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2019 mma awards

2019 mma awards

Welcome to our first set of this year’s FGB Awards, the 2019 MMA Awards.

Here are the categories for the 2019 MMA Awards:

Fighter of the Year
Show of the Year
Fight of the Year
Breakout Star
Who’s Next

In addition to myself and Duan, Paul Fontaine, Ryan Frederick, Larry Causion, Jason Hagholm, and the Hardcore Canadian Peter H. give their awards.

Fighter Of The Year

Duan: Israel Adesanya
Israel Adesanya had three fights in 2019 – in the first he beat a legend, in the second he won the interim title and in the third he became unified champion. The 30-year-old enters 2020 at 18-0 and the consensus number one at 185. At a time when UFC badly needs new stars, they have found something special in Adesanya.

Duan’s previous winners:
2018: Daniel Cormier
2017: Georges St-Pierre
2016: Michael Bisping
2015: Conor McGregor
2014: Robbie Lawler
2013: Chris Weidman
2012: Anderson Silva
2011: Junior Dos Santos
2010: Cain Velasquez
2009: Lyoto Machida
2008: Brock Lesnar

Paul: Henry Cejudo
He defended the flyweight title by KOing the bantamweight champion and then won the bantamweight belt in another KO win. I feel his 2019 is overlooked because he hasn’t fought in the 2nd half but it couldn’t have been much better.

Ryan: Jorge Masvidal
There were several contenders for this honor and I chose Masvidal just barely above Henry Cejudo and Israel Adesanya. One big reason is Masvidal, despite not winning any official UFC championships like the other two, fought and won three times. He headlined the biggest show of the year against Nate Diaz at Madison Square Garden. He scored a big knockout win over Darren Till in London in front of the third-largest UFC crowd ever in London. To top it all off, he scored the fastest knockout in UFC history with the flying knee on Ben Askren in five seconds. It was a transcendent moment for both Masvidal and the UFC as it propelled him to superstardom and he is the first fighter to truly be made a star by ESPN. It even ended up in the top five of ESPN’s Plays Of The Year. Masvidal deserves this one.

Larry: Jorge Masvidal
After taking a year off, Masvidal reemerged on the top of his game in 2019. The way he knocked out Darren Till, and then Ben Askren in record time, and destroyed a very tough Nate Niaz, was super impressive. Masvidal also made himself into a superstar in 2019, capturing the newly formed Baddest Mother F***** title. He has emerged as a true draw, and will only demand bigger fights in 2020.

Jason: Jorge Masvidal
Masvidal, who entered 2019 after a year off in 2018, made himself into a crossover superstar that the sport desperately needs with no more Ronda and Conor McGregor having more legal issues than fights in 2019. Masvidal has always been respected for his skills by the hardcore MMA fans from his days in Bellator/Strikeforce but was always the gatekeeper at lightweight/welterweight. Masvidal started 2019 out with a sensational KO over former welterweight title challenger Darren Till in Till’s hometown of London England. Masvidal then followed that up with the fastest KO in UFC with his viral flying knee KO over Ben Askren at UFC 241 in July. Masvidal would then win the Nate Diaz sweepstakes and headlined UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden in November to win the BMF Championship. Masvidal is heading into 2020 as the consensus number one contender for Kamaru Usman’s welterweight championship.

Peter H.: Amanda Nunes
She had a dominant performance versus Holm and taken to the deep waters vs GDR showed that she can dominate in the championship rounds as well. The scary thing about Nunes is that she gets better with each fight. Ryan Bader a very close second for becoming a 2 belt champ in Bellator.

GG: Jorge Masvidal
Jorge didn’t come out of nowhere in 2019, but I’m not sure anyone had him pegged as being as good as he was. He talked the talk and walked the walk. While Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya were champions in 2019 and Masvidal wasn’t, those guys were earmarked for future greatness. I don’t think many saw the now 35-year-old Masvidal under the same lens.

