2020 is a year that has seemingly changed the world forever, and the UFC is, of course, not alone that they are a different company heading into 2021 than they were back in January when Conor McGregor blew through Cowboy Cerrone like faster than you can chug a liter of Proper eggnog.
What was it? About 43 seconds? That sounds about right. That nog might be on its way back up just as quickly, but I digress.
The UFC kept the politics out of their sport and also were able to be the only major American sport going when everyone else was shut down. This forced sports bettors who had no idea the consistent amount of edges you can get on the sportsbooks from week to week betting on MMA.
People can say what they want about Uncle Dana White but the guy did what he had to do to make it happen and now he is reaping the benefits…as are his fighters who are not on salaries mind you.
They are independent contractors, so if they don’t fight, they don’t get paid. But, they did fight, and they did get paid. All of the nominees for Fight of the Year did get paid by Fight of the Night bonus already but let’s see what two men or women put on the best show of the year.
Dan Hooker vs Paul Felder
What a perfect matchup and one that could have been pegged for Fight of the Night the second the fight was signed into existence.
Okay, do you guys really need to see anything else?
Like the person who posted this video, this is one of my all-time favorite staredowns. These two men absolutely went to war in this fight. I picked Hooker because I thought his range striking was better, and he had a solid chin.
Dan also works well out of the clinch, so I didn’t think Felder was just going to big brother him when they tie-up. In fact, Hooker was able to keep 5:05 of control time over the 25-minute battle.
I loved this fight because both guys are extremely technical and somehow tougher than that. Usually, the super technical guys aren’t always the toughest because the ones with bad technique have to learn to be tough pretty quickly in this game.
122 significant strikes landed for the winner Dan Hooker vs. the 110 put together over 5 rounds for Felder. Hooker was at 55%, while Paul landed at a 47% rate. Those are both pretty high, but these two have always been at least somewhat hittable and been able to take a punch as well.
Dan came into this fight as a (-170) favorite, although he didn’t open up there. The books had him this fight as a pick’em when it opened, but Dan being the hometown fighter at this Auckland show along with Paul’s lack of speed brought the money in on Hooker.
I was on the same train, and Felder only out landed him in one of the five rounds, but it wasn’t at all a comfortable cruise to victory. The two men beat the tar out of one another for 25 minutes to the New Zealand fans’ delight.
In retrospect, I guess it was a good bet. They really shouldn’t have given the fight to Felder, but it was a split decision.
It is hard to beat the dual post-fight interview with one guy with half of a jaw and the other with one eye. Gotta love this sport.
Dan Hooker vs Dustin Poirier
Just 4 short months after Dan Hooker fought Paul Felder in one of the most brutal wars in UFC Lightweight history, The Hangman has clearly not had enough because he calls out Dustin Poirier and gets what he asked for.
I was on Paul here again as the underdog in this fight. His betting odds got up as high as (+200) for this matchup but close around (+165). I think I tipped him around (+180) or so, and even though Dan won the first two rounds, I still think it was an ill-advised wager.
Dustin was so dominant at the end of that fight. We know darn well from Dan Hooker’s entire career as well as his most recent fight, the one we just talked about, so you wouldn’t think someone could just pull away from him like that, mentally.
It wasn’t just physical. When Poirier was putting that wrestling on Hooker late in that fight, you could see in his eyes he was frustrated. That isn’t the emotion you want to see from your fighter if you are their cornerman.
You would much rather see calm and confident or even gritty and intense, but if you’re frustrated, that means you are putting yourself one step behind.
A fight is more mental than physical. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. Many people aren’t even mentally prepared to fight if it does happen to them, and others break.
It’s an oxymoron, I know, but they do. This happens in the UFC at the highest level. What was so amazing about this fight wasn’t just the striking exchanges over 5 rounds between two of the best in the UFC.
It was Dustin Porier’s adjustments in the later rounds. He switched over to wrestling at the perfect time. It wasn’t really working early on, so he left it alone, and even though he was getting out-struck on the feet, the Cajun was keeping it close.
He is such a veteran. He knew his time would come, and when it did, he was there to execute to perfection. To me, this is one of Dustin’s greatest victories, and I’m pretty sure he feels the same way.
Josh Emmett vs Shane Burgos
This fight was a banger! People are forgetting about Emmett and Burgos!
We all kinda knew going into this fight that it was going to be a good one, at least for as long as it lasted. The treat we got was this thing going all three rounds.
In one corner, you have Josh Emmett, who is a power punching former police officer from California who has been a part of Team Alpha Male up there in Sacramento for a long time. He came into this fight having finished three straight opponents with punches.
The guy is technical, fast, and just hits so freaking hard for Featherweight.
Josh only had 2 losses in his career going into this fight with Shane Burgos. Burgos is a very, very big 145er who actually prefers to use volume boxing to overwhelm his opponents. As I said, we already knew this one was going to be lit.
Burgos, the whose only loss in his career at that point was to Calvin Kattar, an even better boxer, and bad matchup. By the way, guys, side note: If you want to bet on Calvin Kattar as the underdog against Max Holloway in the UFC’s first event back on January 16th, I recommend it.
