2020 was one of the most successful years for the UFC, as the company had several title fights while working around COVID-19. With contests in 2020 over, let’s rank how every title fight compared to each other from the past year.
19. Israel Adesanya v Yoel Romero
Paulo Costa defeated Yoel Romero back in August of 2019 to set up a championship fight against Israel Adesanya. However, he had to pull out due to a biceps injury. Despite coming off two losses, Romero was rewarded with a shot at the Middleweight title. In a fight with minimal action, Adesanya took care of business to retain the Middleweight belt. Thankfully for people who bought the PPV for UFC 248, the co-main event between Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk was one of the best fights of 2020.
18. Kamaru Usman v Jorge Masvidal
Gilbert Burns defeated Tyron Woodley in May to set up a title shot against Kamaru Usman at UFC 251. However, Burns came down with COVID-19, and Jorge Masvidal stepped in on five days notice to challenge Usman for the Welterweight championship. Fans who were hoping for a lot of action from the normally exciting Masvidal were disappointed. Usman took care of business, spending much of the fight in the clinch, landing foot stomps as he won by unanimous decision.
17. Deiveson Figueiredo v Joseph Benavidez 1
Top contenders Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez were lined up to fight for the vacant Flyweight Belt at UFC Fight Night 169 in February. However, Figueiredo missed weight and therefore was ineligible to claim the belt. His round two knockout also brought controversy due to an inadvertent head butt that badly cut Benavidez. Figueiredo’s victory would only serve to set up a rematch with the Flyweight belt still vacant.
16. Valentina Shevchenko v Jennifer Maia
After defeating Joanne Calderwood in August, Jennifer Maia became the next in line to challenge Valentina Shevchenko for the women’s Flyweight belt. Coming into the match as the biggest underdog in UFC history, Maia got off to a great start, with the score even at 19-19 through two rounds. However, Shevchenko took over and controlled the fight’s pace to retain her belt, winning by unanimous decision.
15. Jan Blachowicz v Dominick Reyes
With Jon Jones vacating his Light Heavyweight belt to move up to Heavyweight, Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes would face off at UFC 253 for the vacant title. Despite coming in as an underdog, Blachowicz instantly took control of the fight, landing a heavy kick to Reyes’ body in round one. The Polish fighter was then able to finish Reyes off in round two by landing a combination of punches to earn a TKO win.
14. Deiveson Figueiredo v Alex Perez
After defeating Benavidez for a second time, Deiveson Figueiredo had his first title defense lined up against Alex Perez. Perez came in as a heavy underdog, with an opportunity to become the first champion who earned a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series. However, Figueiredo was able to get a quick knockdown and lock in a guillotine choke as Perez tapped in round one.
13. Valentina Shevchenko v Katlyn Chookagian
After defeating Jennifer Maia in November of 2019, Katlyn Chookagian became next in line to challenge Valentina Shevchenko for the Women’s Flyweight belt at UFC 247. Shevchenko landed an early elbow that opened a cut on Chookagian’s eye. “Bullet” took complete control of the fight and ultimately earned a round two win via TKO in a dominant fashion.
12. Amanda Nunes v Felicia Spencer
Felicia Spencer never truly stood a chance against Amanda Nunes for Women’s Featherweight gold at UFC 250. While she went the distance, Spencer could never get anything going as the judges scored this fight 50-45, 50-44, and 50-44 in Nunes’ favor. Nunes has already established her legacy as the greatest women’s fighter of all time, but this win served to add to her résumé.
11. Deiveson Figueiredo v Joseph Benavidez 2
Thankfully for Figueiredo, he was able to make weight the second time around for his rematch against Joseph Benavidez at UFC Fight Night 172. Figueiredo made quick work of Benavidez, knocking him down in round one. While on the ground, Deus de Guerra was able to lock in a rear-naked choke as Benavidez went unconscious. After making championship weight, Figueiredo finally secured the Flyweight belt.
10. Henry Cejudo v Dominick Cruz
After nearly three and a half years away from the octagon, Dominick Cruz returned to the cage to challenge Henry Cejudo for the Bantamweight belt at UFC 249. Late in round two, Cejudo knocked Cruz down with a knee before finishing him off with a flurry of punches in what was a questionable stoppage. Following his win, Cejudo announced his retirement from fighting, setting up Petr Yan to fight Jose Aldo for the Bantamweight Championship.
