Thursday, August 6, 2020

MMA News 2019 Year-End Awards

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

Israel Adesanya
Image Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Israel Adesanya

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.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Jorge Masvidal
  • Henry Cejudo
  • Kamaru Usman
  • Douglas Lima
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov

Fight Of The Year

Kamaru Usman Colby Covington
Image Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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.

Honorable Mentions:

Event Of The Year

Jorge Masvidal Nate Diaz The Rock
Image Credit: Steven Ryan/Getty Images

UFC 244

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.

Honorable Mentions:

  • UFC 236
  • UFC 235
  • Bellator 214
  • UFC 245
  • UFC 241
  • Bellator 222

Breakthrough Fighter Of The Year

Weili Zhang
Image Credit: Zhe Ji/Getty Images

Weili Zhang

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.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Petr Yan
  • Jairzinho Rozenstruik
  • Rafael Lovato Jr.
  • Alex Volkanovski

Coach Of The Year

Image Credit: Getty Images

Eugene Bareman

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.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Eric Albarracin
  • Mike Brown
  • Marcus Marinelli
  • Sayif Saud
  • Firas Zahabi

Upset Of The Year

Kai-Asakura-Kyoji-Horiguchi
Image Credit: Rizin FF

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.

Honorable Mentions:

Comeback Win Of The Year

Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Image Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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.

Honorable Mentions:

Controversy Of The Year

Greg Hardy Inhaler
Image via UFC broadcast

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.

Honorable Mentions:

KO Of The Year

Masvidal Askren
Image Credit: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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.

Honorable Mentions:

Submission Of The Year

Bryce Mitchell
Image Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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.

Honorable Mentions:

That’ll do it for the 2019 MMA News Awards. Share your picks for the year-end awards in the comments below.

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