GG’s previous winners:
2018: Daniel Cormier
2017: Max Holloway
2016: Conor McGregor
2015: Conor McGregor
2014: Robbie Lawler
2013: Cain Velasquez
2012: Anderson Silva
2011: Jon Jones
2010: Cain Velasquez
2009: Georges St-Pierre
2008: Georges St-Pierre

Show Of The Year

Duan: UFC 236
I’m not sure there has ever been a UFC PPV before where you had the two best matches of the year go back to back and certainly not where both were title fights. Both Holloway vs Poirer and Gastelum vs Adesanya will go down among the best five rounders in UFC history.

Duan’s previous winners:
2018: UFC 226
2017: UFC 217
2016: UFC 205
2015: UFC 189
2014: UFC Fight Night Dublin
2013: UFC on Fuel 8
2012: UFC 142
2011: UFC 139
2010: WEC PPV
2009: DREAM 11
2008: DREAM 5: Lightweight Grand Prix Finals

Paul: UFC 236
Two of the greatest fights of all time at the top of the card with new champions crowned in both fights.

Ryan: UFC 245
The UFC saved their best for last as the final pay-per-view of the year was the best show this year. It had several memorable knockouts and a lot of fun fights, and it just so happened to have an all-time great main event between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. It had a title change, a dominant yet vulnerable showing by the best female fighter in the sport, and legends all over the card. It was also one of the big crowds of the year and was one night where the UFC felt like a hot product.

Larry: UFC 236
I really struggled between the MSG show headlined by Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz, which also had an excellent fight between Wonder Boy and Vicente Luque, and this one. That card was fun up and down and had some great upsets and impressive knockouts. But I had to go with the double main event that saw Dustin Poirier put on a performance of a lifetime, defeating Max Holloway on top and my fight of the year, Israel Adesanya defeating Kelvin Gastelum, in an all out war! I really debating this for a while, as the MSG card was better throughout, but in all actuality, the main event wasn’t close. UFC 236 delivered everything you could ask for.

Jason: UFC 244
This show was able to crossover into the mainstream media. Going into it, it felt like the most important show and a one that was a throwback to the glory days of the UFC. The main event was Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz for the inaugural BMF Championship which only in 2019 could crossover into the mainstream and be the a fight that the MMA hardcores would love as well. You just knew this was a big show when The Rock was on hand to present Jorge Masvidal the title. This event also featured a great back and forth fight between Stephan Thompson and Vicente Luque and one of the best KOs of 2019 in Kevin Lee’s 1st round knockout over Gregor Gillespie.

Peter H.: UFC 236
As much as I loved UFC 244 (BMF title), this show had an amazing main card and only one blemish. The prelims were awesome and the main and co-main were just crazy.

GG: UFC 241
This one didn’t show up on a lot of lists, but I loved this show. You had a great war between Paulo Costo and Yoel Romero. You had the show stealing performance by Nate Diaz against Anthony Pettis. And in the main event, Daniel Cormier looked like he was going to easily defend his heavyweight title until he got tired and paid for it. Stiple Miocic took advantage and knocked out the beloved Cormier.

GG’s previous winners:
2018: UFC 229
2017: UFC 217
2016: UFC 205
2015: UFC 189
2014: UFC 175
2013: UFC 167
2012: UFC On Fox 5
2011: UFC 139
2010: UFC 116
2009: UFC 100
2008: UFC 91

Fight Of The Year

Duan: Israel Adesanya Vs Kelvin Gastelum
Kelvin Gastelum pulled out the performance of his career to push Adesanya right to his limits and very nearly spark an upset. Adesanya proved his championship credentials by digging in deep when it mattered to see out the result. Balanced on a knife edge through four rounds, this was two guys competing at max capacity and waiting to see who’d be first to crack.

Duan’s previous winners
2018: Chris Weidman Vs Jacare Souza
2017: Eddie Alvarez Vs Justin Gaethje
2016: Carlos Condit vs Robbie Lawler
2015: Andrei Arlovski vs Travis Browne
2014: Erick Silva vs Matt Brown
2013: Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann
2012: Joe Lauzon vs Jim Miller
2011: Gray Maynard vs Frankie Edgar II
2010: Leonard Garcia vs Jung Chan-Sung
2009: Hiroyuki Takaya vs Hideo Tokoro
2008: Eddie Alvarez vs Tatsuya Kawajiri

Paul: Paulo Costa Vs Yoel Romero
Two of the greatest fighters of all-time at the top of the card with new champions crowned in both fights.