9. Petr Yan v Jose Aldo
Following the aforementioned Henry Cejudo Dominick Cruz fight, Petr Yan faced Jose Aldo at UFC 251 for the vacant title. Coming in with a 6-0 UFC record, Yan was the favorite to take down the former Featherweight Champion. Yan controlled the fight all the way through and earned a TKO victory in round two. Yan’s next title defense should come against Aljamain Sterling early in 2021.
8. Stipe Miocic v Daniel Cormier 3
After regaining the Heavyweight championship against DC at UFC 241, Stipe Miocic was set for a trilogy matchy against Daniel Cormier. Unlike their first two bouts, this fight went the distance, with Miocic winning by unanimous decision. Miocic controlled the pace of the battle, preventing Cormier from taking the fight to the ground. Following the fight, DC announced his retirement, while Stipe is set to face Francis Ngannou in 2021.
7. Khabib Nurmagomedov v Justin Gaethje
After defeating Tony Ferguson for an Interim Lightweight Championship belt at UFC 248, Justin Gaethje became the next in line to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov. Following the loss of his father, Khabib improved his record to 29-0, earning a round two submission via a triangle choke. After the win, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement, citing a promise he had made to his mother that he would not fight without his father in his corner. It will be interesting to see if Khabib returns to the cage to attempt to get to 30-0 in 2021.
6. Israel Adesanya v Paulo Costa
Following a boring match between Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero, Dana White promised that Adesanya v Costa would be a “ridiculous fight.” With some bad blood between the fighters, Adesanya immediately attacked Costa’s leg in round one. In round two, the “Last Stylebender” used his precision to take down the knockout artist, earning a win via TKO, silencing the critics.
5. Alexander Volkanovski v Max Holloway 2
Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski would rematch after Volkanovski took the Featherweight belt from Holloway at UFC 245. Holloway once again beat Holloway by a split decision that could have gone either way in a back-and-forth bout at UFC 251. Brian Ortega appears to be next to challenge the Featherweight belt, while Holloway is set to face Calvin Kattar on January 16th.
4. Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje (Interim)
Khabib Nurmagomedov v Tony Ferguson once again proved to be the fight that wasn’t meant to be. Ferguson was next in line to face Khabib, but travel issues forced “El Cucuy” to fight Justin Gaethje for an interim belt at UFC 249 instead. Ferguson showed off his incredible toughness, taking an absolute beating from Gaethje, refusing to go down before Herb Dean called a stop to the fight in round five.
3. Jon Jones v Dominick Reyes
After beating Chris Weidman in October of 2019, Dominick Reyes became next in line to challenge Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight belt at UFC 247. In what would ultimately be a controversial decision, Jones defeated Reyes by unanimous decision. Reyes landed more significant strikes, but Jones was able to land two takedowns in a fight that could have gone either way. Jones later vacated his belt to move up a weight class, while Reyes lost to Jan Blachowicz at UFC 253.
2. Weili Zhang v Joanna Jedrzejczyk
After defeating Jessica Andrade to capture Women’s Strawweight gold in August of 2019, Weili Zhang was set to face Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 248 for her first title defense. In what would be arguably the greatest women’s fight of all time, both women went back and forth for five rounds as Zhang won by split decision. The two landed a total of 366 strikes as Jedrzejczyk’s face was nearly unrecognizable by the end of the fight due to an ugly hematoma on her forehead. This fight easily could have earned the top spot on my ranking had it not been for the main event at UFC 256.
1. Deiveson Figueiredo v Brandon Moreno
In the final PPV event of 2020, Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno put on a show and fought to a draw at UFC 256. While Figueiredo was a significant favorite, the two Flyweights went back and forth for all five rounds of the fight. In round three, an inadvertent groin strike by Figueiredo allowed for this fight to be scored a majority draw. In total, these two landed 286 strikes, as Deus de Guerra retained his belt. While Cody Garbrandt will be upset, the next move is to have these two run it back after they’ve both recovered in 2021.
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