Fight Of The Year 2020 Race By: Clint MacLean (@DieHardMMAPod)
2020 has been a pretty awful year for most of us, but when it comes to MMA, it has been incredible. We owe Dana White and the UFC a massive debt of gratitude for continuing to put on shows to keep us entertained and allow us to bet on something and hopefully make some money. The shows all year have been delivering, and most of them far above expectations. We have hit the halfway point of 2020, and we should talk about the front runners for the fight of the year because there are a few that stand out, and we have a lot of year left for new contenders.
Honorable Mention: Shane Burgos vs. Josh Emmett
Josh Emmett suffered a complete ACL tear during this war he gave us vs. Shane Burgos on Saturday pic.twitter.com/HwpvnJISB9
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) June 22, 2020
I feel like I need to mention Shane Burgos vs. Josh Emmett at this point. Unfortunately, this fight is a bit of a third wheel for the FOTY conversation, but they deserve more recognition for the war they put on at the UFC Apex than they are currently getting. I would like to consider them in the conversation for fight of the year even though they aren’t REALLY in the running. The fight was amazing, and both men dug deep, battling through injuries and damage, refusing to give up. Emmett landed 127 significant strikes, and Burgos landed 128. Josh Emmett suffered a complete ACL tear but still managed to drop Burgos multiple times in the 3rd and final round of their fight, and Burgos somehow managed to get up after every concussive shot he took. The fight was phenomenal but lacked a few missing ingredients to make it a real FOTY contender.
We need to consider the stakes of the fight. Not that a fight should be disqualified for being a non-title fight, but it adds to the energy and the intensity when something more significant is on the line. Burgos and Emmett have both been disrespected in the rankings, and that is no fault of their own, but this fight was simply a fight night and only a 3 round battle. This wasn’t for a #1 contender spot, and it wasn’t for a title, and because of that fact, it will be docked a few points ever so slightly. So far this year, sadly, that is enough to knock Emmett vs. Burgos out of the running because we have two absolutely unreal fights that have some extra intrigue to push them over the top.
Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 29, 2020
At UFC 248, we were treated to a co-main event that FAR surpassed the main event that night. The long time reigning, Joanna had returned to Strawweight to regain her championship and re-solidify herself as the queen of 115. Waiting patiently for JJ was the new champion Weili Zhang who had just demolished former champion Jessica Andrade in a matter of minutes to take the strap. This fight had everything. A title was on the line. A new champion defending her title for the first time and representing her country’s flag as their first UFC champion. A former champion looking to regain her former glory. There was a social media war leading up to the fight where Joanna had made some jokes in poor taste at the expense of Zhang and Zhang did not take it lightly.
This was a 25-minute war between the best two women fighters at 115, and neither gave an inch! In battles of this level of intensity, you would expect the fight to tail off as the damage accumulated, and the fighters wore out in this battle that was precisely the opposite of what happened. Neither woman would give an inch, and they were willing to stand and trade in the center of the cage until one fell, but neither did. Both women landed 30 significant strikes in the first round and cranked up the pace as the fight continued. In the 4th round, both women fell exactly 40significant strikes, and in round 5, Zhang landed 37, and JJ landed 46!
???? Pelea del AÑO ????
▶️ Ganadora: Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk por el Título de Peso Paja en #UFC248
La gran favorita de muchos fanáticos se quedó con el tan ansiado premio debido al INCREÍBLE espectáculo que estas 2 guerreras nos dieron. pic.twitter.com/dIpEjOeJql
— Liga UFC Chile ???????? (@LigaUFCChile) July 1, 2020
Weili Zhang landed 165 total significant strikes, and even though she walked away the winner, she was outlanded by Joanna, who totaled 186! Zhang attempted 408 strikes, which made her appear busier and, when combined with the damage and swelling of JJ’s head, likely tilted the judges’ scores in her favor. This fight went to a split decision with strong arguments on both sides of the fence as to who won, and it is still a hotly debated topic. This is, in my opinion, the best women’s MMA fight in history.
Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 28, 2020
Dustin Poirier vs. Dan Hooker is the more fresh fight in our memories, having just taken place last weekend, and it was an absolute banger! Hooker vs. Poirier may have given us the best single round of MMA in the year in the second round of their battle. Poirier admitted to having been flash KOd by Hooker in that round and came to mid-fight and somehow managed to dig deep and stay on his feet. After that point, he answered back and took over the later rounds of the fight. Even though Hooker wilted in the later rounds, he never gave up and answered back with big shots to stay in the fight.
This fight was for a potential #1 contender spot with Poirier, having been the most recent challenger to Khabib’s title and Hooker rising through the ranks rapidly. This was a battle of 2 top 5 ranked fighters who only needed one more impressive win to have a legitimate claim for the next shot at the 155 lbs strap. Both of these fighters were immensely confident, leading up to the fight, but there was no real drama. The stakes were high for both men as a loss would put them back a step in the most profound and most dangerous weight class in MMA today, but there was no real outside heat on this one.
Dustin Poirier gets the W after and incredible fight with Dan Hooker.
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) June 28, 2020
Hooker landed 155 significant strikes of 253 attempted, and Poirier landed 153 out of 231! Both men were bruised and bloodied, showing massive amounts of damage but refused to give up. Being 155-pound men, the volume may have been lower than the women, but the damage inflicted and overcome was more significant. The issue was that both of these men did let off the gas pedal later in the fight. The action was hard, fast, and furious, but it slowed as the match wore on.
In my opinion, we are premature in crowning Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker as the winners to Fight Of The Year 2020. I think everybody needs to go back and re-watch Zhang vs. Joanna because that fight was a non-stop thrill ride from bell to bell. For a straight 25 minutes, those women battled and refused to take a step back. Not only did that fight have the stakes we like to see with a title on the line, but it had drama and personal beef to back it up. It had non stop action, and that action only intensified later in the battle when both women refused to relent their claims to the belt. In Poirier vs. Hooker, we saw more blood, but it was a unanimous decision win for Poirier, where even the judges had a hard time deciding if JJ or if Zhang had won. I would love to see them run it back and have JJ vs. Zhang 2 because I personally scored that fight for Joanna and who WOULDN’T want to watch that fight again?
I still can't stop thinking about this fight. One for the ages. Respect to Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk for giving us this all time classic.
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) March 9, 2020
The women still hold the #1 seed for FOTY, in my opinion! We have six more months of MMA action with some huge names coming up, so look for a follow up to this article closer to the end of the year, but they have set the bar pretty high, and I honestly don’t know if there is a fight that can climb this mountain.