished himself as one of the best of all time, Adesanya probably would have won overall Fighter of the Year, too. He was that good in 2018.
Four UFC appearances ... four victories. He saved his best for last, a first-round knockout of Derek Brunson at UFC 230 in Madison Square Garden. Adesanya went from making his UFC debut on the prelims, to booking a No. 1 contender fight against Anderson Silva (at UFC 234 in February 2019) in less than one year.
And as big as this year was, can you imagine what 2019 could look like? If all goes well, Adesanya could knock out one of the greatest fighters of all time, win a UFC title and make his first defense by the start of 2020. That's looking well ahead, obviously -- but after the success Adesanya has had, who can blame us for dreaming?