Another year is coming to a close, which means it’s time for the 2019 MMA News Awards.
Fight fans weren’t short on witnessing memorable moments in 2019. From the emergence of a familiar face in Jorge Masvidal to a new star being born in Israel Adesanya, MMA in 2019 won’t soon be forgotten.
The MMA News staffers have once again got together to deliver picks for the year-end awards. We’ve got winners for Fighter of the Year, Fight of the Year, Event of the Year, Breakthrough Fighter of the Year, Coach of the Year, Upset of the Year, Comeback Win of the Year, Controversy of the Year, Knockout of the Year, and Submission of the Year.
It’s time to dive in:
Fighter Of The Year
This one was almost unanimous. Israel Adesanya undoubtedly catapulted himself into superstar status in 2019. “The Last Stylebender” got the year started with a unanimous decision victory over Anderson Silva back in February. He then captured the interim UFC middleweight title in a “Fight of the Year” contender against Kelvin Gastelum. To top it all off, Adesanya defeated Robert Whittaker via second-round TKO to become the undisputed UFC middleweight king.
- Jorge Masvidal
- Henry Cejudo
- Kamaru Usman
- Douglas Lima
- Khabib Nurmagomedov
Fight Of The Year
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
The final UFC pay-per-view event of 2019 ended with a bang. Kamaru Usman put his welterweight gold on the line against Colby Covington. The title bout was an instant classic with both men trading leather while somehow looking fresh throughout the fight. Usman fractured the jaw of Covington during the bout and was able to put him away via TKO in the fifth round.
- Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum
- Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway II
- Paulo Costa vs. Yoel Romero
- Lorenz Larkin vs. Andrey Koreshkov
- Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Calvin Kattar
Event Of The Year
UFC 244 was a massive event. It was a card fitting for Madison Square Garden in New York City. The main event featured a one-time-only BMF title bout, which was presented to the winner by Hollywood megastar The Rock. POTUS Donald Trump was in attendance as well. The event drew a soldout crowd of 20,143 fans and a $6,575,996.19 gate. UFC 244 had seven finishes total, all via knockout or TKO.
- UFC 236
- UFC 235
- Bellator 214
- UFC 245
- UFC 241
- Bellator 222
Breakthrough Fighter Of The Year
It’s not often that a UFC champion is considered to be a breakthrough star but it makes sense in Weili Zhang’s case. If UFC president Dana White is to be believed, no one was eager to take a fight with Zhang so she received a strawweight title shot sooner than most anticipated. The timing didn’t matter as Zhang blitzed Jessica Andrade to snatch the strawweight gold and become the first UFC champion born in China.
- Petr Yan
- Jairzinho Rozenstruik
- Rafael Lovato Jr.
- Alex Volkanovski
Coach Of The Year
The City Kickboxing gym had a banner year in 2019. Under coach Eugene Bareman, Israel Adesanya captured the undisputed UFC middleweight title, while Alex Volkanovski won the featherweight title with his unanimous decision over Max Holloway. There’s also Dan Hooker, who picked up the biggest win of his career over Al Iaquinta back in October.
- Eric Albarracin
- Mike Brown
- Marcus Marinelli
- Sayif Saud
- Firas Zahabi
Upset Of The Year
Kai Asakura Defeats Kyoji Horiguchi
Since his 2015 loss to Demetrious Johnson, Kyoji Horiguchi has shown significant improvements to his game. After leaving the UFC, Horiguchi captured the RIZIN and Bellator bantamweight titles. Horiguchi was expected to take care of business against Kai Asakura back in August but it wasn’t meant to be. Asakura stunned Horiguchi, finishing him via first-round TKO in their non-title bout at RIZIN 18.
- Khama Worthy def. Devonte Smith
- Anthony Smith def. Alexander Gustafsson
- Alex Volkanovski def. Max Holloway
Comeback Win Of The Year
Jairzinho Rozenstruik Beats Alistair Overeem & The Clock
Time was not on Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s side at UFC Washington. Rozenstruik appeared to be on the verge of suffering his first loss as a professional mixed martial artist against Alistair Overeem. “The Reem” showcased his technical striking and was seconds away from a unanimous decision win. That’s when Rozenstruik landed a punch that caused a gnarly lip split and referee Dan Miragliotta quickly stopped the fight.
- Stipe Miocic def. Daniel Cormier – Rematch
- Stefan Struve def. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
- Jessica Andrade def. Rose Namajunas
Controversy Of The Year
Greg Hardy Uses An Inhaler Between Rounds
Former NFL star Greg Hardy isn’t a stranger to controversy. Many have written off Hardy due to his past with domestic violence. In 2019, he was at the center of two controversies. The first was being disqualified after landing an illegal knee to a downed Allen Crowder. What topped that, however, was the “Prince of War’s” use of an inhaler between rounds against Ben Sosoli. Hardy initially won the fight via unanimous decision but the result was quickly changed to a No Contest as Hardy wasn’t granted an exemption to use the inhaler.
- T.J. Dillashaw Suspended For EPO Use
- Henry Cejudo vs. T.J. Dillashaw Stoppage
- Jessica Andrade’s Slam KO Against Rose Namajunas
KO Of The Year
The Knee Heard Round The World
Come on, you knew this one would win. It is certainly true that 2019 wasn’t short on spectacular finishes. Speaking of short, did you know that Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren only lasted five seconds? You probably did because Masvidal’s flying knee KO at UFC 239 catapulted him into superstar status. The fact that Askren was heavily hyped and undefeated going into this bout made the finish that much more shocking.
- Valentina Shevchenko Head Kicks Jessica Eye Into Oblivion
- Makhmud Muradov Scores Walk-Off KO Over Trevor Smith
- Jairzinho Rozenstruik Splits Alistair Overeem’s Lip
- Anthony Pettis Sleeps Stephen Thompson
- Jessica Andrade Slams Rose Namajunas For KO Win
Submission Of The Year
Bryce Mitchell Pulls Off Twister Submission
What a twist … well not the winner but the submission itself. A Twister submission is rare. In fact, only two fighters have ever pulled it off under the UFC banner. Those fighters are Chan Sung Jung and Bryce Mitchell. Mitchell scored the rare submission against Matt Sayles at UFC Washington.
- Cory Sandhagen Armbars Mario Bautista
- Masakazu Imanari Dazzles With Heel Hook Over Kwon Won II
- Andrew Tenneson Taps Westin Wilson Thanks To Gogoplata
- Alex Gilpin Chokes Out Andre Harrison
That’ll do it for the 2019 MMA News Awards. Share your picks for the year-end awards in the comments below.