5 best UFC Fight Nights of 2021

Max Holloway at UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington
Max Holloway at UFC 245: Usman vs. Covington
C. Naik

With the penultimate UFC Fight Night of the year in the books following the conclusion of UFC Fight Night: Font vs. Aldo, we thought we’d look back on some of the best non-numbered UFC events of the year.

The first Fight Night of the year took place on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, where UFC on ABC: Holloway vs. Kattar kicked off 2021 in style for the world’s premier MMA organization. After the promotion’s trip to the Middle East in January, the UFC Apex in Las Vegas hosted the remainder of the Fights Nights in 2021.

The final Fight Night of the year, UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Daukaus, is set to close out 2021 in style on December 18th. Derrick Lewis, the former heavyweight title challenger, is set to take on surging heavyweight Chris Daukaus in the main event.

Signing off 2021 with a bang!The poster for the final UFC event of the year is here!🔥 Lewis v Daukaus 🔥

While the numbered events and massive pay-per-views in front of capacity crowds get a lot of attention, some of the most memorable moments and performances of the year took place at Fight Island and the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Additionally, the Kumite-esque vibe of the Apex undoubtedly compounds the intensity of the fights. Those in attendance and fans watching around the world can hear every single strike, all the corner advice, and on some occasions, mid-fight interactions between the fighters.

Some honorable mentions for best UFC Fight Nights of the year include UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Chikadze and UFC Fight Night: Makhachev vs. Moises, to name a few.

Here are the top 5 UFC Fight Nights of 2021 so far.

#5. UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Kattar

As mentioned earlier, UFC on ABC: Holloway vs. Kattar was the first UFC event of the year, and what an event it was! It took place on Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, and it was the first UFC event since UFC 248: Adesanya vs. Romero in March, 2020 that welcomed fans back into the arena.

Max Holloway, the former UFC featherweight champion, was coming off back-to-back losses to the reigning champion, Alexander Volkanovski, and was eager to return to winning ways. He took on rising featherweight contender Calvin Kattar in the main event.

Kicking off 2021 with a banger 🔥The Holloway v Kattar poster is official!

Many believed it would be a competitive fight, considering Kattar’s boxing acumen and granite chin. However, Holloway gave the fans one of the most memorable performances any fighter has ever produced as he pieced up Kattar for 25 minutes straight.

The volume-striking on display by the Hawaiian was incredible to watch, as he shattered multiple striking records en route to his conclusive unanimous decision victory over Kattar.

The fifth round of the fight gave fans an unforgettable sight that’ll be etched in our memories forever as ‘Blessed’ seemingly tapped into an incredible flow-state.

He started reacting to what the cageside commentary team were saying regarding his output and shouted - “Count it up!!” He then proceeded to shout - “I’m the best boxer in the UFC, baby!” - whilst slipping Kattar’s punches and landing a counter of his own.

We still can't get over that Max Holloway performance at #UFCFightIsland7 last night!? 😱

The rest of the fight card delivered as well. The co-main event saw UFC veterans Carlos Condit and Matt Brown lock horns, with the former securing a unanimous decision victory. Punahele Soriano, Alessio Di Chirico and Li Jingliang secured KO/TKO finishes against Dusko Todorovic, Joaquin Buckley and Santiago Ponzinibbio respectively.

LEEEECH!! Li Jingliang with a HUGE KO to spoil the return of Santiago Ponzinibbio #UFCFightIsland7

#4. UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Till

UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Till was more like a British invasion of the UFC Apex as the fight card featured numerous fighters based out of the UK. The event was headlined by middleweight contenders Derek Brunson and Darren Till.

The official poster for Brunson vs. Till

The bout had serious title implications, with UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya sharing that if Till came out on top, the Brit would get the next title shot. The Englishman struggled with the wrestling prowess of his American counterpart and was eventually submitted in the third round.

The co-main of this UFC Fight Night saw the emergence of a bonafide contender in the UFC heavyweight division as Darren Till’s teammate Tom Aspinall made light work of Sergey Spivak. Aspinall has since been touted as a future champion of the division.

Tom Aspinall is the real deal

Aspinall was brought to tears later on upon finding out that he had won his third 'Performance of the Night' bonus. Check out the heart-warming video below:

That performance earned him a POTN bonus 💸Congrats Tom Aspinall 👏 #UFCVegas36

However, the standout performer of UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Till was none other than Paddy Pimblett, who made his much-anticipated UFC debut. The former Cage Warriors featherweight champion had turned down the UFC twice before in his career, revealing that he ‘wasn’t ready’ to move to the premier MMA organization in the world at such a young age.

The 26-year-old from Liverpool finally signed with the UFC in 2021 and took on Luigi Vendramini in his promotional debut to kick off the main card of this UFC Fight Night.

Despite being caught multiple times early on, Pimblett finished Vendramini in the first round with a sensational knockout. ‘The Baddy’ secured a 'Performance of the Night' bonus for his efforts.

Most impressive debut since ____? 🤔[ @PaddyTheBaddy | @DC_MMA | @Bisping | @Jon_Anik ]

#3. UFC Fight Night: Sanghagen vs. Dillashaw

UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw featured one of the most highly-anticipated matchups of the year as Cory Sandhagen welcomed back the former two-time UFC bantamweight champion, T.J. Dillashaw, to the octagon.