Back to your regularly scheduled programming. Both men are great boxers and built well for the division. One guy loves to come forward and throw punches in bunches, while the other likes for his opponents to throw lots of strikes so that he can unleash one of his deadly counter strikes.
- Total strikes attempted for Emmett: 275
- Total strikes attempted for Burgos: 270
- Significant strikes landed for Emmett: 127
- Significant strikes landed for Burgos: 128
The difference was two knockdowns for Josh Emmett, and he got a takedown as well, but it was the late knockdowns that were the difference in this fight. Another reason it is awesome is they both survived each other’s game.
The ultra fast and powerful guys naturally and scientifically don’t have the best endurance. It’s just how the body works. So, you would think that Emmett would be the weaker fighter in the third round against a volume/endurance guy like Burgos.
Well, Shane didn’t get tired, but he did get rocked and dropped a couple of times by someone who usually puts guys directly to sleep on contact. Neither fighter has the biggest name, and this one happened pre-COVID lockdown, so many of those fights were forgotten.
I mean, it was 6 years ago, right?
Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzyjczyk
There were a couple of other women’s fights I thought about adding here as well. Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade 2 was a great fight. Andrade is really showing herself to be one of the top fighters in the division still.
Many were writing her off after her loss to the first and only Chinese UFC World Champion, Weili Zhang. If you have never seen this woman fight before, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Just look at her Instagram.
That alone is enough to scare off half of the Women’s Strawweight Division.
Her trainer from Thailand is always with her, and she now has a country behind her. It is going to be tough to defeat Weili Zhang, but boy, did Joanna Champion almost do it!
These two women had possibly the best fight I have ever seen and easily the #1 women’s MMA fight of all time.
Joanna actually beat Weili on the numbers, but the visible damage for the former Polish world champ was becoming an ever-inflating elephant inside the Octagon.
It was going to be pretty difficult to give her the victory.
Remember the numbers I posted for Burgos and Emmett. Now see this!
- Significant strikes thrown for Weili: 408
- Significant strikes thrown for Joanna: 360
- Significant strikes landed for Weili: 160
- Significant strikes landed for Joanna: 186
- They each hit each other in the head 96 times.
- And they each kicked each other in the leg 58 times.
- The only difference was Joanna’s work to the body.
Do I really need to say anything else about this fight? It was a championship fight. That is something that we can’t say for any of the previous nominees.
Deiveson Figueredo vs Brandon Moreno
Well, I was just going to give Joanna and Weili the Fight of the Year award and these two guys had to come in on the next to last weekend of the year, the next to last fight card and make me think again!
Brandon Moreno really made it a good fight, but it wasn’t that close. I don’t think anyone could make the argument that Brandon won the fight, and that is even with the one-point deduction.
Don’t get me started on that one. Jason Herzog takes a point for the first groin kick, and it was clearly accidental as Moreno moves very awkwardly, changing his levels. Deiveson was trying to throw and unattached knee to the head as a counter to Brandon ducking his head a lot.
When one of those knees misses, and you aren’t clinched with your opponent, the lower leg can hinge at the knee and come forward, especially if you’re throwing it upward instead of inward. The point should not have been taken, but it made it a much better fight.
It made Deiveson Figueredo work harder than he wanted to in the middle rounds and then have to barely hang on as his energy plummeted late while the Mexican fighter’s surged.
We had the over 2.5 for (-110) and also Figueredo by decision at (+500)! Jason Herzog, I hate you, bud. It was the perfect play and would have hit if not for the strange “no warning point deduction” from the champ by the referee.
It was a really fun fight, but I couldn’t make it #1 because I don’t think it was overly competitive, and Figgy will be favored in the rematch.
Casey Kenney vs Nathaniel Wood
I will keep this one quick, and even though it didn’t win, we got to know both fighters quite well, and the first round, in particular, of this fight, could be the best round of any fight all year.
The men seemingly split the first two rounds, but Casey Kenney showed why he is a true mixed martial arts fighter and got the necessary takedowns in the third round to seal the deal. The two men weren’t able to keep up the frantic pace they started, but it was fun while it lasted.
Fight of the Year
Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzyjczyk
Maybe I gave it away already, but I don’t care.
I do love both ladies as fighters, and their styles matched up for one of my all-time favorite fights!
Weili Zhang and Joanna Champion, even though I can spell her name by memory now, I just don’t want to, will hopefully rematch in 2021.
I know that there are other title challengers and all that jazz but do you really think you’re going to get a better fight than you will with these two women. In fact, I want the UFC to have these two women fight at least 3 times a year.
There have been much worse trilogies. Like, I know what you did last summer 2, and I know what you’re doing next summer because these movies suck.
2020 was a special year for us all and especially one for the UFC. They grew more this year than they have in probably a decade and more than ever in the sports betting world. Everybody and their sock puppet sitting in grandma’s basement is now an expert.
We had a great year just like the UFC and finished very strong in December. I’m putting in the work already for January’s fight cards beginning on the 16th and looking forward to a 20+% return on your investment in 2021!