Few, if any, sports produced more consistent top-tier entertainment this year than MMA. Those subscribed to services like ESPN+ or DAZN got their money’s worth, as did those who shelled out for the regular stream of pay-per-views. Get your nostalgia goggles on and let’s check out 2020’s “Events of the Year.”
5. UFC Vegas 4: Poirier vs. Hooker
We knew the main event would be terrific coming in, but the supporting cast more than pulled its weight. While the entertaining opener between Youssef Zalal and Jordan Griffin went the distance, six of the next seven saw decisive stoppages, including a crushing knockout from Tanner Boser and an impressive comeback submission from Julian Erosa.
The co-main event saw Mike Perry execute a surprisingly patient and effective gameplan against Mickey Gall, and whatever violence blue balls that produced were swiftly satisfied by five rounds of brutal mayhem between Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker. Not bad for a free card.
4. UFC 256: Figueiredo vs. Moreno
Losing 10 fights, three of them title bouts, is usually more than enough to utterly doom an event. Somehow, UFC 256 not only survived but produced far more action than a 10-fight card should contain. There wasn’t a stinker to be found; six fights ended inside the distance and the four decisions were plenty entertaining in their own right.
Chase Hooper started the show with a wild comeback heel hook after clearly losing the first 12 minutes of the fight, after which Tecia Torres utterly mauled UFC newcomer Sam Hughes. The night’s first decision saw Gavin Tucker and Billy Quarantillo combine to land over 250 strikes in 15 minutes and the pace never let up as violent knockout followed violent knockout.
Mackenzie Dern’s gritty decision over Virna Jandiroba and Charles Oliveira’s one-sided thrashing of Tony Ferguson set the stage for a Fight of the Year slobberknocker between Deiveson Figueiredo and brandon Moreno, which came just three weeks after the pair’s impressive efforts at UFC 255. The two Flyweight standouts battled to a phenomenal majority draw that more than earned its spot atop the year’s last PPV, capping off a compact but delightful evening.
3. UFC 246: McGregor vs. Cowboy
Though a lackluster Light Heavyweight tussle between Aleksa Camur and Justin Ledet sapped some of the Prelims’ early momentum, things snowballed in a hurry. Drew Dober laid out top prospect Nasrat Haqparast, Askar Askarov put a whooping on Tim Elliott, and rising Featherweight knockout artist Sodiq Yusuff battled through adversity to overcome Gabriel Benitez. After massive underdog Roxanne Modafferi defeated an injured Maycee Barber, it was time for the main card.
As though saving the knockouts for the main event, submissions initially ruled the day on PPV. Diego Ferreira became the first man to properly finish Anthony Pettis by submission, Brian Kelleher tapped highly touted Ode Osbourne, and the ageless Elksei Oleinik tapped Maurice Greene with one of the year’s few armbars. Once Holly Holm finished beating Raquel Pennington by decision, Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone touched ‘em up.
40 seconds later, the ref waved it off.
A bit of an anticlimax, but a strong show that featured the return of the sport’s biggest star and netted a cool million buys.
2. UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje
You know you’re in for a good evening when two of the first three fights include a Bryce Mitchell ground clinic and another war between Vicente Luque and Niko Price. Though a string of decisions followed and Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan de Castro failed to delight in the PPV opener, the final four more than made up for the lull.
Down at Featherweight, Calvin Katter ended 1.5 rounds of violence by demolishing Jeremy Stephens with a counter elbow, then Francis Ngannou didn’t even need a 10th of a round to dispatch Jairzinho Rozenstruik. In the evening’s first title fight, Henry Cejudo handily dismantled the returning Dominick Cruz; in the second, Justin Gaethje survived an early knockdown to hand Tony Ferguson the worst beating of his career.
Worth the price of admission, I’d say.
1. UFC 254: Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje
This event featured a Sam Alvey fight and still turned out spectacular. That says a lot.
A slick armbar from Joel Alvarez and gruesome cut stoppage courtesy of Miranda Maverick preceded said Alvey issue. Nine consecutive great fights followed it. Seven fights in that bloc ended inside the distance, including a debut submission from Shavkat Rakhmonov and violent knockouts from Tai Tuivasa, Magomed Ankalaev, Phil Hawes, and Alexander Volkov. The two decisions, Casey Kenney vs. Nathaniel Wood and Robert Whittaker vs. Jared Cannonier, were dramatic and entertaining from bell to bell.
The final finish, meanwhile, saw Khabib Nurmagomedov show his transcendent dominance by tapping Justin Gaethje. A perfect capstone to a pretty much perfect event; hard to beat that.
Honorable Mentions: UFC 252, Fight Night Norfolk, UFC 248, UFC 250, Fight Night Auckland, Fight Island 5, UFC 251, UFC 253
What Was The Best UFC / MMA Knockout Of 2021?
This poll is closed
Chris Barnett’s big boy bomb
Cory Sandhagen’s perfect knee
Sergio Pettis’ comeback for the ages
Derrick Lewis’ comeback for the ages
Jiri Prochazka’s hellbow
Kamaru Usman’s murder punch
Other (Explain in comments section below)