Ryan: Israel Adesanya Vs Kelvin Gastelum
There were several contenders for this honor, but I give a slight edge to the classic between Adesanya and Gastelum for the Interim UFC Middleweight Championship in April in Atlanta. It was a real back-and-forth fight and both men rocked each other, but it was the heart and will to win from Adesanya that saw him pull out a big fifth round to win a decision and become the interim champion, which would lead to him becoming the undisputed champion in October. This was a great year for fights and a lot of deserving winners.

Larry: Israel Adesanya Vs Kelvin Gastelum
This was a five round war that to me, was a signature star making performance for Adesanya. Gastelum had Adesanya rocked early on, but Israel surged back to capture an impressive unanimous decision. But the striking and action was top notch, and the most fun I had watching a fight all year.

Jason: Israel Adesanya Vs Kelvin Gastelum
This fight was for the Interim Middleweight championship due to then champion Robert Whittaker being injured. For Adesanya, this was a huge litmus test for him as in 2018 he was a great prospect but now he was fighting a real talented guy in Kelvin Gastelum, who not only has great power in his hands but also excellent wrestling. When the fight, started it looked like it would be a short night for the man known as the Last Stylebender as he was getting rocked in the first few rounds and looked like he was going to be another flash in the pan prospect. But Adesanya was able to show his championship valor as Gastelum’s cardio was starting to fade from all those big shots trying to put away Adesanya. Adesanya turned the tide with big shots of his own. Both men were able to put on a theatre of pain for the full 25 minutes and it was Israel Adesanya who earned the decision victory. This win proved the hype was real and he would go on to becoming the undisputed UFC Middleweight champion.

Peter H.: Israel Adesanya Vs Kelvin Gastelum
This was a star making performance for Israel and it was a war. It proved that he deserved to be at the head of the table. Gastelum brought the fight but it wasn’t enough.

GG: Israel Adesanya Vs Kelvin Gastelum
What a war this was. I’ve been a Gastelum fan since his TUF days and he’s one of the few fighters that I actually out and out root for. There were times in this fight that I thought Gastelum had a great chance; after the first when he looked rock solid and then after that fourth round, but alas, Adesanya finished strong and won the fight.

GG’s previous winners:
2018: Tony Ferguson Vs Anthony Pettis
2017: Michael Johnson Vs Justin Gaethje
2016: Cub Swanson vs Doo Ho Choi
2015: Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald
2014: Erick Silva vs Matt Brown
2013: Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson
2012: Joe Lauzon vs Jim Miller
2011: Gray Maynard vs Frankie Edgar II
2010: Chris Leben vs Yoshihiro Akiyama
2009: Diego Sanchez vs Clay Guida
2008: Rampage Jackson vs Forrest Griffin

Breakout Star

Duan: Kamaru Usman
Usman was also in serious contention for fighter of the year outright, but the quality of Adesanya’s three wins versus his two just pipped it for the middleweight. This category is probably more fitting for Kamaru anyway as I don’t think there is anyone whose star has risen as much over the past 12 months. The dominant title victory over Woodley put him on the map and then the stoppage of Covington really got people to take notice.

Duan’s previous winners:
2018: Israel Adesanya
2017: Francis Ngannou
2016: Stipe Miocic
2015: Holly Holm
2014: Conor McGregor

Paul: Jorge Masvidal
Two spectacular KO wins got him a big money fight with Nate Diaz that ended in controversy but he can now write his own ticket for future fights.

Ryan: Alexander Volkanovski
Volkanovski started really breaking out at the very end of 2018 when he knocked out Chad Mendes on December 29, 2018. It led him to a big 2019. It started with a dominant decision win over Jose Aldo in Brazil, showing he could travel into enemy territory to get the job done. It ended with a dominant decision win over Max Holloway at UFC 245 in December that saw him get the UFC Featherweight Championship wrapped around his waist. Volkanovski has won 18 straight now and has a chance to reign over the 145-pound division for a long time.

Larry: Jorge Masvidal
See fighter of the year section. All three fights were won in dominant fashion and his charisma and star power skyrocketed! So much so that you have fighters wanting to fight him in order to make a big payday. Super impressive.

