2020 was a year of global upsets, but not for the UFC. The world's biggest combat sports organization outdid themselves by hosting fight cards every weekend. Safe to say, we've been spoilt rotten. While most of the world, and a lot of fighters, struggled through 2020, there were those who had a stunning year amidst the pandemic.
Here's a look at 5 fighters who made the most of 2020 and benefited greatly amidst the pandemic.
5) Khamzat Chimaev
The man burst onto the scene in 2020 and quickly became a Dana White favourite. He made his UFC debut on July 16th at middleweight against John Phillips, winning via D'Arce Choke in the second round.
10 days later, he beat Rhys McKee via first-round TKO in a welterweight bout, breaking the record for the quickest turnaround between UFC wins in the modern era. Less than 2 months later, he finished middleweight Gerald Meerschaert in 17 seconds.
In a span of 60 days, he won 3 performance of the night bonuses across 2 weight classes. He was set to face #3 welterweight contender Leon Edwards, but the bout fell through multiple times because of both men testing positive for Covid19 on different occasions.
Khamzat is still reeling from the lingering effects of the virus. He even seemed to announce his retirement on Instagram, but UFC president Dana White insists that he's emotional and needs time to recover before making any such decisions. Here's hoping we see more of this fighter in 2021.
4) Brandon Moreno
Brandon "Assassin Baby" Moreno has had a roller coaster ride with the UFC.
He was part of The Ultimate Fighter in 2016 and made his UFC debut the same year. He amassed a 3-2 record before being cut from the roster late in 2018. In a strange turn of events, he returned to the UFC octagon in September 2019.
Fast forward to 2020, and Moreno won two fights in March and November, earning himself a #1 contender spot at flyweight. In an amazing feat, he faced champion Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 256, just 21 days after his previous bout. The bout went on to become a 'Fight of the Year' contender.
It ended in a draw and saw Deiveson keep his belt, but 'Assassin Baby' put the whole world on notice.
3) Gilbert Burns
After defeating Gunnar Nelson in September 2019, Gilber 'Durinho' Burns blazed into 2020. He defeated welterweight legend Demian Maia in March, then steamrolled former champion Tyron Woodley in May.
He was all set to challenge his former teammate and close friend Kamaru Usman for the title in July, but tested positive for Covid-19. Once he recovered, Usman postponed the bout, citing injuries and a need for more time to prepare.
Burns would eventually fight for the title in February 2021 at UFC 258. Despite losing, Burns can take pride in having stamped his authority during 2020.
2) Deiveson Figueiredo
Deiveson Figueiredo is a force of nature.
It looked like the UFC might cut the flyweight division altogether following the trade of Demetrious Johnson and the retirement of Henry Cejudo. Fortunately, Figueiredo came in and turned things around drastically.
Figueiredo faced veteran Joseph Benavidez for the vacant flyweight belt in February 2020. He missed weight by 2.5 pounds, forfeiting his eligibility to win the belt even though he won the fight via TKO. The rematch took place at UFC Fight Night 72 in July 2020. Figueiredo won via rear naked choke in the very first round.
He was set to make his first defense against former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt in November at UFC 255. However, Garbrandt was forced to withdraw due to injury.
Deiveson Figueiredo made his first defense against Alex Perex, winning via guillotine choke in the first round. Figueiredo set a record by making his second defense 21 days later against Brandon Moreno at UFC 256. The fight would go on to become a frontrunner for 'Fight of the Year'.
Figueiredo is a force to be reckoned with. His cage name 'Deus Da Guerra' translates to 'God of War' which seems quite apt to say the least.
1) Kevin Holland
Holland was arguably the highlight of 2020 for the UFC and fight fans around the world.
'Big Mouth' as Dana calls him, was on 'Dana White's Contender Series' in June 2018. While he won the fight, he didn't secure a contract because the UFC president disliked his attitude.
However, 2 weeks before UFC 227 Thiago Santos needed an opponent, and the UFC wasn't able to find anyone from the 'Contender Series' to take the fight. Kevin Holland not only agreed, but fought a great fight with one of the most dangerous men on the planet. He lost via unanimous decision, but more than earned the respect of UFC president Dana White.
Fast forward to 2020, and Kevin Holland has tied the record for most UFC wins in a calendar year in the modern era. He fought five times in seven months, winning every single one.
Three of his wins came via first-round finishes, and he earned three 'Performance of the Night' bonuses in the 5 outings. The crowning jewel of these five fights was his first round finish of veteran Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza. The win saw an incredible display of athleticism where Holland secured a TKO victory almost entirely off his back.
Kevin Holland may be a big mouth, but he backed it up in 2020. Easily one of the most exciting new prospects in the middleweight division, he had a brilliant 2020. Although he lost to Derek Brunson at UFC Vegas 22, we cannot wait to see more of him in 2021.