MMA 2020 Year in Review: Fight of the Year

Weili Zhang, Dana White, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Weili Zhang, Dana White, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, UFC 248 Face-Off Credit: Rodney James Edgar/Cageside Press

Fight of the Year for 2020 goes to the strawweights, who punched well above their weight class at UFC 248 back in March.

Let’s be blunt about it: nearly everything about 2020 sucked, and just about everyone reading this should know why. A global pandemic, social distancing, lockdowns, layoffs, murder hornets (we forgot about those real quick!), a polarized America with a chaotic election that seemed to cause division around the globe — and a greatly reduced/altered sports schedule.

While that seems like small potatoes compared over a million deaths globally… well, there’s really no end to that sentence. It is small potatoes in comparison. But at least in the MMA realm, the show went on, with the UFC leading the charge. Bellator MMA, RIZIN, KSW, Invicta FC, and ONE Championship all managed to return to action as well. In the end, while 2020 was an abysmal year in almost every nook and cranny of the globe, we still got some entertaining fights.

With a rough year coming to an end, it’s time to look back at the year that was. Below, we’ll give our take on who took home Fight of the Year honors for 2020.

Fight of the Year 2020

Gabriel Gonzalez: Weilli Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk. There were a lot of strong candidates, obviously, but the storyline of this one took it for me. You had the former queen in a very strong return to form trying to take on the new superstar from overseas. The skill, the heart, and the physical gifts of both were all on display and the collective resumes of both women stood out for me to give this one the nod.

Jay Anderson: For me, there were two leading candidates for this honor. On the one hand, you have Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno, quite possibly the best flyweight title fight of all time. On the other, you have Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, frankly the best strawweight title fight of all time. So what’s the difference maker? A definitive winner in Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk, and the lasting image of the damage inflicted upon Joanna, which didn’t seem to hurt her performance any, despite coming up short in the fight.

Joe McDonagh: Moreno vs. Figgy. This may be recency bias. There is no wrong answer, Zhang vs. Joanna and Poirier vs. Hooker are right there. I just love the storyline along with this fight: a division that a few years ago was thrown out like hot garbage, to now close the PPV year with an insane fight in the revitalized division. 2020’s FOTY.

Daniel Vreeland: Weili/Joanna. For fight of the year, pundits often try to weigh entertainment and relevance and land on one that has far more of one that the other. Luckily this year, the fight with the most non-stop action, big blows, damage, and overall entertainment, just happened to be a fight pitting maybe the two greatest fighters in the history of the weight class against each other.

Josh Evanoff: Zhang vs Joanna, hands down. It feels like the fight may have happened a decade ago at this point, but in March two of the greatest female fighters of all time went to war for five rounds. It was proclaimed as “the best women’s fight of all time” right after it ended, and that almost feels a bit cheap. It was one of the greatest fights ever period, and it was without a doubt the best of 2020.

Michael Lynch: Billy Quarantillo vs. Spike Carlyle. This fight was an absolute banger from start to finish. It showed us the crazy side of both fighters.

Heath Harshman: It’s an easy choice, but the best FOTY was Weili Zhang’s brawl with former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It solidified her credentials as strawweight champ, put her on the map as a UFC champion, and gave us one of the most visually stunning bouts, thanks to Joanna’s brain trying to escape her skull, in recent memory.

Justin Gibbons: My fight of the year has to be Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje. These two men fought for not just a shot at Khabib but for the sport of MMA. The world said it couldn’t be done but Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje gave every ounce of blood and sweat to the fans of mixed martial arts. In a time of uncertainty, Tony and Justin gave us a Fight of the Year.

Bryson Hester: JJ vs Zhang. This fight might have been during the first half of the year, but man did it stick out in my mind. What a display of clean technical Muay Thai striking from both women. The absolute grit shown by both women (especially JJ) is what made this bout an automatic 2020 Fight of the Year vote for me.

Ryan Fortune: Deiveson Figueriedo vs. Brandon Moreno. What an amazing fight the flyweight title bout was. Considering the fight was put together on three weeks’ notice, both men put on insane performances with little training camp. Both men stunned each other within the 25-minute contest, got takedowns and had a striking accuracy of over 50% during the bouts duration. Both fighters should be proud of that contest. Great fight.

Dan Doherty: Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk. It was a pre-pandemic fight so the crowd was a nice bonus. This fight felt like a brawl, but it wasn’t. It was two of the best strikers around in women’s MMA throwing the kitchen sink at each other, except technique was never thrown out the window. The amount of damage both fighters dealt was unbelievable for the entire 25 minutes. What a fight.

Mike McClory: Always Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama (PRIDE 21: Demolition) for forever but that fight was 18 years too early. That being said Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk from UFC 248 might have exceeded that Pride classic. Both women engaged non-stop for five rounds with power and precision, which resulted in Jedrzejczyk literally looking like a different person at the end and Zhang taken to the limit. A classic fight that every MMA fan should watch.

Dave Noseworthy: Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Aside from the sheer violence of the barrage of strikes landed by both fighters, and the grotesque hematoma protruding from Jedrzejczyk’s head in the aftermath, this fight deserves FOTY honors in my books primarily because I thought Jedrzejczyk had gone Hollywood. I believed that the days of the feral-like Polish girl that ravaged the 115-pound division upon entry to the UFC were behind us. At least based on what I’ve seen inside and outside of the cage over the past couple of years. But JJ showed that was the furthest thing from the case when she put on a display of next-level tenacity and toughness in the gritty back-and-forth battle that is the Fight of the Year for 2020.

Shawn Bitter: Zhang/JJ. This fight had it all – toughness, technical ability, sensational gas tanks, non-stop action, and most importantly they got the winner right. Even though Joanna didn’t get her hand raised her stock only went up.

End result: It’s a landslide! Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is our Fight of the Year for 2020. Only one other bout, Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno from UFC 256, received more than a single vote. A full eleven of our staff members sided with the UFC 248 strawweight classic.


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