Jason: Israel Adesanya
Adesanya was a lot of people’s “Who’s Next” going into 2019 and look what he accomplished; beating the legend Anderson Silva, my FOTY against Kelvin Gastilum, and then winning the UFC Middleweight championship over Robert Whittaker in a fight where Whittaker barely got any offense on him. The Last Style Bender is the face of the middleweight division and even has the dream fight being rumored with UFC light heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones.

Peter H.: Jorge Masvidal
He made the biggest impact in MMA with his performance versus Nate Diaz at MSG. Also his KOs of Till and Askren really put him on the map.

GG: Jorge Masvidal
It’s the rare case of the fighter who broke through the most in 2019 is also the fighter of the year (at least in my book). In a time when it’s hard to make new stars because of the absence of true PPV, Masvidal made himself into one. During the build up to his fight with Nate Diaz, while doing mainstream media, he was so charming that he looked like someone who’d been in the public eye forever. Though it’s hard to stay in the public eye in MMA, he has a chance to become a household name, and I don’t think anyone thought that before this year began.

GG’s previous winners:
2018: Aaron Pico
2017: Montana De La Rosa
2016: Amanda Nunes
2015: Holly Holm
2014: TJ Dillashaw

Who’s Next

Duan: Zhang Weili
This was a massive year for Weili who became China’s first UFC champion in perhaps the single most impressive performance of 2019. She has the potential to become a real breakout star and the focus in 2020 will be on continuing to build her profile. A win in her upcoming bout with longtime division standard bearer Joanna Jędrzejczyk will help establish her as one of the new names in women’s MMA.

Duan’s previous winners:
2018: Kamaru Usman
2017: Darren Till
2016: Khabib Nurmagomedov
2015: Joe Duffy
2014: Kyoji Horiguchi
2013: Vitaly Minakov
2012: Gunnar Nelson
2011: Nick Diaz
2010: Eddie Alvarez

Paul: Jair Rozenstruik
The next great heavyweight contender? Four KO wins in 2019 made him a contender for either fighter of the year or Breakout Star but he’s got some big fights in his future and could be a champion some day.

Ryan: Geoff Neal
Neal could have been named the breakout star as he had a big 2019, but he is truly ready to break into that main event status in 2020. Neal scored three wins in 2019, starting with a fun decision win over Belal Muhammad in January, and then scored knockout wins over Niko Price in July, and then Mike Perry in December. Neal has broken into the rankings in the UFC’s welterweight division, and is a very talented 170-pound prospect. He very well could end 2020 in title contention, or even in a title fight.

Larry: Petr Yan
Of course, when you are predicting the next breakout player, it’s always difficult, but I think Peter Yan is prime and ready to become Bantamweight champion. Every time I see him, he’s impressive and nothing was more impressive than his destruction of Urijah Faber in December. He won three fights in 2019, including a very good win over the always highly skilled and energetic John Dodson. I believe Yan can beat Henry Cejudo.

Jason: Zhang Weili
She won the title in stunning fashion where she showed excellent boxing and finished Jessica Andrade in just 42 seconds. The UFC has the chance to break through in a market that many North American promotions are struggling to find their foothold in. Weili isn’t a flash in the pan, this is a women who is on a 20-fight win streak and her abilities even have praise from Dana White. Zhang Weili has her first title defense at UFC 248 in March against former strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk and if Weili gets past Joanna, the sky is the limit for her and the UFC.

Peter H.: AJ McKee
His performance against Campos at Bellator 236 puts him in a great position to make his name in Bellator by winning the Featherweight Grand Prix. He’s got KO power and great submission skills as well.

GG: Maycee Barber
What’s most interesting about Maycee is that she won’t even turn 22 until May. She’s a fighter who’s grown up with the idea that she’s wanted to become a champion in MMA since she was a teenager and her goal is to become the youngest champion in UFC history. She’s got just over two years to beat Jon Jones’ record.

GG’s previous winners:
2018: Kayla Harrison
2017: Montana De La Rosa
2016: Jacare Souza
2015: Tony Ferguson
2014: Conor McGregor
2013: Khabib Nurmagomedov
2012: Ronda Rousey
2011: Nate Diaz
2010: Jon Jones

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