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2020 Fight Game Media MMA Awards

Fight Game Media MMA Fighters Of The Year

Yesterday, we kicked off our awards with the 2020 Fight Game Media Boxing Awards. Today, we give you our 2020 Fight Game Media MMA Awards.

The Panel

Paul Fontaine: Ratings and MMA betting writer for Fight Game Media and co-host of In The Clinch with Ryan Frederick, a podcast exclusive to the Fight Game Media Network
Ryan Frederick: MMA writer for Fight Game Media and co-host In The Clinch with Paul Fontaine, a podcast exclusive to the Fight Game Media Network
GG: Editor at Fight Game Media and creator of the Fight Game Media Network

The Categories

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

Fighter Of The Year

Paul: Kevin Holland
I know that my “In the Clinch” co-host does not feel that Holland has faced the quality of opposition that would warrant him getting this honor but he capped off the year with a win over Jacare Souza. He also accomplished the extremely rare feat of 5 UFC wins in a calendar year, all of which happened in the last 8 months. With 4 finishes in those five fights, it’s even more impressive.

Paul’s previous winners:
2019: Henry Cejudo

Ryan: Deiveson Figueiredo
Figueiredo had a year that is hard to replicate, especially in the craziness that is 2020. He went undefeated in four UFC fights during the year, becoming the undisputed UFC Flyweight Champion in the process. He started the year off by finishing Joseph Benavidez in what was supposed to be a title fight, but he missed weight. He got those issues under control, and came back and finished Benavidez again in July, this time to win the title. He then submitted Alex Perez in a title defense in November, and came back 21 days later to defend the title yet again, fighting to a draw against Brandon Moreno in a fight he would’ve won if not for a point deduction. Even with the draw on the record, a 3-0-1 record against top-five opponents in what were essentially four title fights, and when you throw in two title fights in three weeks, he’s definitely the best fighter of 2020.

Ryan’s previous winners:
2019: Jorge Masvidal

GG: Jan Blachowicz
Paul and Ryan’s picks are spot on and I think their picks will be more popular than mine. Blachowicz only had two victories in 2020, but they were both complete dismantlings. He took out Corey Anderson in one round and then beat Dominick Reyes in one of the most impressive victories all year long to capture the light heavyweight title.

GG’s previous winners:
2019: Jorge Masvidal
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

Paul: UFC 249
This was the first UFC show back after nearly two months off due to the pandemic. It was a great show on its own but made better by the fact that we’d gone nearly two months with not only no UFC but almost no sports at all. And the fights were great. An all-time great performance from Justin Gaethje in the main event, winning the interim lightweight title over Tony Ferguson in a dominant fashion with a late finish. Henry Cejudo retained his bantamweight title in the co-main and went on to retire, vacating his second world title in the process. A scary knockout by Francis N’Gannou also highlighted the main card as he cemented his place as a future heavyweight champion over Jairzhinho Rozenstruik. We also saw former champions in Anthony Pettis and Carla Esparza score tough wins on the undercard as they try to work their back to title contention.

Paul’s previous winners:
2019: UFC 236

Ryan: UFC 256
The final UFC pay-per-view event of the year proved to be their best event this year, which was a strong category as they put together several fantastic events during 2020, especially during the pandemic. UFC 256 was capped off by one of the two best fights of the year, the draw between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno, but you also had Charles Oliveira put a stamp on being a lightweight contender with a win over Tony Ferguson. You also had exciting fights between Mackenzie Dern and Virna Jandiroba, and Gavin Tucker and Billy Quarantillo. The rest of the show was finishes, with a lot of violent knockouts on the card, coming at the hands of Kevin Holland, Ciryl Gane, Cub Swanson and Rafael Fiziev, and a crazy submission by Chase Hooper. This was a fantastic event from top-to-bottom, and one worth going out of your way to see if you missed it.

Ryan’s previous winners:
2019: UFC 245

GG: UFC 256
I would give the NBA an A+ in how they handled the pandemic during their bubble season. The UFC wasn’t an A+ since an anti-masker runs the show, but they were in the upper echelon in eventually figuring things out and being safe. But the UFC was better than every sports league, all four “major” sports included, in how well their shows crossed over to the no fans environment. The UFC shows were more intimate and the lack of crowd noise actually helped fans understand what was going on inside the cage. UFC 249 was a fun card to come back to, 251 had three huge fights, and 253 might’ve been the most fun I’ve had watching any sports event not having to do with Michael Jordan all year long. But it wasn’t the best. UFC 256, which closed their PPV year, was the best card and show of the year.

GG’s previous winners:
2019: UFC 241
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

Paul: Joanna Jedrzeczyk Vs Weili Zhang
On the last show of the year in front of fans and the 2nd last fight on that card, JJ and Weili put on what some called the best fight in UFC history. It was certainly the best women’s fight ever. It was a five round war where the outcome was in doubt right up until the end and, in fact, the judge’s scorecards at the end confirmed that. Joanna emerged from the bout looking like an alien with all the damage her face and head took and the photo went viral and became iconic. And Zhang did not look much better. Neither woman fought again for the rest of the year but they deserved that time off. Oh ya, Zhang retained her title, but Joanna may have actually improved her stock in the loss.

