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By: Daniel Rebain – NHL & UFC Staff Writer
Being UFC “Fighter” of the Year can is not just indication of what you accomplished in that calendar year. If your are privileged enough to be named UFC’s FOTY it means that you are in for an even brighter future ahead, just ask the 2019 UFC FOTY Israel Adesanya. So, here’s to 2020, a year where nothing could go right in the world of sports, Dana White was still able to produce a year of UFC we will never forget. Here are the fighters that were the best of the rest.
#15 Welterweight Khamzat Chimaev (3-0)
Probably the most hyped prospect the UFC has right now has to be Sweden’s Khamzat Chimaev. That hype is warranted though as Chimaev to this point has been nothing short of a phenom. He’s begun his UFC career with three wins, all stoppages, and all in less than two months. In Chimaev’s first two fights against John Phillips and Rhys McKee, Chimaev out landed his two opponents 192-2. In his last fight in September, Chimaev would KO Gerald Meerschaert in just 17 seconds, tied for the third-fastest KO in UFC middleweight history. Chimaev’s entrance into the UFC broke boundaries in the sport. He would win his first two fights in just 10 days fastest in UFC history, and he owns the fastest 3-0 start in modern UFC history (since 2000), spanning just 66 days. If Chimaev keeps his activity up in 2021, he could be not just back on this list but possibly the winner.
UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz (2-0)
At the beginning of 2020, would you have expended to see Jan Blachowicz as a “Fighter” of the Year candidate? Probably not, unless you were Jan and his wife. Blachowicz would begin 2020 hoping to face Jon Jones for the light heavyweight championship if he won one more fight. That win would come in a big way in a rematch of one of his earlier defeats, Corey Anderson. And in front of an Arizona crowd that Jones was in, Blachowicz would steamroll Anderson, knocking him out 3:08 into the first round. Blachowicz thought would never get his dream to face Jones for the LHW belt as Jones vacated his belt to pursue heavyweight aspirations. That would leave Blachowicz to face Dominick Reyes for the Light Heavyweight strap. Reyes was a HUGE favorite pre fight after going the full five rounds with Jones, with people actually believing that he won that fight. Blachowicz proved everyone wrong once the first bell rung, blasting Reyes with huge body kicks and heavy hands. Eventually, in the second round, Blachowicz would hit Reyes with a huge left overhand, securing the second-round TKO. Blachowicz became only the second UFC champ from Poland (Joanna Jedrzejczyk) and the first male to hold a belt. Blachowicz is now scheduled to defend his belt against Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, and with a win, Blachowicz will be the early favorite for 2021 “Fighter” of the Year. #legendarypolishpower
UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueredo (3-0-1)
With a record of 3-0-1 in the year of 2020, winning the UFC Flyweight strap and defending it twice, Deiveson Figueredo is a close second for the award. 2020 started with former 125 king Henry Cejudo vacating the Flyweight belt, and the UFC would pit Figueredo against long-time fighter Joseph Benavidez. In the first fight after a clash of heads, Figueredo would KO Benavidez but the UFC would rematch the two after Figueredo missed weight. The result was the same, Figueredo would drop Benavidez multiple times and eventually choke him out to claim UFC gold. In November Figueredo would defend the belt for the first time against Alex Perez. Perez was no match as Figueredo would choke him out inside of the first round. With no damage taken Figueredo would fight one more time just three weeks later. It would be the quickest turnaround for a champion in UFC history. It would be remembered as the “greatest Flyweight fight of all time”, according to Dana White. Figueredo and Brendon Moreno would finish in a majority draw. All in all, Figueredo had four title fights in 2020, winning three (1 NC) and an all-time great fight to cap the year off.
Morning Blitz “Fighter” of the Year
#10 Middleweight Kevin Holland (5-0)
There are only three fighters in UFC history to win five fights in a calendar year. They are Roger Huerta 07’, Neil Magny 14’ and now joining that list is Kevin Holland. Holland has kind of come on the scene in a blaze of glory. Holland, now 8-2 in the UFC, turned 2020 into a banger of a year for himself. Finishing the calendar year with 4 TKO and one decision, Holland has turned a can’t miss attraction for the UFC and Dana White. His first fight would be in May and he finished that fight in 39 seconds against Anthony Hernandez. Though, he would have to wait almost three months for his next fight, finally, he would make a name for himself in the UFC in his fight against Joaquin Buckley. Holland knocked down Buckley twice before ending the fight with a highlight reel KO, knocking Buckley’s mouthpiece out of his mouth as it went flying across the cage and saliva every which direction.
Next, Holland would come up against Darren Stewart who he would edge out a win in a split decision. Holland was 3-0 and wanted to keep going. Holland would take on Charlie Ontiveros and also would end it quickly. Again, just 2:39 into the first, Holland would get a body slam TKO, earning his fourth win in just five months. And to tie the record for most wins in a calendar year, Holland would be gifted with one more fight in 2020 as he would take on his toughest opponent yet in Jacare Souza. Holland made it look easy even with Souza taking Holland down early. Holland, a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu made Souza who was one of the best in the world of Jiu-Jitsu look like a blue belt. From the bottom position, Holland would land multiple significant strikes. As he was about to stand up, Holland awkwardly swung his hips on the ground and punched Souza clean on the jaw, knocking him out clean. That’s happened only one other time in UFC history. That was a wrap, 5-0 for Kevin Holland in 2020.
The UFC now ranks Holland #10 in the middleweight division. If Holland can keep racking up wins we will see him fight Israel Adesanya for the title in 2021. For 2020 though, Kevin Holland is the “Morning Blitz Fighter of the Year”, congrats “Big Mouth”
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