MMA 2020 Year in Review: Event of the Year

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UFC 249 - Justin Gaethje
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - MAY 09: Justin Gaethje of the United States celebrates after defeating Tony Ferguson of the United States in their Interim lightweight title fight during UFC 249 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

The UFC’s return from a forced hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic nabs top spot as our Event of the Year for 2020.

In a year that saw the loss of crowds at live sporting events, what MMA card stood out? Did it come down to the gravitas of the occasion, the magnitude of the fights themselves, or the entertainment factor?

Read on for our pick for Event of the Year 2020.

Event of the Year 2020

Gabriel Gonzalez: Covington vs. Woodley. It was very tempting to go with the UFC 251 and their ridiculously stacked lineup.  But in the end I went with the card whose pacing and name value I felt stood out the most.  Only four fights went the distance and the main card closed out with a Submission of the Year candidate for Mackenzie Dern, a Knockout of the Year candidate for Khamzat Chimaev, a comeback victory for Johnny Walker, and the throttling by Colby Covington in his long-awaited grudge match with Tyron Woodley to make for an epic night of MMA.

Jay Anderson: What this year has been, in terms of absolute chaos, directly influences how I look at this category. Is it the most stacked card? Or the most significant event in some other way? Invicta FC introduced open scoring at their Phoenix Series 3 card. The UFC was the first major promotion to return from a pandemic-induced hiatus with UFC 249 in May. But I really have to give this to UFC 251. The UFC secured Yas Island in Abu Dhabi as a base of operations for its international fights during the coronavirus pandemic. While it wasn’t the tropical, octagon-on-the-beach scenario complete with tiki torches that we all wanted, the promotion and the UAE government did a masterful job at keeping fighters and employees safe. They’re heading back in 2021 for their third stint on Fight Island, and it all started with UFC 251.

Joe McDonagh: UFC 256. Incredible performances. Kevin Holland’s KO of Souza, the main event FOTY contender, Mackenzie Dern’s stand up display, Cub Swanson, Chase Hooper’s comeback victory. Just a fun night. 

Daniel Vreeland: UFC 253. The event had Israel Adesanya putting on a masterclass and embarrassing (in more ways that one) an opponent who had mocked him for weeks. It had a man who once lost 4 of his first 5 UFC fights winning a belt in emphatic fashion. Plus it had back-and-forth wars like Brandon Royval vs. Kai Kara-France.

Josh Evanoff: UFC 249 being the first UFC card back after the world shut down led to an crazy amount of hype, and it still somehow lived up to the hype. With the entire world watching, the show was an insane one. Price and Luque kicking off the show with a war, Ngannou getting a destructive knockout again, Cejudo retiring on top, Gaethje having his brightest moment, and etc. It was one of the best cards in a long time, and as an event as a whole, it was the best of 2020.

Michael Lynch: UFC 256. The main event was a banger and ended in dramatic fashion. Holland had an insane KO over Jacare. Plus Ciryl Gane’s knockout over JDS (controversial). Swanson and Fiziev landed huge KOs. Chase Hooper had the Comeback of the Year.

Heath Harshman: After the entire world stopped at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UFC returned to action in May with UFC 249. Featuring a great main event, legends, up and coming names, and some of the most exciting fighters in the game, UFC 249 was the first sign of the light at the end of the tunnel for MMA fans.

Justin Gibbons: Ferguson vs. Gaethje has to be my event of the year. This card has my fight of the year and KO of the year, so it is only fitting to give the event of the year award to UFC 249.

Byrson Hester: UFC 249. After being forced to shut down the UFC for about two months, the promotion opened back up with a massive card. Vicente Luque vs Niko Price , Calvin Kattar vs Jeremy Stephens, Francis Ngannou vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Greg Hardy vs Yorgan de Castro, Anthony Pettis vs Donald Cerrone, Carla Esparza vs Michelle Waterson with Henry Cejudo vs Dominick Cruz as co main event and Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje as the main event. The card was very exciting and produced five finishes, three split decisions, and with most of the world watching from lockdown, it was a monumental night for sports.

Ryan Fortune: UFC 251 was a fantastic event, which held three title fights, the rematch between Namajunas and Andrade, Jiri Prochazka’s UFC debut, Amanda Ribas’ breakout win and Davey Grant’s brutal knockout. The quality of this fight card was up there among the very best this year and it really delivered.

Dan Dohertry: This could be recency bias, but UFC 256. This fight card had so many changes and still turned out spectacular, which is a bit reflective of the UFC as a whole in 2020. We had Holland’s seated knockout, fantastic knockouts from Ciryl Gane, Cub Swanson, and Rafael Fiziev, a striking war between Mackenzie Dern and Virna Jandiroba, and another excellent performance from Charles Oliveira. This, of course, was all capped off by a fight that would have been Fight of the Year in any other year, Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno.

Mike McClory: Any event with Justin Gaethje is a must see and with that I’ll pick UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje and UFC 254: Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje. Basically what I’m saying is if it’s a Justin Gaethje card, watch it.

Dave Noseworthy: UFC 249. In circumstances like none we’ve ever seen before, UFC 249 was the very first event back after the COVID-19 worldwide lockdown. It was highly anticipated by fans, and it delivered in a big way.  Four of the five main card fights ended by KO/TKO victories.The main event saw Justin Gaethje get Tony Ferguson out of there in under five rounds, which made for one hell of a way to cap it all off.

Shawn Bitter: UFC 250. Outside of a dominant showing from Amanda Nunes, defending her title against Felicia Spencer, there were some electrifying performances. Sean O’Malley knocking out Eddie Wineland and Cody Garbrandt scoring the last second knockout against Raphael Assuncao among them. Also we had Aljamain Sterling beating Cory Sandhagen.

End result: Despite some competition from UFC 251 and UFC 256, Event of the Year goes to UFC 249, which saw Justin Gaethje become the man to halt Tony Ferguson’s long-running win streak.

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