MMA 2019 Year in Review: Fight of the Year

Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya ahead of UFC 236
Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya Credit: Mike Sloan/

Fight of the Year for 2019 saw an undefeated up-and-comer shake that label to become a bonafide star and UFC champion.

With 2019 coming to an end, it’s time to look back at the year that was. A lot of action went down in the MMA world, some good, some great. Plenty of compelling fights, but a handful really stood out. Below, we’ll give our take on who took home Fight of the Year honors for 2019.

Fight of the Year 2019

Heath Harshman: As always there are more than a few solid options for Fight of the Year in 2019. A heavyweight title rematch between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier topped one of the best events of the year in exciting fashion. Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens were able to make amends from their first “fight,” and gave us a fun three-round bout shortly thereafter. But my fight of the year was UFC 236’s co-main event bout between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum for the interim middleweight title. A crucial marker in the rise of Adesanya, the bout proved the now-champ had what it took to compete at the championship level in the UFC.

Jay Anderson: Justin Gaethje‘s finishing ability took him out of the running this year, as he didn’t bother to leave the first round in either of his bouts. Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos was an interesting one, with Jones pushed harder, arguably, than ever before. There’s Usman vs. Covington, but that might be a case of Recency Bias. Same with Jourdain vs. Choi. Riddell vs. Mullarkey was a war, but a little too one-sided. So I’m going with Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum. That put to bed the whole “Izzy will struggle against wrestlers” concern, and paved the way for his win over Robert Whittaker.

Michael Lynch: The Vicente Luque vs. Mike Perry fight is Fight of the Year for me. Simply because of the sheer amount of violence.

Ryan Fortune: In the co-main event of a fantastic UFC 236 card, eventual middleweight champion Israel Adesanya fought for the interim middleweight title against Kelvin Gastelum. The fight was amazing, with many twists throughout and seemingly the fight was even heading into the final round. However, “The Last Stylebender” managed to prevail in the fifth round, dropping Gastelum multiple times in the final round to ensure the victory and capture the interim middleweight title.

Joe McDonagh: Adesanya vs. Gastelum. Period.

Josh Evanoff: Fight of the year has got to be Adesanya vs Gastelum. The two had so much heart and back and forth exchanges, that it made people forget that the title itself was kind of pointless going in. It was Adesanya’s coming out party and helped set the stage for the main event, which was also one of the best fights of the year in Poirer vs. Holloway.

Gabriel Gonzalez: Adesanya vs. Gastelum. Outside of the competitiveness, which several big fights had this year, was the number of dramatic moments in this epic. Gastelum out-striking Adesanya in several moments and Adesanya’s brilliant fifth round to close out the fight made this one a modern classic. Both men are poised for a big 2020 with the memory of this one in their back-pocket.

Dan Doherty: Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa. There may have been better fights this year, but this was magical. It was two action-figures throwing down. Everything we could have asked for. All of Yoel’s antics during the fight, the wild back-and-forth in the first round, Yoel’s comeback effort in the third. This fight was unbelievable.

Mike McClory: As always, Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama, but sadly the Cageside DeLorean is out of commission and we’re stuck in 2019. So Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum it is! A great back and forth fight that saw both men dropped, and some impressive exchanges, with a pace that saw constant output from both Adesanya and Gastelum. If you have a friend that is curious about what MMA is, show them this fight.

Keith Shillan: Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington at UFC 245. This was the toughest to decide. I almost went with Adesanya vs. Gastelum, but I think the backstory and feud between Usman and Covington gave it the win for me. You have got to love when two high level wrestlers ignore their background and decide to just stand in the pocket and exchange fisticuffs for nearly 25 minutes.

End result: Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum wins this decision, with Adesanya’s first title victory, against a gutsy Gastelum, being too good to ignore.


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