We watch a frankly ridiculous amount of mixed martial arts (MMA) fights every year, so it really says something about those we still think about come the holidays. Here are the best donnybrooks of 2018, chosen from only the finest of violent confrontations!
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Yair Rodriguez vs. Chan Sung Jung, Calvin Kattar vs. Shane Burgos, Drew Dober vs. Frank Camacho, Alan Jouban vs. Ben Saunders, Thiago Santos vs. Jimi Manuwa.
No. 5: Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Kyle Bochniak
I’m going to be honest: I’m not as high on this fight as a lot of people are, and this isn’t me trying to be highbrow or anything. I just didn’t see this as competitive enough to warrant a spot near the very top of the list.
Damn if it wasn’t entertaining as hell to watch Bochniak walk through everything Magomedsharipov could dredge up from that colossal armory of his, though. Despite the Dagestani wunderkind having Bochniak outclassed in every area, the latter’s sheer grit and unwillingness to take a step back turned what should have been an easy victory into an entertaining back-and-forth battle that had the Brooklyn fans on their feet.
No. 4: Ronaldo Souza vs. Chris Weidman
Though overshadowed by Yair Rodriguez vs. Chan Sung Jung, which went down a week later, this was the superior fight in my book. This was simply an extremely competitive, technical battle between two elite Middleweights who refused to take a step back with nary a dull moment to be found.
Early on, Weidman’s strong jab, footwork, and combination punching allowed him to defuse Souza’s brutal punches, but as the fight progressed, Souza’s increasing aggression and heavy body shots turned it into more and more of a firefight. Down on the scorecards, Souza finally found the mark with a right hand behind the ear that sent Weidman careening to the mat. The fight was clearly over at that point and Souza knew it, refusing to punch the insensate Weidman even as the former champion feebly tried to grab an ankle.
Unfortunately, referee Dan Miragliotta was not nearly as on the ball, and Souza was forced to crack the “All-American” a few more times to finally get the stoppage.
No. 3: Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis
Throwing two guys known for absolute insanity in the cage together was a guaranteed recipe for success, and not even this sport’s uncanny ability to screw up a sure thing was enough to keep this from being special. Ferguson and Pettis put together two rounds of insanity, trading wild strikes on the feet and brutal blows on the mat. They combined for 92 landed strikes in the second round alone.
Unfortunately, Pettis busted the right hand he’d used to drop the insanely tough Ferguson, forcing them to halt things in the corner. I’d be down for 15 more minutes of this if they’re up for it.
No. 2: Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero 2
This pair’s first fight was a tense, technical affair that saw Romero start strong but fade down the stretch in the face of Whittaker’s superior standup and unwillingness to acknowledge his damaged knee. The second was a flat-out war marred only by Romero’s inability to make weight.
Whittaker had some question marks around his chin during his time at 170 pounds, but had proven unflappable at 185, easily shrugging off blows from the likes of Clint Hester and Derek Brunson. Yoel Romero is a whole different monster, though, and badly hurt the reigning champion in the third round. Whittaker somehow survived, forcing both men to dig deep for another ten minutes of grueling mayhem.
Despite Romero’s bombs visibly ringing his bell on multiple occasions, Whittaker stayed committed to his jab and volume punching, refusing to let the Cuban bomber overwhelm him. His dedication was rewarded by a split decision victory and a spot on The Ultimate Fighter 28, where he coached against Kelvin Gastelum.
No. 1: Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje fights are a unique form of entertainment, and considering this is his third appearance on this list in two years and his second time in the top spot, it’s one I’m always glad to see more of. His fights are taut thrillers, races against the clock wherein he looks to cripple opponent’s legs before they can knock him unconscious.
His April battle with Poirier was no different. “The Diamond,” who boasts some of the heaviest hands in the Lightweight division, bounced brutal combinations off of Gaethje’s head and body as “The Highlight” tore into his lead leg and looked for his own overhand right. This continued for 15 edge-of-your-seat minutes, both men looking apt to fall at any time.
After the bell rang for the fourth round, Poirier, who was buckling from every kick and still recovering from a clean right hand, caught Gaethje flush with a counter that sent Gaethje stumbling back. As always, Poirier refused to let the opportunity slip away, pummeling his man until Gaethje went to a knee and forced the referee to intervene.
Here’s to many more years of these two knocking heads.
What was your 2018 Fight of the Year?
This poll is closed
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Kyle Bochnicak
Ronaldo Souza vs. Chris Weidman
Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis
Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero II
Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje