World MMA Awards Announced for July 3 in Las Vegas

UFC Octagon
UFC Octagon Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

The Tenth Annual World MMA Awards have officially been announced for July 3, 2018 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

Break out the champagne. The 10th Annual World MMA Awards have officially been announced, and will take place on July 3 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.  Organized by Fighters Only magazine, the awards traditionally have taken place earlier in the year while the performances of the year before are still fresh.  However, this year the awards will take place in the heart of summer as to coincide with the UFC’s International Fight Week.

While 2017 had a multitude of quality candidates in several categories, many felt that the field for 2018 was not quite as packed.  In the biggest category, the Charles Mask Lewis Fighter of the Year, the candidates are: Ryan Bader, Rafael dos Anjos, Robert Whittaker, Demetrious Johnson, and Max Holloway.  Bader and RDA went 2-0 and 3-0 respectively, but most feel that the running comes down to the three UFC champions.  Holloway is on an impressive 12 fight win-streak and his 2017 featured back-to-back wins over long-time champion José Aldo.  Whittaker went 2-0 and claimed the interim (later undisputed) championship after victories over “Jacare” Souza and Yoel Romero.  Finally, Demetrious Johnson continued his streak of dominance when he notched a record 10th and 11th title defense of his flyweight championship.

The running for Female Fighter of the Year features an intriguing contest between the Bellator and UFC champions.  Undefeated Ilima-Lei Macfarlane went 2-0 and claimed the inaugural flyweight championship.  Julia Budd is on a nine fight win-streak and defeated both Marloes Coenen and Arlene Blencowe in her 2017 campaign.  For the UFC, Cris “Cyborg” Justino won the UFC featherweight championship and Rose Namajunas scored a colossal upset to win the strawweight belt.  Angela Lee, ONE FC’s undefeated atomweight champion, rounds out the competition.

The Breakthrough Fighter of the Year category consists of Brian Ortega, Volkan Oezdemir, Darren Till, Francis Ngannou and Martin Nguyen.  Till notched three victories while Ortega had two.  However, the real competition will be between Ngannou and Oezdemir.  Ngannou has been in the UFC since 2015 but his 2017 campaign elevated him into title contention.  Oezdemir, meanwhile, made his UFC debut and went 3-0 to earn a title shot.  While Oezemir had the novelty of being introduced to the fans for the first time, Ngannou developed a huge following behind stunningly brutal finishes.

The leader for Knockout of the Year is Francis Ngannou’s devastating finish of Alistair Overeem, but it also faces tough competition.  Both Paul Daley and Edson Barboza turned in flying knee finishes that are in the running while Matt Brown and Aaron Pico had first round knockouts by punch.  While Ngannou’s clip is at the forefront for its replay value, was it really a surprise?  It will be interesting to see if fans propel it to a victory for it’s fame alone.

Other interesting categories this year include Upset of the Year where Rose Namajunas leads the way with her stunning first round victory of the dominant Joanna Jędrzejczyk to win the strawweight contest.  Bellator also has a pair of entries.  Zach Freeman’s first round finish of highly touted prospect Aaron Pico in Madison Square Garden makes the list as does Brent Primus’ unusual victory over Michael Chandler to win the lightweight title.  Darren Elkins’ victory over Mirsad Bektic is also in the running, as is Martin Nguyen’s victory over Marat Gafurov in ONE FC.

Other categories are expected to continue the trend.  UFC President Dana White has won the Leading Man of the Year every year since the awards inception.  The UFC has also been named Promotion of the Year eight times, ironically losing out last year to the now defunct World Series of Fighting (reborn as the PFL).  The Referee of the Year award has largely been split between John McCarthy and Herb Dean, but this could be the last year for McCarthy as he has discussed stepping away from officiating to embrace his new role as a commentator in Bellator.

There is no word yet on how fans can see the awards but in the past the show has aired via tape delay on FOX Sports 1 and the Versus network.  The event is expected to draw extra attention this year as the awards take place the same week as International Fight Week where a higher concentration of MMA and mainstream media will be in attendance for both UFC 226 and The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated Finale.