As we come to the end of the first quarter of the year in MMA, there have been a few fights that have happened that are deserving of being considered “Fight of the Year.” However, with the second quarter of the year in MMA being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, now might be a good time to take a look at some of those fights. For fans that have the time and want to look back at the first three months of MMA, here are five fights to look back at.
Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk (UFC 248)
Coincidentally, this great fight will air on ESPN this weekend. Zhang’s first title defense against a former champion in Jędrzejczyk stole the show at UFC 248. A five-round war saw the two strawweights go at one another, making the men in the main event look almost scared compared to what Zhang and Jędrzejczyk did as co-main eventers. The two women were taken to the hospital afterward but in the post-fight press conference, Dana White along with the rest of the MMA world had nothing but praise for the two women.
Paul Felder vs. Dan Hooker (UFC Auckland)
Another five-round, split decision war between Felder and Hooker that saw two competitors exchange blows and take a lot of damage. In a fight that had Felder take damage and push through the later rounds, both men left everything they had in the cage on February 23 earning “Fight of the Night”. While the decision was met with controversy, it made for one of the better fights thus far.
Coner Hignett vs. Darren O’Gorman (Cage Warriors 113)
This is one of the events that went on behind closed doors with no fans in attendance. Cage Warriors 113 brought fight fans a rare live event and Hignett was seemingly losing a fight against a very dominant O’Gorman until the final round where he dropped O’Gorman. Hignett likely would have lost on the judges’ cards if he did not deliver the blow that made for one of the most exciting finishes from the event.
Cris Lencioni vs. Salim Mukhidinov (Bellator 239)
A fight that likely went under the radar as a post-lim for Bellator 239 but deserves mention. Lencioni fractured or broke his leg in the first round of the fight yet somehow, managed to go all three rounds and pull off a win. Throughout the fight, even with the injury, he managed to drive in for takedowns and secure a tight body triangle to control the fight. While it may not be for striking fans that like a blow-for-blow back and forth battle, it makes for a good example of what a fighter will do to win.
Cris Cyborg vs. Julia Budd (Bellator 238)
The fight is worth watching because, not only is it Cris Cyborg’s Bellator MMA debut, but for the sport’s history it had her collect another title in another promotion. Budd was undefeated in Bellator, won the inaugural title in 2017 and defended it three times before Cyborg came into the mix. While Budd did not make Cyborg’s win easy, it certainly made for some interesting future matches in Bellator. See the highlights from the match here.
As March moves into April and combat sports is on hold for now, as time passes hopefully the COVID-19 pandemic will pass too and fighters and fans can safely come out of the situation and bring back the competition everyone patiently waits for to add to the list.
What fights have stood out to you thus far?