The latter was coming off a two-year suspension following a failed drug test in 2019 and was eager to get back into title contention.

Cory Sandhagen and T.J. Dillashaw went to war for five rounds in one of the best fights of the year. Sandhagen caught Dillashaw in a heel-hook in the first round which damaged the latter’s knee.

Despite the injury, Dillashaw continued to push the pace over the next four rounds. Sandhagen definitely dished out a lot more damage than he received, but Dillshaw’s control against the cage walls secured a narrow split-decision victory for the former champion.

The judges scored the contest 47-48, 48-47 and 48-47 in favor of Dillashaw. However, many fans and analysts believed that Sandhagen should come out on top.

Cory Sandhagen's flying knee game is elite 😳 #UFCVegas32

The co-main event of this UFC Fight Night was a barnburner of a fight as well. UFC bantamweights Kyler Phillips and Raulian Paiva squared off in a back-and-forth three-round bout, with the latter emerging victorious. The full fight was even posted to the UFC’s official YouTube channel as part of its new Sleeper Hits series.

You can watch the full fight below:


The main card of UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw also featured a classic come-from-behind Darren Elkins win (over Darrick Minner), a pivotal fight in the women’s flyweight division between rising stars Maycee Barber and Miranda Maverick, and a striking spectacle between Adrian Yanez and Randy Costa.

As ADVERTISED through the first five!Yanez & Costa proving why 135lbs is THE division to watch right now! 🤩 #UFCVegas32

#2. UFC Fight Night: Font vs. Aldo

The penultimate UFC Fight Night of the year produced one of the best fight cards of 2021. Jose Aldo, the former two-time featherweight champion, took on bantamweight contender Rob Font in the main event, with both fighters looking to edge closer to a title shot.

Your official Font v Aldo poster is here!Kicking off December with an early Christmas present, this one is going to be good! 🎁

Jose Aldo’s undeniable skills shone through on the night as he outclassed Rob Font, who was the betting favorite going into the bout. Despite being outstruck by Font, it was Aldo who was landing the harder and more powerful shots.

Additionally, the Brazilian showcased his improved wrestling and grappling skills on the mat, securing a significant amount of control time in top position en route to a convincing unanimous decision victory. The judges scored the contest 50-45, 50-45 and 49-26 in favor of the MMA legend.

🗣 JOSE ALDO JUNIOR!!!!!!!! #UFCVegas44

Aldo’s incredible performance in the main event of this UFC Fight Night drew praise from former opponents Petr Yan and Max Holloway, who paid their respects to ‘The King of Rio’ following the bout.

The King of Rio! A legend in every way. Congrats champ 🤙🏻…
Congratulations to King of Rio @josealdojunior! I told everyone that he will beat anyone in our division after our fight

The rest of the main card was sensational as well. MMA veterans Chris Curtis and Clay Guida secured impressive victories over Brendan Allen and Leonardo Santos respectively. Light heavyweight contender Jamahal Hill returned to the win column with a KO victory over Jimmy Crute.

The most memorable moment of the night came in the third round of the co-main event between rising lightweight contenders Brad Riddell and Rafael Fiziev. The latter knocked the former out with a stunning spinning wheel kick that sent the crowd in attendance at the UFC Apex into a frenzy.

Goddam man. Fiziev shocked me with this one

#1. UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Rodriguez

UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Rodriguez was undoubtedly the best UFC Fight Night of the year. The event, which was held at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, was headlined by Max Holloway, the former UFC featherweight champion, and Yair Rodriguez. Astonishingly, out of the 11 fights on the fight card, 9 ended in finishes.

Max Holloway vs Yair Rodriguez in 𝗣𝗥𝗜𝗠𝗘𝗧𝗜𝗠𝗘!!Your #UFCVegas42 main card starts at 9pm GMT / 10pm CET on Saturday!

Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez produced one of the best fights of the year as the featherweight duo threw down for five full rounds.

Many expected Holloway to put a beating on Rodriguez, much like his performance against Calvin Kattar in January. However, Rodriguez was just as dangerous as Holloway in the striking exchanges, as the Hawaiian took multiple heavy blows throughout the bout.

Holloway came out on top after the judges scored the contest 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 in his favor. Rodriguez, despite coming off a two-year layoff, earned a lot of respect among fans and fighters alike for his gutsy and admirable performance.

Watch Max Holloway’s post-fight interview with Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Rodriguez below:


The duo had nothing but respect for one another after the bout, and even shared a light moment before leaving the UFC Apex for the hospital.

"YAIR! You frickin' animal."Holloway and Rodriguez embraced before being transported to the hospital 🤝 #UFCVegas42 (via @UFCEspanol)

The four other fights on the main card of this UFC Fight Night ended in TKO finishes as Marcos Rogerio de Lima, Felicia Spencer, Khaos Williams and Song Yadong defeated Ben Rothwell, Leah Letson, Miguel Baeza and Julio Arce respectively.

The Holloway-Rodriguez headliner bagged the ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus, while Khaos Williams’ victory over Miguel Baeza earned the American the ‘Performance of the Night’ honors for his vicious TKO.

1️⃣1️⃣ fights, 9️⃣ finishes. A Fight Night so action packed it HAD to be nominated for Event of the Year 💥 [ 🏆 #UFCHonors | Presented By @ToyoTires ]
Edited by C. Naik


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