Paul’s previous winners:
2019: Paulo Costa Vs Yoel Romero

Ryan: Joanna Jedrzeczyk Vs Weili Zhang
In a year of fantastic fights, one fight was transcendent, and we saw the greatest female fight in MMA history in March at UFC 248. Zhang Weili was making her first title defense against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and they put on an absolute classic, which is one of the best fights in UFC history. Both women gave it their all, swinging all the way over 25 minutes. The lasting image of the giant hematoma on the forehead of Jedrzejczyk is something that will never be forgotten. The crowd was eating this fight alive throughout the full 25 minutes. And, what put it above everything else, it came down to that final five minutes, with the fight tied and the round deciding it, and both women fought their heart out in that fifth round trying to win, with Weili prevailing in the end. This is a must-watch fight for all UFC fans.

Ryan’s previous winners:
2019: Israel Adesanya Vs Kelvin Gastelum

GG: Deiveson Figueiredo Vs Brandon Moreno
I think the right answer is what Ryan and Paul picked. And I’m not picking something to be different. But I think the emotion was slightly different in the Figueiredo/Moreno fight because of how big of an underdog I saw Moreno as. There was always this wonder if he could pull it off and if he did, it would be quite the Rocky story. I think I felt that fight a little more than I did Joanna and Weili even though technically, that was the better fight.

GG’s previous winners:
2019: Israel Adesanya Vs Kelvin Gastelum
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

Paul: Khamzat Chimaev
Most people would say Kevin Holland but since I already chose him for fighter of the year, I’m going with Khamzat. He debuted in UFC in July with a 2nd round submission over middleweight John Phillips. Not to be outdone, he returned 10 days later, in a lower weight class, to finish welterweight Rhys McKee via a first round TKO. He had a big step up in competition, facing Gerald Meerschaert (back to middleweight) and had his most impressive performance yet with a one punch KO in 17 seconds.

Paul’s previous winners:
2019: Jorge Masvidal

Ryan: Kevin Holland
Talk about a guy who made the most of fighting during the pandemic. Holland went a perfect 5-0 in the UFC in 2020, which is an amazing feat considering his first fight didn’t even take place until May. He scored finishes over Ronaldo Souza, Joaquin Buckley, Anthony Hernandez and Charlie Ontiveros during the year, with his only close call being a decision win over Darren Stewart. He’s a guy who started the year unranked and just 3-2 in the UFC, and he ended the year ranked inside the top ten, with big fights on the horizon and the potential to be a title contender before the end of 2021. He’s an entertaining fighter with a great personality, and is also someone who is willing to fight constantly. 2020 was his breakout year for sure.

Ryan’s previous winners:
2019: Alexander Volkanovski

GG: Kevin Holland
If you are only watching major UFC PPVs, you’re not seeing Kevin Holland much, well except the way he put Jacare out if you watched UFC 256. He fought often, with all of his fights coming after April and still won five times. He also talks a ton of trash, which will get him the media he will deserve if he continues his ascent.

GG’s previous winners:
2019: Jorge Masvidal
2018: Aaron Pico
2017: Montana De La Rosa
2016: Amanda Nunes
2015: Holly Holm
2014: TJ Dillashaw

Who’s Next

Paul: Tafon Nchukwi
The product of Cameroon made his UFC debut in the last card of the year and scored an unanimous decision over Jamie Pickett. It was a dominant performance that saw him score a 30-25 on one judge’s scorecard. There was a point it could’ve been stopped, which would’ve been his fifth finish in five fights. He’s absolutely massive at 185 pounds and has amazing presence in the Octagon. I expect big things from him in 2021.

Paul’s previous winners:
2019: Jair Rozenstruik

Ryan: Jiri Prochazka
This feels like a cop-out for this choice as Prochazka has 31 career fights, with 27 wins under his belt. However, he made his UFC debut in 2020, and unfortunately for UFC fans, he only fought once. It was a memorable performance as he finished Volkan Oezdemir in the second round in July, and looked like a future champion in the process. Fans are eager to see him back in action, and in his second UFC fight, he will already be headlining a card as he takes on Dominick Reyes in February. I’m on record on my podcast, In The Clinch, as saying that Prochazka will end 2021 as the UFC light heavyweight champion, and I’m sticking to that.

Ryan’s previous winners:
2019: Geoff Neal

GG: Hakeem Dawodu
Dawodu lost his first fight in the UFC in March 2018. He’s won five in a row since then, including beating a tough Zubaira Tukhugov in September. He’s half Nigerian and half Jamaican and from Canada. He has a great look and a body type that might be suited to go up in weight classes. He’s still unranked, but I think he’s been brought along at the right speed. I hope to see him in a bigger fight in the later half of 2021.

GG’s previous winners:
2019: Maycee Barber
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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