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UFC champion Daniel Cormier named ESPN 2018 MMA Fighter of the Year

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MMA: UFC 230 - Cormier vs Lewis Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Hate him or love him, Daniel Cormier had one of the best years any mixed martial artist could ever hope for. And for that, he has officially been named ESPN’s 2018 MMA Fighter of the Year.

The reigning UFC light heavyweight champion started off his 2018 efforts with a smashing TKO win over Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220. It was just the second knockout victory at 205 pounds for Cormier since making his divisional debut nearly five years ago. The victory also marked the third light heavyweight title defense of Cormier’s UFC career.

After ending Oezdemir’s quick rise to stardom, Cormier decided to take his talents back up to the heavyweight division. Cormier had already posted a 13-0 career record as a heavyweight, having defeated the likes of Frank Mir, Josh Barnett, Roy Nelson, Antonio Silva, and Jeff Monson, so the move was a natural one.

Cormier immediately landed a superfight with then heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. The two battled it out at UFC 226 in July as part of the promotion’s International Fight Week in Las Vegas. After some brief back-and-forth action, Cormier landed a short upper cut that instantly took Miocic off his feet. The fight was called a few seconds later and Cormier became just the second fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold titles in two separate divisions (Conor McGregor being the first).

Cormier then made an unexpected title defense against surging knockout artist Derrick Lewis at UFC 230. It was the first time “DC” was putting his newly-acquired UFC heavyweight title on the line. As majority of fight fans expected, Cormier was able to slice through Lewis’ takedown defense and quickly work for back control. Just over two minutes into the first round Cormier was able to wrap his arms around Lewis’ neck and squeeze for the submission finish.

In total, Cormier’s 2018 campaign ended with a 3-0 record, three title wins, three finishes, two title defenses, and a promised superfight opposite WWE superstar and former UFC champion Brock Lesnar.

If that isn’t the best success story of 2018 then what the hell is?