MMA 2020 Year in Review: Comeback of the Year

Timur Valiev and Trevin Jones at UFC Vegas 7
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 22: (L-R) Trevin Jones punches Timur Valiev of Russia in their fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 22, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

In another close race, Trevin Jones and Chase Hooper battled it out for our Comeback of the Year award.

Don’t call it a comeback… actually, scratch that. Do call it a comeback. Comeback of the year, that is. In our previous MMA year-end awards (2018, 2019), we neglected this category. Well, no longer! Here’s who we chose as Comeback of the Year for 2020!

Comeback of the Year 2020

Gabriel Gonzalez: Johnny Walker vs. Ryan Spann. It looked like it was going to happen again.  Johnny Walker, for all of his unorthodox prowess and freak athleticism, looked like he was about to be left on the canvas at the hands of a big shot again.  Instead, Walker held on to survive the onslaught and turn the tables to finish the fight shortly after.  It was the type of excitement that is advertised with a Johnny Walker fight, which is exactly why he takes this award when you realize how high of a standard that is.

Jay Anderson: Trevin Jones vs. Timur Valiev for this one. Valiev had so much hype going into his first UFC fight, and he lived up to every bit of it in the opening round. The fact that Jones survived, and turned the tables in round two to secure the victory via TKO (never mind that marijuana suspension) was completely unexpected. Honorable mention to Chase Hooper at UFC 256. After getting badly exposed on the feet, and being ripped to shreds by the commentary team who pretty much suggested he’s not UFC ready, Hooper lands the heel hook just past three minutes into the third. He’s only 21. And yes, his striking needs a ton of work. But that was some comeback, kid. Honorable mention to Sasha Palatnikov vs. Louis Cosce as well.

Joe McDonagh: Trevin Jones, for his comeback over Timur Valiev.

Daniel Vreeland: Sasha Palatnikov vs Louis Cosce. There are like 100 of these fights where it looked like the referee could have stopped the fight — mostly one referee. None sticks out more in my mind though that Palatnikov on short notice, surviving and outlasting Cosce en route to a late finish. Honorable mention in there to Daniel Rodriguez over Dwight Grant.

Josh Evanoff: Beneil Dariush knocking out Drakkar Klose is without a doubt the most overlooked moment in MMA this year. Dariush getting battered and nearly being out on his feet, coming back to life in seconds and rocking Klose was an insane moment that doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It wasn’t a huge comeback by Dariush, however coming back from the brink to knockout Klose was one of the best moments of 2020.

Michael Lynch: Chase Hooper vs. Peter Barrett, UFC 256. Barrett was winning this fight for three rounds, exposing Hooper’s striking in the process. Hooper then lands a Hail Mary submission towards the end of round three, and wins the bout by heel hook.

Heath Harshman: Julian Erosa’s MMA career has had its ups and downs. Spending time in and out of the UFC, the Northwest-native took advantage of a short-notice opportunity to return to the promotion in June. In a tough battle, Erosa submitted Sean Woodson with a third-round d’arce choke to earn the W and a POTN bonus, reviving his UFC career.

Justin Gibbons: Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose has to be my comeback of the year. The second round of this fight is a must see. Once Beneil was rocked, it looked like the fight was over. Drakkar had it and Beneil was in so much trouble but bit down on his mouth piece and marched forward, connecting with the punch that turned the lights out on Drakkar Klose.

Bryson Hester: Trevin Jones and Daniel Rodriguez. Trevin Jones has since had his win over Timur Valiev overturned to a no contest thanks to a positive marijuana test. But he entered the fight as a heavy underdog, for his first UFC bout on just a few days’ notice. After getting hurt to the body early and being dropped he was able to turn the tide and win the fight. On the same card, Daniel was able to overcome being dropped by his opponent and came back to stop them. Both comebacks were refereed by Chris Tognoni.

Ryan Fortune: Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose. From the brinks of defeat to victory, after being badly stunned by Klose, Dariush landed a clean counter and then followed up, earning a brutal knockout win within a 30-second span, this is my comeback of the year for 2020. It also extended Dariush’s win streak to three, in what was a comeback year for the UFC veteran. 

Dan Doherty: Chase Hooper vs. Peter Barrett. Miracle submissions are always fun. Hooper was getting decimated on the feet to the point where people were questioning why he was even in the UFC in the first place. Then out of nowhere, he pulls off a heel hook with just two minutes left in the fight. Who knows what the future will hold for him, but that submission will always stand out. 

Mike McClory: What’s better than seeing a fighter turn the tides of a fight to come back and win? A fighter whose whole career is in question by some. Cody Garbrandt was on a three fight slide, one that saw all three losses come by KO or TKO in the early rounds and had many questioning if he was in the downward spiral of his career. “No Love” silenced the skeptics with a single punch that drove Raphael Assunção to the mat in the finial seconds of the second round at UFC 250. After a three-year skid Garbrandt announced to the world that he was back.

Dave Noseworthy: Chase Hooper. Recency bias is as real as it gets, and perhaps that’s in effect with this pick. But the way Chas Hooper pursued the finish in his fight against Peter Barrett, despite showing all the wrong tendencies in the striking realm and paying for it dearly, was impressive. Every time Hooper made an entry with the imanari roll it presented an immediate danger for Barrett, and ultimately it paid off en route to the Comeback of the Year.

Shawn Bitter: Trevin Jones was a +430 underground in his fight with Timur Valiev and he looked like it early. Valiev beat on Jones the entire first round hurting him badly, and the ref should have stepped in. In the second round, out of nowhere, Jones dropped and finished Valiev.

End Result: Trevin Jones takes it by a single vote, and earns our Comeback of the Year award for 2020!