MMA 2018 Year in Review: Fight of the Year

Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker
Yoel Romero (left) and Robert Whittaker Credit: Mike Sloan/

With so many great scraps to choose from, selecting the Fight of the Year in 2018 was no easy task. Yet when the dust settled, one fight stood out among the rest.

2018 had no shortage of exciting scraps. Dustin Porier vs. Justin Gaethje was a barn-burner. Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero II was a high-stakes battle with late-knockdown drama and incredible heart from Whittaker. Anthony Pettis vs. Tony Ferguson was two rounds of insanity. Outside the UFC, Aung La N Sang and Ken Hasegawa became a classic.

But when it came right down to it, it was the middleweight pairing of Whittaker and Romero, meeting for the second time, that our writers saw as standing above the rest.

Fight of the Year 2018

Heath Harshman: As is usually the case, there’s more than a few solid options for Fight of the Year in 2018. It’s hard not to have recency bias and vote for The Korean Zombie vs. Yair Rodriguez. But, I’m going with another easy choice: Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje. A headline fight that lived up to the hype, the battle between the heavy-hitting brawlers went back-and-forth into the fourth round, earning well deserved Fight of the Night honors.

Mike Straus: Whittaker vs. Romero II – UFC 225 I had the pleasure at being at my top two fights of the year. My runner up is Zombie vs. Yair. But back to Whittaker/Romero. What an incredible fight, back and forth. I scored this fight for the challenger, but he lost a close split decision. I hope we get a third!

Jay Anderson: Holloway vs. Ortega. Rodriguez vs. Korean Zombie. Aung La N Sang vs. Ken Hasegawa. Gaethje vs. Poirier. There were a lot of great battles in the running for Fight of the Year in 2018. Ultimately, though, I’m siding with Holloway vs. Ortega. The story line heading into it sealed the deal. There was a real question of whether Max Holloway would show up, if he could make weight, and yet all that vanished when he put on a brilliant display against Brian Ortega that started close but turned out to be a dominant showing.

Josh Evanoff: It’s incredibly hard not to give Fight of the year to Whittaker and Romero II. It was an incredible war that featured tons of back and forth moments and tons of heart shown by two men. The fight was literally so good that we forget it wasn’t even for the title, that’s how good it was. The fight didn’t even have any consequence or meaning and we still all lost our minds at it.

Jesse Gillette: Ferguson vs. Pettis might have taken FOTY if it hadn’t ended via corner stoppage, but I don’t blame Duke Roufus for saving his fighter. Same deal with Holloway vs. Ortega – it had FOTY written all over it had it not been for the doctor stoppage, though that too was the correct decision. Romero vs. Whittaker had a questionable decision. That leads me to the only logical answer – Gaethje vs Poirier. This fight featured back-and-forth action and Poirier recovered from early leg damage that looked insurmountable and he eventually TKO’d Justin Gaethje in the fourth round.

Eddie Law: Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis might be two of the wildest fighters in MMA. Ferguson’s crazy voodoo style and Pettis’ willingness to throw caution to the wind and throw whatever crazy strike he came up with in the gym gave us the wildest two-round fight this year. Here’s hoping for a rematch in 2019.

Paarth Pande: Whittaker vs Romero II. The match was fun, exciting, gripping, and made me jump in excitement. Whittaker surviving the 3rd round explosions of Romero was the best thing I have seen. The two fighters gave it all. The fight was exceptionally close and till the last moment no one actually knew who won. Everything starting from the build-up to the result was entertainment in its most violent form.

Farzin Vousoughian: Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker, UFC 225. Too bad Romero missed weight. Even so, this was one hell of a battle, and 100 times better than the first time these two fought.

Mike McClory: Don Frye vs Yoshihiro Takayama forever.. however I’m told it has to be a fight that went down this year. In that case I would say that Tony Ferguson vs Anthony Pettis from UFC 229. This was one of those fights that felt special and both men went to war, if you haven’t watched it, well what are you waiting for?

Dan Doherty: What a great year for great fights. The bloody brawl between Anthony Pettis and Tony Ferguson, the beautiful drama of Yoel Romero’s fifth-round knockdown of Robert Whittaker and the champion’s subsequent survival, and the thunderous action of Thiago Santos vs. Jimi Manuwa. But taking the cake in my book is the literally non-stop action between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. Poirier is a terrific fighter that is now getting his overdue recognition. His strategy against the notorious brawler seemed to simply be “always be punching,” which was answered by Gaethje’s patented leg kicks. There was the drama of the growing damage to the leg of Poirier, then the eyepokes of Justin Gaethje, which resulted in blood streaks below the eye of Poirier. The fight hinged on how the fighters would react to the point deduction near the end of round three. Poirier came out guns blazing in round four and landed a beautiful left hand that cracked his persistent opponent. Poirier earned the victory and is at the top of the line for a title shot alongside Tony Ferguson.

Gabriel Gonzalez: Robert Whittaker vs Yoel Romero 2. This one had tough competition for me from Dustin Poirier vs Justin Gaethje. But, I have to give credit that despite the late drama, both men delivered and proved why they are two of the best middleweights of this decade. Whenever you have men with name value like these two, when they deliver it just makes it a special fight. They improved on the first match, went back-and-forth in another epic, and in my opinion both came out bigger stars because of it. Whittaker is the man to beat at 185 and Romero remains dangerous and must see TV.

The end result: Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero II takes it, and is our 2018 Fight of the Year!


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