We’re doing the Fight Game Media Awards a little differently this year. We’re breaking up the awards into multiple posts. Our MMA writers Ryan Frederick and Paul Fontaine are the panel. They also host the In The Clinch podcast on the Fight Game Media Network.
Who was 2021’s fighter of the year?
Fighter of the Year
Paul Fontaine: Charles Oliveira
There was no obvious choice this year for me but I’m going with the UFC lightweight champion. Many thought that when he and Michael Chandler squared off for the title vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov that it wasn’t a legit title. Reason being that the number one contender, Dustin Poirier, instead chose a big money fight with Conor McGregor over a shot at the gold. Oliveira had won eight straight fights though, and deserved the shot. Chandler had a long run of success in Bellator but had only fought once in UFC. Oliveira won the title by knockout 19 seconds into the second round. He then fought Poirier, who had dispatched of McGregor twice in the year, in December and finished him in the third to pick up his 10th straight UFC win and remove any doubt as to who the current 155 lb king was.
Ryan Frederick: Kamaru Usman
There are quite a few contenders for the crown of best fighter in 2021, but Kamaru Usman’s 2021 campaign is hard to ignore. He was the only UFC champion to fight three times during the year in title fights, and he went a perfect 3-0. He started the year with a knockout of Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 in February, then did a quick turnaround to fight again in April when the UFC announced they were returning to full arenas. He knocked out his rival Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 in April. He was then set up to fight his even bigger rival, Colby Covington, in the headliner at Madison Square Garden for UFC 268 in November. Usman scored yet another win over Covington, winning by unanimous decision. While he was successfully defending the UFC Welterweight Championship three times, Usman also ascended to the top of the pound-for-pound rankings, putting himself as the top fighter in the sport. There were several fighters who had a strong year, but none had a stronger year than Usman, who goes into 2022 as the best of the best.