MMA 2017 Year in Review: Fight of the Year

UFC - Justin Gaethje & Michael Johnson
Justin Gaethje & Michael Johnson Credit: Dave Mandel/

Which slobber-knocker did Cageside Press give the nod to for Fight of the Year?

2017 has come and gone, and with it, plenty of action in the MMA world. There were lots of good fights, and heaps of great ones as well. Narrowing them down was no easy task. Yet in seeking out a Fight of the Year, we had to do just that.

It wasn’t quite a unanimous decision, though one name seemed to keep popping up: Justin Gaethje. Be it Gaethje vs. Alavarez or Gaethje vs. Johnson, the former WSOF champion certainly made an impression on our staff. Talk about making an impact.

Other fighters did as well. Yancy Medeiros vs. Alex Oliveira from UFC 218 was in the mix. Jessica Andrade vs. Claudia Gadelha represented the women’s side. So who’d we pick? Check below, as our staff lists their selections for Fight of the Year 2017!

Fight of the Year 2017

Mike McClory: Don Frye vs Takayama! … oh this isn’t 2002? Alright I’ll go with the Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson’s brawl that saw both fighters pushed to their limits, in what was Gaethje’s UFC debut.

Heath Harshman: The Fight of the Year race heated up toward the end of 2017. UFC 218 gave us a couple of great options in Alvarez-Gaethje and Medeiros-Oliveira. But it’s the Octagon debut of Justin Gaethje against Michael Johnson at The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale in July that I remember most fondly. Both fighters dealt tons of damage and consistently showcased their skills, heart, and chins until Johnson collapsed late in the second round.

Jay Anderson: I’ve been spoiled over the years, getting the chance to see Jones vs. Gustafsson and Swanson vs. Doo-Ho Choi live. However, this year, I missed out on the FOTY candidates. Like pretty much everyone, I considered Alvarez-Gaethje, and Gaethje-Johnson. Even GSP-Bisping, for the monumental and ultimately fulfilling return return of GSP. In the end, though, I had to give the nod to Medeiros-Oliveira. The back-and-forth nature of the bout combined with the breakneck pace edged out some seriously solid competition. Killer scrap.

Dan Doherty: I had yet to be exposed to the Justin Gaethje Experience apart from some highlights prior to this fight, and this lived up to the hype and then some. I don’t know how many times I thought “Oooo Gaethje is done” during the first round. Same thing with Johnson. Both guys were tough as nails and a fight like that is a two man effort. Incredible UFC debut.

Mike Straus: Johnson vs Gaethje — Gaethje’s debut in the UFC lived up to all the hype. It was a crazy back and forth fight, and Gaethje got his walk-off KO victory, something he’s known for. Just a phenomenal fight.

Paarth Pande: Claudia Gadelha vs. Jessica Andrade at UFC Japan. That is the highest level of women’s MMA ever witnessed in the UFC. The two gave it all and produced a bloodbath. Was incredibly fun to watch.

Eddie Law: TUF 25 Finale, Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson. Just a brawl between two men who put all of their cards on the table and threw everything they had at each other until one man just couldn’t stand anymore. Gaethje’s UFC debut was an immediate statement made by the lightweight.

Gabriel Gonzalez: Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje. Admittedly, this lost a touch of shine by having Yancy Medeiros and Alex Oliveira fight just a half hour earlier. But, considering the star power and ranking implications on the line, the fact that they threw down like they promised puts this one just ahead of the other impressive candidates.

The end result: Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson takes it, and is our 2017 Fight of the Year!